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(History) Cole Brothers Circus Has Stude Roots

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  • (History) Cole Brothers Circus Has Stude Roots

    [b](Forwarded by Jeff Rice[8D])

    July 02. 2006 6:59AM

    South Bend's role in the circus
    Cole Brothers enjoyed a successful 17 years in Rochester.



    On Oct. 11, 1934, the Indiana Circus Corp. announced in Rochester that a new circus company had been formed and would make its winter home there. The circus would be known as Cole Brothers World Traveled Circus. It would be assembled on the site of the former Rochester Bridge Co., using some of the existing buildings and adding more.

    At that time, South Bend business investors had no idea they would be involved with the birth and development of this great new circus.

    Cole Brothers Circus was the brainchild of two circus men, Jess Adkins and Zack Terrell. Both men had many years' experience in successful management of some of the world's foremost circuses, including the Sells-Floto, Hagenback-Wallace and the John Robinson circuses that spent their winter months in Peru, Ind., dubbed the "Circus Capital of the World."

    They decided the time was ripe for them to go out on their own and produce a mighty circus of 40 railroad cars with a huge circus parade that would march down the main streets of most of the major cities of the United States and Canada.

    The worldwide Great Depression was on, and the Cole brothers knew that money would be hard to come by, but they had contacts. One source thought to be certain to invest was a Mr. Steele, who handled public relations for the Standard Oil Co. of Indiana. Standard Oil had sponsored the "Live Power Circus" at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933-34, and it was thought this company would surely be interested in financing the newly formed Cole Brothers Circus. The proposal was turned down.

    The 1935 season was upon the circus, and money was needed quickly. In desperation, Adkins and Terrell drew up a prospectus and submitted it to the Security and Exchange Commission to sell common stock in the Cole Brothers Circus. This plan was immediately voted down.

    Finally, early in 1935, with time running out to get a circus on the road that season, E.M. Morris, president of Associates Investment Co. of South Bend, was approached.

    The Associates provided the Cole Brothers Circus with the necessary funding. With the money assured, the organizers' plans were quickly carried out and the grand opening of the Cole Brothers Circus took place that spring in Rochester.

    South Bend became more deeply involved with the new circus when the Studebakers took an interest in Cole Brothers. They supported the circus in exchange for the publicity they received. Studebaker had their cars in the circus parades, displayed their cars on the circus grounds and got exceptional publicity with the famous "clown car" in which 18 or so clowns would climb from a standard Studebaker coupe in the center ring during each circus performance.

    These vehicles were used by the circus for several years, giving Studebaker additional national exposure. Studebaker, in return, provided some additional cash for the operation of the circus.

    Once launched, the original Cole Brothers Circus continued to operate from its home base in Rochester until a disastrous fire raged through the building complex at the winter quarters Feb. 20, 1940. Most of the assets of the circus were turned into ashes in a matter of hours.

    After all of the circus workers pitched in to help clean and restore the equipment, the Cole Brothers Circus continued for several years using different locations of their winter headquarters.

    After a successful 17 years, punctuated with difficulties, the Cole Brothers Circus folded its tents for the last time early in the season, July 22, 1950, and sent the equipment to Bunker Hill, Ind., for storage.

    At the time this article was written, circus historian Arthur Cooksey lived in LaPorte.


  • #2
    Very interesting! That photo reminds me of the folks lining the streets of South Bend when the Studebakers tour thru town. What a treat that is - for driver and spectators!

    2007 guys! GET ready![:0][][8D][^]

    Miscreant at large.

    1957 Transtar 1/2ton
    1960 Larkvertible V8
    1958 Provincial wagon
    1953 Commander coupe
    1957 President 2-dr
    1955 President State
    1951 Champion Biz cpe
    1963 Daytona project FS
    No deceptive flags to prove I'm patriotic - no biblical BS to impress - just ME and Studebakers - as it should be.


    • #3
      Now I see the tie-in in the Studebaker ad with an elephant on a platform on the roof of a '30s Studebaker.

      Gary L.
      1954 Commander Starliner (restomod)
      1959 DeLuxe pickup (restomod)
      Gary L.
      Wappinger, NY

      SDC member since 1968
      Studebaker enthusiast much longer