The Great Stone & Murray Circus Will Exhibit at [Old Town on Monday, July 17th].
The Great Stone & Murray Circus Will Exhibit at [Old Town on Monday, July 17th].

The Great Stone & Murray Circus Will Exhibit at [Old Town on Monday, July 17th].

[N.p., possibly New York, 1871]. Broadside printed in black, red, and blue, 39.25” x 27” plus margins. With now detached yellow paper label advertising an appearance “at Old Town on Monday, July 17th.”.

A rare poster for Stone & Murray’s Circus, advertising acts by some of the leading equestrian performers of the day, as well as acrobats and clowns, this example used to announce a summertime appearance in Old Town, Maine.

Illustrated with nineteen lively vignettes of equestrian acts, acrobats, jugglers, and clowns, the poster advertises “First Class Performers” and this was no exaggeration. Slout’s entry on John Henry Cooke reads in part: “Stone & Murray’s, 1868-71…Had a muscular, well formed figure. As a performer, was classed among the best in his profession, with specialties of juggling on horseback and a spectacular 6-horse act. His stud of horses was the envy of showmen everywhere.” Also doubtless inspiring envy was his wife, Henrietta Cooke, an equestrienne of whom Alexander Dumas noted “She is the paragon of grace and her superb equestrianism is realization of the ecstacy of delight. What she accomplishes, no mortal ever attempted; what she performs, no one can imitate. To see her is to be enchanted; not to see her is a regret. Her riding is intensely thrilling to witness, and indelible to the memory.”

Henry Welby Cooke (John Henry’s brother) specialized in equestrian juggling and hurdle riding. According to Slout, Cooke was with John H. Murray’s circus from 1871 to 1872. All members of the Cooke family were from England, as was the well-known “Hibernian Clown” Tom Barry, who had a long and interesting career that included being “the second to sail the Thames, from Vauxhall to Westminster, in a wash tub drawn by 4 geese, 1884,” the tub actually drawn by a row boat some distance ahead. Clown and showman Dennison W. Stone (1824-1892) hailed from Burlington Vermont and ran away with the circus (Ira Cole’s Zoological Institute) at age fourteen. He became a clown in 1840 and was involved in circus management (while also performing) from 1842 to 1875. Other attractions identified here include the “Grotesque Clown” C. H. Monroe; Maitre de Cirque Prof. Henry; equestrians William Ducrow and son; “the wonderful acrobats” the Snow Brothers; “the novel spectacle of a team of twenty horses drawing the band chariot”; and a balloon ascension by Prof. J. W. Hayden.

The partners Stone & Murray were Dennison Stone and John H. Murray, who began operating together in 1866. Stone withdrew from the partnership in 1872. A notice regarding a July 17th appearance of the Stone & Murray Circus in Old Town appears in the New York Clipper for 8 July 1871.

No copies of this poster recorded in Worldcat, nor does a google search yield any other examples.

A rare and quite delightful nineteenth century circus poster.

REFERENCES Slout, William L. Olympians of the Sawdust Circle: A Biographical Dictionary of the Ninteenth Century American Circus at classic.circushistory.org

CONDITION: Good, light stains, losses to a few of the vignettes and a bit of the lettering expertly reinstated.

Item #6769

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