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Friday, May 6, 2011

List of Wirth's Circus Elephants - to date


This is the list of names I have compiled to date of the elephants owned by Wirth's Circus from during my research. This is a rough draft and will need reviewing and updating.


Alice
Died 30 April 1956 the first mention of this elephant was from an interview with Doris Wirth in 1927. She was put down at Wirth's property by a veterinarian at around 65 years of age.

Annie died of poisoning at Mt Gambier in October 1929 (Imported 1923 from Burma)

Betty - died of Tutu Poisoning near Hamilton in New Zealand 1950

Butcha Imported as a calf in 1923 by Wirth's Circus. His dam was 'Mary'. No known death date.

Cardie (Cardigan)
Wirths had obtained Cardie around circa 1902 (yet to confirm this year). He had numerous incidences of attacking his keepers. In 1923 during a performance in Queensland Cardie attacked his trainer. He was subsequently shot in July 1923.

Doll

Dolly

Eileen

Ellie

Gertie

Ghuni Sah (Ghunah Sah)
This elephant was obtained by Wirths around 1898/1900 and was billed as 'The Bucking Elephant'. She was purchased in Rangoon from a Scottish Timber Merchant (from interview with Phillip Wirth). Her death date is unknown. She possibly died from eating superphosphate when Wirth's were touring Western Australia.

Gyp

Jessie

Jewel
Reported as attacking his trainer during a performance in the USA in 1961. His age was stated as being 40 years old.

Jo-Dee The First
Obtained in 1949 at aged 10 months. This elephant died as a result of split bones in the hind legs due to a lack of calcium. She was being cared for in New Zealand at the time. She died on 16 July 1950

Jo-Dee The Second
Arrived in 1950. Imported from Thailand aged three years old.

Jumbo The First
Wirth's claimed this elephant was the first born in Australia. Possibly they obtained this animal from Moore Park around 1905. There is a report in the Evening Post (NZ) from 1923 of a 'Jumbo' being shot on 14 May 1923. It is mentioned as being 'Taronga Park's Big Show Elephant'. This death date matches the elephant Dundry (Dundray) which is recorded also as being shot on the same date at the same facility.


Jumbo The Second
Arrived from Burma in 1923
Lena

Lizzie
Formerly owned by Fitzgerald's Circus who obtained Lizzie from Carl Hagenbeck's Zoological Circus in Vienna. The act was imported in 1897. 


NOVELTIES PURCHASED IN VIENNA.
Mr, Dan Fitzgerald (senior partner in the firm of Fitzgerald Bros.), of circus fame, who left Australia by the R.M.S. Orotava for the purpose of securing novel acts for Australian patrons, has been successful in his mission to Vienna.

Among the novelties be has already secured is Hagenbach's performing troupe, consisting of elephants, ponies, and monkeys, Mr. Fitzgerald has also purchased a wonderful lion, and performing dogs, and has engaged a famous lion-tamer.

He visits other continental cities, also England and America, in his quest for further novelties.
The Mercury 24 July 1897

Lizzie was trained to ride a tricycle around a purpose built track with a lion named 'Prince' riding on her back. Wirth's Circus had featured Lizzie as part of their performances prior to 1906. It seems they obtained her after this and used this act for some time. Lizzie fell ill in 1920 before dying on 24 October 1920 the cause not determined. She was sold to a soap factory to be rendered down for her fat.

 Performing Elephant Dies
' Lizzie, ' one of the elephants at Wirth Bros' circus, died on Sunday night after an illness of several months is the fourth elephant which the circus has lost during the present tour Lizzie was a great worker and was a popular performer in the ring. The carcase has been removed to a soap manufactory to be boiled down.
The Argus 26 October 1920


Mary
Imported from Burma in 1923 as part of a large consignment of elephants. Mary was around 35 years old. She was the dam of the 12 month old elephant 'Butcha'
Molly
Died around 1946???
Princess Alice (Formerly 'Alice' )
Peggy
Prince
Rill
Sally
Sarina
Susie
Toby The First

Toby was obtained by Moore Park from W.H Hartley in 1887. Hartley had used her as a performing elephant.

The society has acquired by purchase Mr. W. H. Hartley's performing female elephant " Toby," which has already become a general favourite with the public.

- Sydney Morning Herald 1 October 1887

Toby proved to be of difficult temperament and was sold to Wirth's Circus around 1904. She had several escapes during the time they owned her. In 1915 Toby became ill and died

DEATH OF A CIRCUS ELEPHANT.
A familiar figure of Wirth Bros Ltd's circus ring has disappeared, Toby, the oldest and cleverest elephant of the herd, which died yesterday morning after a two or three days illness. For years she was the principal performer in the elephant's act, and did tricks denoting intelligence almost human. She was about eighty years of age, and was worth nearly £2000 She had a remarkable memory. On one occasion during a steamer voyage an engineer "loaded" an orange with pepper and gave it to her. On a subsequent voyage the same engineer passed near her, and she grabbed him with her trunk, and only the rigging saved the man from going overboard. She died of a similar complaint to the one which caused her collapse on the bridge at Nowra a year ago. On that occasion she held up the horse traffic for about twelve hours.

- Sydney Morning Herald 30 April 1915


Toby The Second
Mentioned in an article from 1921
At the rear of the procession came Wirth's Circus in full strength, the elephant Toby leading the way with a bucket in which he collected money from the spectators.
- The Argus 29 October 1921

17 comments:

  1. Very interesting! I will work to begin updating the database with your information soon.

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  2. As I can I'll start putting in the information I've found for these elephants - which will help!

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  3. Very impressing, Liz, congratulations to an intersting research! I Have now updated the database with the new elephants, seems Wirth had in total 30 elephants, thats an impressive number. Any chances that some of the elephants had more than one name, and that the total number is acually less?

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  4. Hi Dan

    I think the number is correct. I've researched each name individually. There were two Alice the elephants the first as you know was 'Pricess Alice' obtained by Wirth's from Anderson's Wonderland City, then the second Alice which I suspect was obtained sometime after 1908. There are some confusions with some of the elephants the two Alice's in particular were tricky to distinguish. Wirth's had quite a high death rate with their elephants. I think some may have been also sold on or simply just died and were never reported. Rill I do know was sold after Wirth's ceased to exist. I have pages and pages of research which I now have to pull into some kind of logical format. Wirth's did write a book which I need to get a copy of. There may also be clues there as to what elephants they had. The first elephant they obtained was Gunah Sah. I just don't know what happened to her. Her death was never reported. I think one way or the other eventually we will end up with a comprehensive list once we've managed to sort things out. It's not a final list by any means which is why I advised it is a draft only.

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  5. I have new records for one Alice: she came to Royal Melbourne Zoological Park 1952-11-01 from Wirth Circus, and was returned Wirth Circus 1952-12-01 from Royal Melbourne Zoological Park:

    * http://www.elephant.se/database2.php?elephant_id=5872

    I only had this one recorded at Melbourne before, and sold to a circus, but it seems she was only in Melbourne for a month.

    Not sure if this may be the one you say were obtained in 1908, or if its another one.

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  6. According to Melbourne Zoo, Abu at Ashtons Circus:

    * http://www.elephant.se/database2.php?elephant_id=2046

    was also kept at Wirths. They do not specify her name, but the studbook nr 31, which is Abu.
    Ill try to doublecheck this, but trasnfer dates makes sense:

    1 Feb 1953 Trade from CIRCUS - WIRTHS MELBOURNE Traded to CIRCUS-WIRTHS 1 Apr 1953

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  7. Thanks Dan that's very helpful I'll add her on

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  8. On Alice the one Melbourne Zoo was simply named Alice. Princess Alice which came from Wonderland City (originally from Bostock & Wombwell) died in 1941.

    The second Alice I suspect was obtained around 1923. There was an importation by Wirth's of 9 elephants. One of them named Mary was aged 35 years and had a calf at foot then named Butscha

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  9. Regarding Jewel, the animal was a female with a long circus history in the United States, beginning in 1926 until her death in 1966 die to a truck wreck. In 1961 (the year of the killing), she was on lease from Hunt Brothers Circus, who had purchased her from Ringling in 1938. Can you help explain why this Australian circus was in North America at this time?

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  10. Hi Ryan

    The report I found referred to Jewel as being a bull elephant - not that newspaper reports are necessarily accurate. Wirth's did tour the USA as one stage. I know that they were out of business by 1965. I'll look into my notes and get back to you on this.

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  11. It seems I made have done an error with Abu, according to Tony Ratcliffe "ABU was never with WIRTHS CIRCUS , she was imported by Capt Schultz for ASHTONS"

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  12. Hello, im doing some homework with Wirths in 1943, they had to walk the circus to Sydney from Melbourne. in June/July that year they stopped in Albury and most likely set up a side show due to a lack of staff to set up the big top. wives tale says that they may have had an elephant die while in albury and buried in the railway yard... ever herd this?

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    1. Ross I've had a look in the TROVE website which is where your best information will be available. According to the Sydney Morning Herald 19 July 1943 Seven elephants arrived which is the number in the group Wirth's had. So yes that an elephant died at Albury belonging to Wirths Circus isn't correct. No deaths occurred in 1943. What is correct that Wirths used the elephants to haul the circus equipment from Melbourne to Sydney. Because of WW2 petrol was in dire shortage. It took a month for the Circus to trek overland and reach Sydney. There is however a record as I recall of two circus elephants being killed in a train wreck. I recall it was Perry's circus. One of the elephant's skeletons was located a few years ago and used as art piece.

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  13. Hi Dan thanks for letting me know about Abu I'll amend my records.

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  14. Hi Ross

    It could well true. I have heard of it yes. But I'll have to look further into it. I've had other projects on the go so haven't had a chance to make further headway on this.

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  15. I'm related to the Wirth Circus so this is great to see!! :-)

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    1. Hi Vanessa

      Thanks so much for your comment!

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