ENGFORD MODEL "T" FORD CALLIOPE TRUCK
In the development of the American circus, the small family shows played a very significant role. Many of the performers appearing later on the larger shows began their careers here. The history of these shows can be traced to the 19th century when they traveled about on several wagons, moving very short distances between daily stands. After the First World War, a new opportunity and challenge was presented to these pioneers in the form of adapting the motor truck to their purposes. Bob Engford of Plover, Wisconsin, took his first truck show unit on tour in 1920. During the 1920’s and 1930’s he toured all of Wisconsin with a fully motorized show. The entertainment was of such merit that at fair time the whole unit could be signed as the grandstand attraction. The Model "T" Ford truck shown here, with an air calliope mounted in it, is of the 1921 period. Typically, the calliope participated in the daily street parade and, by its melodious tones, led the crowds to the show lot. Later in the day, it furnished the twilight concert on the lot as a come-on for the evening show.
This truck, which still operates under its own power, is 16 feet, 9 inches long and 9 feet high. It was presented to the Circus World Museum by the Engford family in 1965 and, after substantial restoration, now forms a part of the vast collection of over 100 circus vehicles.
The Museum, owned by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, is the Circus Center of the World. Its sole purpose for existence is to collect, display and disseminate the history of circuses of the world.
The Museum, now covering 25 acres, is located in the central Wisconsin city of Baraboo, which was the home and winter quarters of Ringling Bros. Circus for 34 years. Three of the Museum’s seven buildings were originally used by Ringling Bros. and have been declared National Historic Landmarks.
The Museum’s library, workshops, display department and offices are open year-round, and from early May to mid-September the Museum is open to the touring public. Each year 250,000 "children of all ages" visit and enjoy this exciting, animated and colorful Museum that abounds with nostalgia.
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