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Posts Tagged ‘first traveling carnival’

Die Cut Tag from Coney Island's Bostock Arena in Dreamland circa 1904. Courtesy of eBay Seller monsonantiques

We’ve been too busy to blog the past few days, much less browse on eBay. Luckily we found out about the auction of this century-old souvenir of Coney Island’s Bostock Arena via the blog ephemera. The circa 1904 tag depicts famed animal trainer and menagerist Frank C Bostock, whose show was a featured attraction at Coney Island’s Dreamland Park. The reverse side of the tag trumpets the 25-cent show as “Positively the Most Wonderful Wild Animal Exhibition in the World” and notes that “All Bostock’s Patrons Enter Dreamland Free.”

Seller monsonantiques has this rare item up for bid on eBay, where four bidders are vying for it in an auction that ends on Wednesday, March 23rd. The high bid is currently over $150, but that’s peanuts. We’ve seen tickets and advertising tags for Coney’s early rides and attractions sell for several hundred dollars. Good luck to everyone who plans to jump in!

Bostock was a third-generation showman who came to New York from his native England in 1893. He and his partners the Ferari Brothers first set up their carnival on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn and then moved to Coney Island. The show featured animal acts, sideshow curiosities, concession games, and such early amusement rides as an English gondola and a carousel.

According to the University of Sheffield’s National Fairground Archive, “The elaborate carved fronts of the wild animal shows Frank Bostock brought from England, some of them made by Burton-upon-Trent company Orton and Spooner, served as the prototype for wagon-mounted show fronts on American carnivals for the next half century.” Since the company toured New England in 1896, historians credit Bostock and his partners with introducing the traveling carnival concept to America. As a former carny kid, this aspect of Bostock’s career holds greater interest for me than his exploits as the best-known lion tamer of his day or his many narrow escapes from death.

If you’d like to read an engaging biographical essay, we recommend “Frank C. Bostock – The Animal King of Abney Park Cemetery.” Bostock died of the flu in England in 1912, more than a year after the fire that destroyed Coney Island’s Dreamland Park. His tomb at Stoke Newington in London is a magnificent marble lion.

UPDATE March 24, 2011:

The tag sold for $386.99 with the winning bid placed in the last few seconds of the auction!

Bostock Arena, Dreamland, Coney Island, N.Y. circa 1905. Library of Congress

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