Freak Show Banner Art - Tuesday, November 10, 2015

With few exceptions, it is safe to say that the freak show is a thing of the past.  Improvements in medical science have decreased occurrences of the tragic ailments that might compel someone to perform in a side show, and that is a very good thing, even if it has made it difficult to staff freak shows.  In point of fact, it is no longer deemed socially acceptable to call people freaks, and the popularity of the freak show has reduced dramatically over the last few decades.  Nowadays, they have all but disappeared, and those that survive employ performers there by choice, in part to help preserve this unique form of entertainment.

What does continue to exist from the old days, when the freak show was an indelible element of the circus, are the advertisements that lured people in to see the unusual characters and creatures often tucked away in a back corner of the circus grounds.  Preserved today as banner art, these colorful paintings, usually made on canvas, romanticize acts that have been described by many of those who attended them as disappointing, and often depressing.  Nowadays, the old banners are considered quite collectible, and can sell for thousands of dollars.

The American Treasure Tour is home to some unique banners, as well as an impressive collection of reproductions of many of the classics.  The artist who made them is Joan Fay - a very gifted artist out of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Her inspirations are the men who created these wonderful banners over the decades, including such masters as Fred Johnson, Jack Cripe, Snap Wyatt and George Bellis.  We are happy and proud to honor all the greats of old here at the Treasure Tour, as well as Joan Fay, and tell some of the stories behind them
QUESTION:  In what Florida town did side show artists famously retreat during the Winter season?
A)  Orlando
B)  Gibsonton
C)  Gainesville
D)  Fort Lauderdale

WINSTON!!!!!  Yes, today is the birthday of Winston Churchill.  He was born in 1871 and had a very distinguished career in the British military and politics.  You may ask why we celebrate him here at the American Treasure Tour, well, legally, he is an American.  In fact, he is one of a very short and distinguished list of men and women who have received honorary American citizenship.  There are only eight members of this extremely exclusive list, with the most recent being given the title last year - a full 229 years after is death.  But Churchill has the rare distinction of being one of only two honored during his lifetime.  And no, we're not telling you the other seven people.  At least not today....

QUOTE:  Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak.  Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. - Winston Churchill

ANSWER:  B)  Gibsonton.  Mostly because it was very close to the headquarters of the Ringling Brothers Circus, but also because of the milder climate and zoning regulations permitted residents to have elephants and circus trailers in their front yards.