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Circus Friends Association of Great Britain (Established 1934)



The CFA, formerly known as the Circus Fans Association was stablished on Saturday 20th January 1934 in the ring of Bertram Mills Circus at Olympia, London by a group of enthusiasts. The CFA’s purpose remains the same as in its conception; to stimulate, foster and promote enthusiasm for circus and related performances as part of British culture.

During 1934, the pattern for CFA activities was established, with the formation of the library, the publication of The Sawdust Ring magazine and the first rallies, including ones to the Hippodrome Circus in Great Yarmouth and Blackpool Tower. The annual subscription at the time was one guinea for residents in a radius of 60 miles from London 'as defined by Automobile Association handbook', and half a guinea for those residing outside that area, in the provinces. 'For residents in the Colonies and foreign counties' the subscription was 7/6.

The first President of the CFA was Lady Eleanor Smith (1902-1945), the eldest child of the politician F. E. Smith. Lady Eleanor Smith was an author, a society reporter and cinema reviewer and worked as a publicist for circus companies.

Other notable presidents were; Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970), the most celebrated British impressionist female artist of all time and the first woman to ever be elected to the Royal Academy. The actor Sir Cedric Hardwicke (1893-1964), wine merchant and philanthropist Sir Walter Gilbey (1831-1914), theatrical manager and empresario Sir Charles B. Cochran (1872-1951), Sir William Savory (1882-1961), author Antony Hippisley Coxe and Commander W. J. Gerard.

The first five years of the CFA saw the firm establishment of the Association its activity, although it was active by Alfred 'Dickey' Bird. The post-war years were difficult but the CFA continued operating with the same aims and ambitions.

The library was started in 1937, as a gift of 30 books from A.C. McLachlan. Others titles were acquired by purchase or donation. It contains books on virtually every aspect of circus life from individual acts, to acts of Parliament, from erecting a Big Top, to the logistics of transporting circuses, works of fiction, photography and juvenile literature all of which help to create a greater understanding of the many contrasts in circus life; of the romance, tragedy, spectacle and hardships.

Notable authors who have contributed to the myth and legend of circus include Lady Eleanor Smith, who in 1945, donated all her circus books to the CFA, Ruth Manning-Sanders and Courtney Ryley Cooper, an American writer who, after having first joined a circus aged 16, went on to write crime books and ghost-wrote articles under J. Edgar Hoover’s name in the 1930s.

After the war lists of holdings were printed and distributed to members, who could borrow a book at a time by post. By the mid 1970s, the ‘Library Catalogue’ listed 525 books and a ‘Circusiana’ section was created for valuable books, for reference only.

The CFA continues maintaining the collection, ensuring its growth and establishing it as the primary, national collection of books on circus.

The CFA has also amassed one of the most fascinating and important collection of circus related material in the United Kingdom expanding over 200 years. This material has supported research and literature produced by its members over the years and has ensured that an important part of British circus history will be available for future generations of researchers and enthusiasts.

The association has always welcomed enthusiasts and circus artistes to it’s membership and has always produced a regular publication giving news, reviews and articles on circus artistes and personalities and reviews of British and foreign circuses. The current quarterly magazine King Pole, named after the masts, which support a circus tent, is regarded as one of the leading circus periodicals in the world.

The CFA continues to organise visits, formerly called rallies, for the members, to UK circuses and recognises the achievements of those involved in circus with special awards.

After almost 85 years in existence the CFA continues to flourish with membership being maintained in the region of 500 comprising both British and subscribers from abroad.

Found in 1288 Collections and/or Records:

2 Rosinas Balancing Act Advertising Pamphlet, c1900 - 1999

Reference code: 178I22.11
Scope and Contents

Grey illustration of a question mark with a scroll border on the front page, inside black and white photograph of man and woman performing a balancing act and text and booking details on reverse, 2p.p.

Dates: c1900 - 1999

3 Ring Circus, Caroli Family, Busch Roland, Cirque Jean Richard and Freida Semback Krone Circus Films, 1954 - 1982

Reference code: 178D13.11
Scope and Contents Paramount Pictures, BR/SRG, 1Plus. Colour and black and white, sound and background music. DVD1 3 Ring Circus film starring Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin 1954, BBC2 programming 01:57:10 mins. DVD2 'Die Caroli Familie' documentary narrated in German, showing the Caroli family acts from Circus Krone and interviews, dialogues in Italian, Cirque Jean Richard, narrated in French, showing a birthday celebration, circus acts, circus children in school, rehersals, animal acts, Cossacks, etc,...
Dates: 1954 - 1982

16th Monte Carlo Circus Festival, Cicus Maximum and Circus Krone Films, 1991 - 1996

Reference code: 178D13.12
Scope and Contents Cates Films (BR, ORF, Telmondis, WKP), BR TV, 1ARD TV, Bayerischen Rundfunks (ORF, SF, DRS). Colour and black and white, sound and background music. DVD1 16th Monte Carlo Circus Festival 1992, tv broadcast narrated in German, showing circus acts and some behind the scenes footage with interviews, Circus Maximum documentary showing the build up, narrated in Swedish, showing circus acts and interviews, 02:00:21 mins. DVD2 Circus Krone tv broadcast, showing circus act, build up and interviews,...
Dates: 1991 - 1996

23 Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain, 21 Zirjusfestival, Zirkus van Morgen, Cirque du Demain, Stars in der Manege and Cirkus Krone Films, 1998 - 2002

Reference code: 178D13.16
Scope and Contents ARTE TV, WDR, Progam 33, 1ARD TV. Colour, sound and background music. DVD1 23 Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain, Paris 2002, tv broadcast narrated in German, showing circus acts and interviews as well as behind the scenes footage, also advertising and TV programming at the end, 01:22:07 mins. DVD2 21 Zirkusfestival Paris, Zirkus von Morgen, Cirque Demain 1988, tv broadcast narrated in German, showing the circus festival acts, Stars in der Manege, Cirkus Krone, Munich, showing circus acts...
Dates: 1998 - 2002

A Directory of Circus Proprietors Research Material, 1800 - 1947

Reference code: 178B30.14
Scope and Contents

Directory of circus proprietors by Hal Thomas (David Harold Thomas) with dates and notes. Manuscript.

Dates: 1800 - 1947

A Grand Collection of Birds and Wild Beasts Handbill, c1950 - 1999

Reference code: 178T40.2
Scope and Contents

To be seen alive in a commodious room near the Black-Boy in this town. Golden eagle, vulture, panther, wolf, half-and-half the oronoto, the fiery link, the oposon, a mango, an ape, capuchine, jackall. Black type on white background with coat of arms on top section

Dates: c1950 - 1999

A-Z of Circus Performers Research Material, c1900 - 1999

Reference code: 178B30.15
Scope and Contents

A-Z of circus performers containing act names, family names, type of acts and individual performers names by Hal Thomas (David Harold Thomas). Manuscript.

Dates: c1900 - 1999

Acrobatic Act Print, 1974

Reference code: 178V11.67
Scope and Contents

Black and white etching showing a troupe of thirteen acrobats performing a pyramid act in a circus ring produced for the Club du Cirque 25th anniversary in April 1974, signed on bottom left [illegible].

Dates: 1974

Adah Isaacs Menken as Mazeppa Print, c1800 - 1899

Reference code: 178V11.14
Scope and Contents

Lithograph on paper printed by Concanen, Lee and Siebe, 12 Frith Street. Colour illustration of woman tied up to a black galloping horse in a mountanous landscape.

Dates: c1800 - 1899

Aeros Circus Programmes, 1954 - 1971

Reference code: 178K43.637
Scope and Contents

Aeros Circus programmes containing colour illustrations on the front covers, inside black and white photographs of perfomers and acts with text, introduction, programme.

Dates: 1954 - 1971

All New Superdrome Circus Programme, 1996

Reference code: 178K43.331
Scope and Contents

Peter Jay presents the Big One Hundred Celebration. Colour photographs of ringmaster and performers on a pink background on the front cover, inside introduction, colour photographs of acts and performers with text, programme in the centre and commercial advertising, 8p.p.

Dates: 1996

All New Superdrome Circus Programme, 1995

Reference code: 178K43.328
Scope and Contents

Peter Jay presents The Russian Fantasy. Colour illustration of man stood up on elephant's head with right fist raised on a black background on the front cover, inside introduction, colour photographs of performers and acts with text, programme in the centre and commercial advertising, 8p.p.

Dates: 1995

Alley-Oop! Drawing, c1930 - 1955

Reference code: 178V11.21
Scope and Contents

Ink and watercolour wash on paper by Salomon van Abbe (1883-1955). Black and white illustration of clown holding a hoop on the left hand side and elephant stood on his back legs on a platform on the right, signed on bottom right corner in ink and on bottom left in pencil.

Dates: c1930 - 1955

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

American Circus Programmes, 1932 - 1983

Reference code: 178K43.613
Scope and Contents

Programmes for various American circuses including; Polack Bros., Al G. Barnes, Shrine, Hagenbeck-Wallace, Cole Brothers and Clyde and Beatty, King Bros., Mills Bros. and Cristiani-Wallace Bros. Circus, Bullen Bros., Shrine Circus, California Circus, Myers Grand American Circus and Circus Hoffman. All contain black and white or colour photographs of the acts and performers inside, a programme, some information about the circus and acts and commercial advertising.

Dates: 1932 - 1983

Amphitheatre Poster, Monday 9 November 1829 and rest of the week

Reference code: 178R47.25
Scope and Contents Mr. Ducrow as Rob Roy or the Mountain Shepherd equestrian act, Greek Soldier, Lilliputian Bonaparte and his pygmy war horse equestrian act, Mr. Ducrow and Miss Woolford double tightrope act, Russians and Turks combat, The Attack of the Courier, Col. Ross and the Officers of the Fourth Dragoon Guards, Mr. Ducrow as the Grecian Statue. Black type on off white background with illustration of man stood up on horse back holding a shield and sword on top section. Printed by H. Bellerby, Printer,...
Dates: Monday 9 November 1829 and rest of the week

Anderton and Rowland's Grand Empire Palace Poster, c1900 - 1930

Reference code: 178R47.36
Scope and Contents Animated pictures, Great Riots in St. Petersbug, Blue Beard, Historic events during the reign of Louis XIV, Professor Anderton conjurer, Sisters May vocalists, cake walkers and skipping rope dancers, Charles Bruno comedian and singer, Miss Harvey dancer. Black, red and blue type on off white background and blocks of blue, yellow and red, with black and white illustrations of the acts on the top corners, centre and bottom left sections over blue and yellow background. Printed by Willson's New...
Dates: c1900 - 1930

Anglo-American Circus Poster, Friday 4 Saturday 5 May 1945

Reference code: 178R47.40
Scope and Contents Redditch, Beoley Road, Recreation Ground. Jumbo, The Alleys acrobatic act, Marthines troupe of performing dogs, The Albertas juggling act, Miss Rosey and her comedy horse, Mdlle. Rigley equestrian act, The Nondescripts, Black Eagle, Gerry Lee and Partner, Madam Mazelle om poblie wom womskie comedy act, Royal Cream ponies, Tiney and September, Prince Abdul, A host of clowns, Vokes strongman. Black type on yred, yellow and white background on the left hand side and colour illustration of...
Dates: Friday 4 Saturday 5 May 1945

Arena of Astley's Amphitheatre, Surrey Road Print, 1 December 1815

Reference code: 178V11.20
Scope and Contents

Engraving on paper by George Jones (1786-1869), printed by W. Wise and published by Robert Wilkinson, No. 58 Cornhill. Two black and white illustrations, on top interior view of theatre with equestrian act on the edge and other performers in the centre, band on bottom right and audience on balconies, on the bottom external view of building.

Dates: 1 December 1815

Arthur Joel's Anglo-Russian Circus Programmes, 1941 - 1943

Reference code: 178K43.674
Scope and Contents

Monochrome illustrations of equestrian acts on front covers, inside programme.

Dates: 1941 - 1943