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Posts Tagged ‘Fred Johnson’

Nieman Eisman Banner

Monkey Scooter Banner by Nieman Eisman, Circa 1930s. Mosby & Co Auctions, May 16, 2015.

We’ve seen quite a few banners of carnival monkeys driving tiny race cars in Monkey Speedways, but never a monkey on a scooter. Considering the current popularity of scooters, this delightful banner could attract some competitive bidding when it goes on the auction block on Saturday.

The painting by Nieman Eisman, a master of the Chicago style of banner painting from the 1920s through the mid-1950s, is one of several carnival canvases in Mosby & Company’s Auction on May 17th. The pre-sale estimate of the giant-sized advertisement –it is approximately 6 feet tall by 9 feet wide–is $2,500 – $3,500. The catalogue is online and one can bid now or in real time during the auction.

Nieman Eisman Banner

Hollywood Movie Star Banner by Nieman Eisman, Circa 1930s. Mosby & Co Auctions, May 16, 2015.

A second Eisman banner titled Hollywood Movie Star shows two tuxedoed monkeys at a fancy restaurant. Banners by both Fred Johnson and Johnny Meah featuring Otis Jordan, “The Frog Boy,” who worked at Coney Island USA’s Sideshows by the Seashore in his later years, are also among the desirable banners in Saturday’s sale.

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March 19, 2014: Memoirs of a Carny Kid: Monkeys on the Midway

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Monkey Speedway Banner

Monkey Speedway Banner “The Race” by Sigler Studios, circa 1950s. 248″ x 96″. Mosby & Co Auctions, November 29, 2014.

Vintage monkey speedway banners by Sigler Studios, sideshow banners by Fred Johnson, and shrunken head and mummy gaffs by Homer Tate are among the midway artifacts up for auction at Mosby & Co. Auctions’ November 29th live and online sale. A selection of carnival games that have disappeared from the midway will also be in the sale. The catalogue is online and one can bid now or in real time during the auction.

“The Monkey Speedway ‘The Start’ and ‘The Race’ are the two best Sigler banners we have ever handled,” said Mosby’s owner Keith Spurgeon, who noted that it was probably painted by Jack Sigler Sr. The banners drew people over to a midway attraction that was popular on carnivals through the 1950s and 60s. Trained monkeys in little metal cars raced around a wooden track while customers (more…)

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Conklin Shows Banner by Fred Johnson

Canada’s Traditional Favorite Conklin Shows Banner by Fred Johnson. Photo via Treadway Gallery

We’ve come across vintage circus-style posters advertising carnivals but have rarely seen a painted banner except for the sideshow attractions. This one painted for “Canada’s Traditional Favorite Conklin Shows” circa 1950 by master banner painter Fred Johnson will be up for bid at a June 8th auction in Oak Park, Illinois held by Treadway Gallery. Bidding is also available online via live auctioneers.

The show’s founder J.W. “Patty” Conklin was born Joe Renker in Brooklyn and worked as a sideshow talker in Coney Island before arriving in Winnipeg in 1924. In the 1940s and ’50s, the Billboard frequently described him as “a Canadian midway biggie” and one of the keenest, most practical of midway operators.

In the era when the banner was painted, Conklin Shows played fairs and exhibitions in rural Quebec and Ontario before heading to Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition for Labor Day, according to a website on the carnival’s history. The show grew to become the largest touring carnival in North America, with a route that stretched from the South Florida Fair in West Palm all the way to the Calgary Stampede until it was swallowed up by midway consolidation in 2004. In the Northeast, Conklin played the Eastern States Exposition in Springfield, Mass., and the now defunct Westchester County Fair and Belmont Fair, where we visited in 2003 to write a story for Education Week about the show’s traveling classroom for carny kids.

Measuring 94 inches high by 117 inches wide, the Conklin banner is signed by Fred Johnson, who painted canvas advertisements for all the big circuses, carnivals, and amusement parks during an illustrious 65-year career. It has a pre-sale estimate of $3,000-$5,000.

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March 3, 2013: Up for Auction: Bill Lynch Shows Vintage Carnival Poster

February 4, 2013: Rare & Vintage: Girl to Gorilla Sideshow Banner

October 10, 2012: Up for Auction: Sideshow & Magic Banners by Fred Johnson

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Girl to Gorilla

Girl to Gorilla Banner by Fred Johnson. Circa 1940s. Hideaway Antiques, Toronto

The Girl to Gorilla Illusion was one of the top-grossing grind shows on the carnival midway. Sadly, there are few if any working today. If you know of one, let us know! The last G2G that we saw was Jack Constantine’s and it was quite a few years ago. This vintage Girl to Gorilla banner signed by master banner painter Fred Johnson is being offered for sale by Toronto’s Hideaway Antiques. It gives an impressionistic idea of what to expect on the inside.

As the talker on a vintage clip of Harvey Fillmore’s Princess Uraana show posted by YouTube user ZAMBORA57 says, “You’re going to see a beautiful girl change before your eyes very slowly into an ugly male gorilla…From the top of her head to the tips of her toes you’ll see the hair grow. The Ape Girl. The Ape Girl. The Ape Girl. Anything can happen…” The illusion is done with mirrors but when the “gorilla” breaks out of the steel cage, the screaming audience runs out of the tent, attracting a crowd for the next show.

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Harold J Potter Magic Circus

Harold J Potter Comedy Magic Circus Banner by Fred Johnson. Mosby & Co Auction. November 10, 2012

Decades before JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books and the fictional Ministry of Magic, the original Harry Potter– a Michigan minister named Harold J Potter– performed magic for his congregation and with a sideshow. His repertoire included hypnotism, the bladebox and a premature burial illusion inspired by the tale by Edgar Allan Poe. These six banners painted for “Harold J Potter’s Comedy Magic Circus” in the late 1960s by master banner painter Fred Johnson will be up for bid in Mosby & Company’s November 10th Americana auction at their gallery in Frederick, Maryland. Bidding will also be available online beginning in late October.

Monster Museum by Fred Johnson

Monster Museum Banner by Fred Johnson. Mosby & Co Auction. November 10, 2012

Harold J Potter’s son says that his father was fascinated by Harry Houdini and Harry Blackstone as a boy and took up magic at an early age. The family consigned the Johnson banners, which are fresh to the market. In the banner shown below, a contortionist act is billed as Plasteena. The Bladebox is cleverly called “Six Section Sal” and there’s also a “Guillotine Gal.”

Fred Johnson sideshow banner

Plasteena Sideshow Banner by Fred Johnson. Mosby & Co Auction. November 10, 2012

After getting out of the Army in World War II, Potter started practicing magic again on the side in Detroit, according to his son. A minister by profession, he would perform some magic tricks during services. We’re hoping that some of his sermons will turn up! On weekends, Potter did the sideshow performances for which he commissioned the banners. In the summertime, he and his family toured Michigan doing tent shows.

Sideshow banner by Fred Johnson

Monster Sideshow Banner by Fred Johnson. Mosby & Co Auction. November 10, 2012

Banner artist Fred Johnson (1892-1990) was only 17 when he learned the secret of creating an eye-catching banner: color, not exaggeration. “We call it ‘flash.'” Johnson once said. During an illustrious 65-year career, the Chicagoan painted banners for all the big circuses, carnivals, and amusement parks, including the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.

Magic Banner by Fred Johnson

Master Magician Banner by Fred Johnson. Mosby & Co Auction. November 10, 2012

Fred Johnson worked for Driver Bros Tent Co. from 1921 until 1930, and in 1934 he came to the O. Henry Tent & Awning Co, where he remained for 40 years. He imbued his Houdini-esque escape artists, Amazon snake charmers and master magicians with a quirky and mysterious quality that drew customers into the sideshows and continues to make his work prized by collectors.

Hypnotist Banner by Fred Johnson

Hypnotist Banner by Fred Johnson. Mosby & Co Auction. November 10, 2012

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June 5, 2013: Up for Auction: Conklin Shows Banner by Fred Johnson

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