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Althoff Circus (c1675 - 1999)



  • Existence: c1675 - 1999


The Althoff circus dynasty was one of the oldest in the world, tracing back to the late 1600s in Freialdenhoven, North Rhine-Westphalia with Michael Aldenhoven. In the early years the family used the name ‘von Aldenhoven’ and travelled their show around German villages and towns as itinerant performers delighting the public with feats of acrobatics, acting and juggling. Eventually they changed their name to Althoff and overtime there could be found more than 70 companies, which branched out from the original troupe, using the name Althoff. By the mid-1700s, Althoff’s circus had achieved international fame touring not only Germany but also France.

Over time Althoff Circus became the most successful German circus and gained fame for the technical perfection of its acts.

By the mid of the 1940s Carl Althoff, became the head of the circus. During the Second World War him and his wife Maria protected several Jewish performers from the Nazis, providing fake identities and sheltering them in their circus. Their actions were honoured, in 1995, by the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel. The circus survive the war and during the post war years expanded to reach its former glory and in the 1970s, it was the first western circus to perform in the USSR.

The expansion of the family also continued after the war with Carola Althoff marrying Harry Williams and creating Circus Williams, which eventually went to America to form the basis of a new second unit for the Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus. Franz Althoff formed a huge three ring circus that travelled in Germany until the late 1960s and was featured in the 1964 John Wayne film The Magnificent Showman.

Members of the Althoff family also were responsible for the creation of the Friederike Hagenbeck Circus.

On their return to Europe from America, they formed Circus Althoff Williams, buying the Williams title from Carola, who stayed in America. Later they toured the Moscow State Circus throughout Germany and regularly took their show to Sweden in partnership with Cirkus Scott until the end of the twenty century.

Found in 13 Collections and/or Records:

Althoff Circus Programmes, 1953 - 1977

Reference code: 178K43.638
Scope and Contents

Althoff Circus programmes for Franz Althoff, Carl Althoff, Adolf Althoff and Rudi Althoff Circus, containing colour illustrations on the front covers, inside black and white and colour photographs of perfomers and acts with text, introduction, programme and commercial advertising, featuring Koringa, Buffalo Bill impresonators, Rogge Sisters, Rogana, Arthur Robin aka The Black Hercules and The Rivels.

Dates: 1953 - 1977

Austrian National Circus Programme, 1974

Reference code: 178K41.45
Scope and Contents

Jacki Althoff and Grizzly Bear, The Flying Alizes trapeze and others. Contains illustration on covers and photos, 32p.p.

Dates: 1974

Blackpool Tower Circus Fantastic Programme, 1975

Reference code: 178K41.3
Scope and Contents

Charlie Cairoli and his Company, Mary Chipperfield and her animals, The Flying Marilees Flyers Aerialists, Circus Knie’s Horses, Franz R. Althoff elephants, Kris Kremo juggler, Fattini blancing act, Skating Rolwoods, Chy Bao Guy Troupe, The Six Bertinis trick cyclists and balancing act, Desmond and Marks clown, Helen Piderman. Notes of times handwritten on programme. Contains photos, 12p.p.

Dates: 1975

Blackpool Tower Circus Fantastic Programme, 1977

Reference code: 178K41.14
Scope and Contents

Charlie Cairoli and his company clowns, Bronley’s Space Rocket, Rogana balance act, Circus Knie’s Horses and Ponies presented by Franz R. Althoff, Tommy Chipperfield and his lions, Bratuchin Cossack Troupe, Gina, Orlando and Celinas, Los Hermans, Inge Lise, Tommy de-Vel Trio jugglers, Normans and his udgerigars, Professor Grimble clown. Contains illustration on the cover with photos, 12p.p.

Dates: 1977

Christopher Palmer Collection

Reference code: NFA0105
Scope and Contents

Circus programmes and VHS tapes from Billy Smart’s Circus and Chipperfields’s Circus collected during the 1970s and early 1980s by the TV producer, Christopher John Palmer. There are also a number of promotional photographs of artistes and other ephemera related to the circus.

Dates: 1973 - 1983

Circus Friends Association Collection

Reference code: NFA0122
Scope and Contents

This collection consists of a large library of books and journals, as well as archival material including posters, programmes, photographs, films, handbills, research material, scrapbooks, original artwork and many other items of ephemera relating to British, Irish and European circuses

Dates: 1795 - 2020

Circus Research Material, 1872 - 1975

Reference code: 178B30.1
Scope and Contents Photocopies of programmes from the London Hippodrome, the National Amphitheatre, Hengler's Circus, Olympia, Hagenbeck's Wonder Zoo and Big Circus, Barnum and Bailey, Paulo's Circus, Chapman's Circus, Rosaire's Circus, Grand Continental Circus at the Crystal Palace, Barrett's Canadian Circus, Cody's Continental Circus, Pinder's Royal Circus and Menagerie and other UK and international circuses, also photocopies of newspaper cuttings, ordenance survey, photographs of performers and posters,...
Dates: 1872 - 1975

Lindsay Temple's Circus Photographs, 1970 - 1976

Reference code: 178C108.417-435
Scope and Contents

Black and white photographs of circus performers and animals, mainly in the ring and portrait of Lindsay Temple with Franz Althoff and Charles Cairoli, mainly stamped by David Jamieson.

Dates: 1970 - 1976

Monographs, Articles, Manuscripts and Research Material, c1795 - 1999

Reference code: 178B30
Scope and Contents

Compilation of monographs, articles, manuscripts and a range of research material about circus companies and performers in the United Kingdom, Europe and other parts of the world by various authors, the research was mainly compiled by Hal Thomas.

Dates: c1795 - 1999

Photographs and Postcards, c1800 - 1999

Reference code: 178C108
Scope and Contents

Black and white and colour photographs, negatives and photographic albums mainly containing images of British circus, circus performers, animals and circus personalities but also some menageries such as Bostock and Wombwell and other associated entertainments and non-British circuses taken by David Jamieson, Lindsay Temple, Den Curtis, Capt. Middleton, Jack Niblett and other photographers.

Dates: c1800 - 1999

Programmes, 1970 - 1981

Reference code: 178K41
Scope and Contents

Programmes for various British and international circuses including Billy Russell's, Blackpool Tower, Fossett's, Chipperfield's and the Toni Boltini's Circus.

Dates: 1970 - 1981

Programmes, c1800 - 2019

Reference code: 178K43
Scope and Contents

A collection of mainly British and international circus programmes and some variety and music hall programmes containing circus acts.

Dates: c1800 - 2019

Programmes for Circuses at the New World's Fair, Royal Agricultural Hall, 1900 - 1939

Reference code: 178K43.650
Scope and Contents

Programmes for circuses at the new World's Fair, Royal Agricultural Hall including Billy Wilson's Circus, Carl Hagenbeck, Circus Krone and Althoff's Circus, containing monochrome and colour illustrations on the front covers, inside black and white photographs of perfomers and acts with some text and illustrations including the Naito Troupe, Alfred Court and The South China Troupe, programme and commercial advertising.

Dates: 1900 - 1939