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Ohmy Circus (c1867 - 1920)



  • Existence: c1867 - 1920


The Ohmy Circus was founded by Joseph Smith (c.1852-1931) aka The Great Ohmy in c1867, when he inherited his father's circus. Still an inexperience teenager, Ohmy took a partner to run the circus but the partnership did not last long. It took thirteen years of hard work to make the Ohmy Circus succeed, when he opened his first show at Southport in 1880. During this time, he also bought a circus in Accrington and erected around 80 circus buildings in cities across England including; Rochdale, Oldham, Preston, Blackpool and Leeds as he travelled his show with his wife and children, Ada, Lily and Claude, who performed as The Ohmy Sisters, an equestrian act in which son Claude pretended to be a woman.

During the First World War, the family was dispersed with Ohmy being recruited by the armed forced and his children being interned in a German prisoner of war camp, while travelling a show in Germany at the outbreak of the war. Although his daughters were allowed to return to England shortly after, his son Claude remained imprisoned for the duration of the war. Daughter Ada died in 1918 reputedly unable to recover from the trauma.

Found in 21 Collections and/or Records:

A Central Circus Site Monograph, c1930 - 1999

Reference code: 178B20.1
Scope and Contents

Ohmy by Cyril Critchlow. A Central Circus Site, Chapter 11. Unpublished monograph with research notes. Typescript & Manuscript, 4p.p.

Dates: c1930 - 1999

Business Records, c1876 - 1949

Reference code: 178H13
Scope and Contents

Various business records belonging to John Sanger and his family and the Ohmy family including contracts and financial records.

Dates: c1876 - 1949

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

Correspondence, c1900 - 2008

Reference code: 178F20
Scope and Contents

Items of personal correspondence and correspondence related to the Sanger and Ohmy families.

Dates: c1900 - 2008

Correspondence Between John Everet Sanger and the Ohmy Family, c1936 - 1989

Reference code: 178F20.18
Scope and Contents

Correspondence between John Everton Sanger and the Ohmy family, mainly his mother and grandmother while John was serving in the Royal Navy during World War II and from Vicky during the 1970s-1980s, also some from other acquaintances, other correspondence and empty envelopes.

Dates: c1936 - 1989

Correspondence Related to the Ohmy and the Sanger Families, c1900 -1999

Reference code: 178F20.20
Scope and Contents

Various pieces of correspondence related to Ohmy and Sanger family members.

Dates: c1900 -1999

Correspondence Related to the Ohmy Circus Family, 1905 - 1929

Reference code: 178F20.12
Scope and Contents

Postcard correspondence related to the Ohmy Circus family, including a postcard from Lillie Reeve to Mr Claude Smith while he was a prisoner of war in Germany.

Dates: 1905 - 1929

Cyril Critchlow Collection

Reference code: NFA0089
Scope and Contents The Cyril Critchlow collection contains programmes, posters, handbills, books and magic journals, many of which relate to shows in Blackpool where Cyril resided and includes material on entertainment venues such as Blackpool’s North Pier, Central Pier, South Pier, Tower Circus and a small collection of programmes from other national venues. Additionally, it contains circus photographs and postcards mainly of the Ohmy Circus and Sanger Circus including individual circus troupes and performers...
Dates: c1837 - 2008

Letter from Kay Sapienza, 1994

Reference code: 178F20.16
Scope and Contents

Letter and family tree to Mrs J Huntingdon from Kay Sapienza, contains information about Ohmy circus. Typescript, 2p.p.

Dates: 1994

Newspaper Cutting About the Ohmy Family and Circus, c1880 - 1999

Reference code: 178G25.7
Scope and Contents

Newspaper cutting and photocopies regarding Ohmy’s circus and family.

Dates: c1880 - 1999

Newspaper Cuttings and Scrapbooks, c1832 - 1999

Reference code: 178G25
Scope and Contents

Various newspaper cuttings and scrapbooks about variety and circus performers including the Ohmy and Sanger families.

Dates: c1832 - 1999

Ohmy Family Contract of Employment, 1910

Reference code: 178H13.3
Scope and Contents

Contract of employment between Bech-Olsen and Ohmy Family to perform in Copenhagen, typescript.

Dates: 1910

Ohmy’s Fete and Gala Programme, c1880 - 1989

Reference code: 178K27.153
Scope and Contents

Winter Gardens, Southport. Contains handwritten note from Ohmy on the reverse. Printed by R. Johnson and Co. Limited, Printers, Visiter Office, Southport, 1p.

Dates: c1880 - 1989

Ohmy's Grand Circus Programmes, c1800 - 1899

Reference code: 178K43.659
Scope and Contents

Black type on colour paper with decorative border on most and colour illustration of a woman in a long white dress and green cape and black and white portrait photographs of Ohmy on two programmes, most of them for performances at Bolton, most of them 1 page, some three fold, one 2 pages.

Dates: c1800 - 1899

Ohmy’s Grand New Circus Programme, c1890 - 1899

Reference code: 178K27.149
Scope and Contents

Possibly Stockport, 1p.

Dates: c1890 - 1899

Ohmy’s Grand New Circus Programme, Wednesday 31 January 1906

Reference code: 178K27.152
Scope and Contents

Leigh, 2p.p.

Dates: Wednesday 31 January 1906

Ohmy's Notice of Engagement, 1876

Reference code: 178H13.4
Scope and Contents

Ohmy’s notice of engagements for the performing season to Managers, on letter headed paper from Adams’ Agency.

Dates: 1876

Photographs and Postcards, 1908 - 1975

Reference code: 178C110
Scope and Contents

Black and white photographs and postcards of the Ohmy, the Smart and the Sanger circuses and family members, including John Sanger in sailor’s uniform. Also a variety of circus performers including Mme. Morelli from the Bostock menagerie. Many of the postcards have been used for correspondence.

Dates: 1908 - 1975

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 Circus, Magic and Variety Shows, c1890 - 1999

Reference code: 178K27
Scope and Contents

Circus, magic and variety show programmes including the Great Ohmy Circus, John Sanger Circus, Bertram Mills Circus and variety shows at various locations in Blackpool, London, Manchester and other theatres in England. Some of the variety performers showcased are Morecambe and Wise, Hetty King, Mae West, Bob Hope, Shirley Bassey, Larry Lamb and Cliff Richards.

Dates: c1890 - 1999