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Posts Tagged ‘Millard & Bulsterbaum’

Rutland Fair Sideshow

Rutland, Vermont Fair Sideshow, 1941. Photo by Jack Delano for the U.S. Farm Security Administration Collection, Library of Congress

Among the more than 200,000 images of rural life by photographers working for the U.S. government’s Farm Security Administration during the New Deal are hundreds of images of the American sideshow. Taken by Ben Shahn, Jack Delano, and Russell Lee at state and county fairs in Vermont, Ohio, Louisiana and Texas, the photos document the midway shows of the late 1930s and early ’40s and their glorious banners.

Millard and Bulsterbaum banner

Sideshow attraction, county fair in central Ohio, 1938. Photo by Ben Shahn for the U.S. Farm Security Administration, Library of Congress

The two banners seen above–Human Freaks and Personality Fat Girl are the work of the Coney Island studio of Millard & Bulsterbaum. The firm’s name and address — 2894 W 8th Street — can be seen in the lower right corner of the banners. “Just one more bolt of cloth will make it,” says a tailor depicted fitting the glamorous fat girl with a new costume. Algernon Millard and John Bulsterbaum, who were in business from 1915 though the Depression, were considered the best in the business.

cat with 6 paws

Rutland, Vermont Fair Sideshow, 1941. Photo by Jack Delano for the U.S. Farm Security Administration, Library of Congress

This banner for a 28-toed cat and a cat with six paws was part of a banner line also featuring sea gull ducks, midget mules, a pop-eyed cow, and a “Charlie Chaplin chicken.”

Ohio Fair Sideshow Attraction

Sideshow attraction, county fair in central Ohio, 1938. Photo by Ben Shahn for the U.S. Farm Security Administration, Library of Congress

In this nicely framed shot by Ben Shahn of a homemade front for the single-o “Ramo- 4 horns, 3 tails,” a weird, alligator-like creature appears on the bally stage.

Nudist Colony Banner

Sideshow attraction, county fair in central Ohio, 1938. Photo by Ben Shahn for the U.S. Farm Security Administration, Library of Congress

After a sideshow promoter made Zorine, Queen of the Nudists and the Zoro Garden Nudist Colony the sensation of San Diego’s 1935-1936 California Pacific International Exposition, imitators sprang up on carnival and fair midways. This banner for the “Nudist Colony” at a county fair in Ohio asks “Are they ever ashamed?” Shows featuring talkers and inside lecturers dressed as nurses and doctors helped explain the wonders and mysteries of medical science in the days before television and the Internet. Step right up to the College of Hygiene Science!

sideshow banner 1939

Sign at sideshow at Gonzales, Texas county fair, 1939. Photo by Russell Lee for the U.S. Farm Security Administration, Library of Congress

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Voltess

Vintage Sideshow Banner: Voltess, The Girl Who Defies Electricity circa 1930. Millard & Bulsterbaum, 2894 W 8th St. Coney Island via Urban Country

This vintage Millard and Bulsterbaum banner for “Voltess, The Girl Who Defies Electricity” was painted for Sam Wagner’s World Circus Sideshow in Coney Island. Variously known as Electra, Electricia and Voltara, the act features a girl who is said to be able to withstand high voltage and shoot sparks from her fingertips due to having been struck by lightning. The banner, which measures approximately eight by five, is offered for sale by Urban Country.

Algernon Millard and John Bulsterbaum established their Coney Island shop around 1915 at 2894 W 8th Street and were in business through the Depression. Their ads proclaimed “We Paint Banners That Get Top Money for Carnivals and Circus.” The studio was credited with introducing liberal use of orange paint and bold lines that made their banners visible from clear across the midway.

Millard and Bulsterbaum

Millard and Bulsterbaum, 2894 W 8th Street, Coney Island

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Vintage Sideshow Art: Major Debert Tiniest Man by Millard & Bulsterbaum, 2894 W 8th St. Coney Island

Vintage Sideshow Art: Major Debert Tiniest Man by Millard & Bulsterbaum, 2894 W 8th St. Coney Island

This circa 1920s banner from Coney Island is among more than a dozen sideshow banners offered in a Mosby & Co. online auction that begins on May 5th. We first set eyes on the mysterious “Major Debert Tiniest Man” in Freaks Geeks & Strange Girls: Sideshow Banners of the Great American Midway. The 1996 book catapulted this unusual genre of American art from fringe culture into the mainstream. “Major Debert” was one of the prized Millard & Bulsterbaum banners from Coney Island owned by Jim Secreto, whose collection we got to see “Alive and On the Inside” when we profiled him for Art & Antiques.

This extravagant advertisement for Major Debert is 12 feet tall by 7 feet wide, a size that readily lends itself to hilarious exaggerations of scale. The Tiniest Man does indeed look tiny beside the gigantic faces of the “normal sized” man and woman who are oohing and aahing over him. Algernon Millard and John Bulsterbaum established their Coney Island shop around 1915 at 2894 W 8th Street across the street from Luna Park. Their ads proclaimed “We Paint Banners That Get Top Money for Carnivals and Circus.” The studio was credited with introducing liberal use of orange paint and bold lines that made their banners visible from clear across the midway.

This is the third Mosby auction featuring sideshow banners from the collection of the late Bob McCord. Back in the 90s, Bob began buying or trying to buy every sideshow banner in sight. He got quite a few from Johnny Meah, whose banners are also featured in the current auction, as well as some vintage pieces from the Secreto collection. Last year we wrote about the sale of an orange-hued “Armless Wonder” banner by Dan Casola from the same Coney Island studio.

Mosby & Co Auctions, Auction # 3 Closing May 20th, 2010 at Midnight, Lot #438, Opening Bid $850

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