Iron Foot Marvel - Friday, November 13, 2015

On Wednesday, we talked a little bit about "Sweet Marie" and the side show banner art of Snap Wyatt.  Snap Wyatt is arguably the most famous of the artists who inspired the work of Joan Fay, on display here at the American Treasure Tour.  We have also talked about Jack Cripe, and today we want to spend a little time with George Bellis, who may not be as closely associated with this special type of advertisement, but who certainly left his mark in the field.

George Bellis was born in 1865, and got to work at a young age.  In fact, he was apprenticed to a New York City-based printing company at the young age of twelve (this was during a time when child labor was fairly common).  Within four years, he not only excelled at the business, but was a full-time lithographer who produced commercial advertisements.  He stayed with that until he was into his thirties, when he moved to Wichita, Kansas and got a job building and painting scenery for a local auditorium.  Although he continued finding work around the country for the next few decades, he eventually settled down in Wichita, opening his own Sunshine Studios there in the 1930's, where he created art for theaters, silent films, store windows, and of course the circus sideshows.  

His "Iron Foot Marvel" depicts a glamorous woman walking barefoot up a ladder of swords, as well as through a layer of broken glass.  The stationary for Sunshine Studios advertises their "Circus Side Show and Carnival Banners" business, but they do not mention Bellis' work with three-dimensional figures - which Bellis identified as animatronics but which the American Treasure Tour identifies as animated store displays (they're different names for the same thing).  It would be nice to think we might have some Bellis-made animatronics on display here at the tour!  George Bellis died in 1956, having led a full life at the peak of the era of the circus side show!

EQUAL ACCESS.  On this day in 1956, a substantial victory was won in the United States in the name of justice:  after a long drawn-out struggle, the bus companies of Montgomery, Alabama were compelled by the United States Supreme Court to desegregate their seating.  Finally, the color of a person's skin would no longer dictate where they were allowed to sit.  There was still a long road ahead in the effort for equality between the races, but this was a major step in the right direction.

QUOTE:  True peace is not merely the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice. - Martin Luther King, Jr.