Guide to the Records of Ashton's Circus

MS 9477, MS Acc06.115

National Library of Australia

Collection Summary

Title
Records of Ashton's Circus
Date Range
ca. 1900-ca. 2006
Collection Number
MS 9477, MS Acc06.115
Extent
5.43 metres (4 boxes, 8 folio boxes, 1 folio packet, 1 file)
Language of Materials
English
Repository
National Library of Australia

Introduction

Scope and Contents

The collection is chiefly comprised of paper clippings relating to Ashton's and other circuses, the bulk of which have been pasted into scrapbooks. Obtained from a range of Australian regional and daily newspapers, as well as overseas papers and journals, the cuttings have been grouped in some of the albums according to chronological period or by subject. Other scrapbooks contain memorabilia such as sample tickets, publicity materials, flyers and programs, and a few examples of correspondence.

As a group, the clippings formed the basis of Judy Cannon's historical study of the circus Take a drum and beat it : the story of the astonishing Ashtons, 1848-1990s. A number of the scrapbooks retain book marks and short notes made by Cannon in the course of her research. Other items such as an Ashton family tree and photocopied records and articles also add to the historical interest of the collection.

As well as documenting the activities of Ashton's Circus, other performing troupes are represented in the records, and there are sequences of cuttings relating to the Australian tours of the Great Moscow Circus (1971), the German National Circus (1972) and Los Muchachos Spanish boys circus (1975). A number of scrapbooks concern the joint Ashton's Circus and Degrey-Williams-Kendall production 'The Clown Who Lost His Circus', which toured rural New South Wales and interstate centres in 1975. This unusual circus pantomine, which combined performing acts with a play, featured Sydney actors Colin Croft, Anna Russell, Keith Little, Anita Roberts, Peter Williams and Ron May. In addition, further groupings of cuttings record aspects of the careers of the entertainers Tommy Hanlon, Paul Hogan and Will 'Sugarfoot' Hutchins.

The clippings also provide interesting insights into animal welfare issues and the pro- and anti-circus movements, such as the Save the Circus Association. On matters relating to these topics there are cuttings albums about the Bacchus Marsh Lion Safari, other lion parks and zoos, and the treatment of circus animals, within the collection.

Conditions Governing Access

Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (http://nla.gov.au/nla.cat-vn617430).

Conditions Governing Use

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Records of Ashton's Circus, National Library of Australia, [class number, box number and series and/or file number]'.

Provenance

The papers were forwarded to the National Library on behalf of Ashton's Circus by Judy Cannon, and were received in two instalments in 1998.

Arrangement

The records have been placed in manuscript and folio boxes in three sequences according to size. A chronological arrangement has been imposed by Library staff within each sequence.

In addition to the papers contained in MS 9477, four albums of photographs of Ashton's Circus performers, taken by Gypsy Pennefeather in 1995-96, are housed in the Pictorial Collection at PIC P1473/1-312/R LOC albums. Two interviews recorded with Douglas, Phyllis and Jan Ashton in 1976 and 1993 form part of the Oral History Collection at ORAL TRC 560/7 and ORAL TRC 2590/DAT-57.

Finding Aid Source(s)

Please note: This finding aid may comprise or contain descriptive information provided by donors, researchers and/or volunteers.

Collection Retrieval Advice

Please note: each consignment in this collection has a separate box number sequence (i.e. there may be multiple Box 1s). Please cite the relevant Class number as well as the Box number when requesting retrieval of material from the collection.

Administrative History

Ashton's Circus has its origin in performances given by equestrian James Henry Ashton (c. 1819-1889) in the Royal Circus in Launceston, Tasmania in 1851. In February of the following year Ashton and Signor Cardoza reopened in Sydney as the Olympic Circus. Ashton's, as it became known, was a large and popular company, touring widely in the eastern Australian colonies. Ashton and his 12 children formed the core of the troupe, and a percentage of takings was often donated back into the local community in the form of building, charity and flood-relief funds.

When Ashton was in his seventies, management of the company was passed to his son James, who with brother Fred administered operations, before pursuing separate circus interests. The first two decades of the twentieth century saw Ashton's fragment into combinations with other troupes, including partnerships with Hyland's, FitzGerald Brothers, St Leon's, Barton's, Eroni Brothers and Sole's Circuses.

From 1918, when most of the original family had left circus work, Ashton's carried on under the direction of successive fathers and sons, Fred, Joe and Doug Ashton

(b. 1920). Today Ashton's is the oldest operational circus in Australia, and is thought to be the longest surviving circus in the western world.

Judy Cannon arrived in Australia from England in 1970, and was a staff member of the National Library during the 1980s. Now based in Brisbane, she has worked in public relations, and widely as a journalist and freelance writer. Her history of Ashton's Circus Take a drum and beat it, written in association with Mark St Leon, was published by Tytherleigh Press in 1997.

Item Descriptions

Class MS 9477. Original consignment Show allonly 1

Comprises paper clippings documenting the activities of Ashton's and other circuses, used by Judy Cannon in the writing of Take a drum and beat it. Most of the cuttings have been pasted into scrapbooks, and some include memorabilia such as sample tickets, publicity material, flyers and programs, and a few examples of correspondence. Other items such as an Ashton family tree and photocopies of a few early accounts of the circus add to the historical interest of the collection. Other performing troupes represented in the collection include the Australian tours of the Great Moscow Circus, 1971, the German National Circus, 1972, and Los Muchachos Spanish boys circus in 1975. Aspects of the careers of entertainers Tommy Hanlon, Paul Hogan and Will "Sugarfoot" Hutchins are also recorded. In addition, the cuttings provide interesting insights into animal welfare issues, including the treatment of circus animals, the pro- and anti-circus movements, and the operations of zoos and animals parks such as the Bacchus Marsh Lion Safari.

Contained in 4 boxes, 8 fol. boxes, 1 fol. packet.

File 1. Clippings album, c. 1950s-1989 (mostly undated) - Box 1 Show allonly 1

File 2. Clippings album, c. 1959-69, including tickets, flyers, 1967-68 tour of New Zealand - Box 1 Show allonly 1

File 3. Clippings album, 1967-68 - Box 1 Show allonly 1

File 4-7. Clippings, articles and other papers, 1968, 1984, 1989-91 - Box 1 Show allonly 1

File 8. Clippings, 1971 - Box 2 Show allonly 1

File 9. Clippings, 1972-73, 1978 - Box 2 Show allonly 1

File 10. Clippings relating to 1975-76 tour of New Zealand - Box 2 Show allonly 1

File 11. Clippings album, 1978 - Box 2 Show allonly 1

File 12. General articles and clippings, c. 1980s - Box 2 Show allonly 1

File 13. Clippings, 1986 - Box 2 Show allonly 1

File 14. Clippings, 1987 - Box 2 Show allonly 1

File 15. Clippings regarding animal welfare, c. 1987-89 - Box 2 Show allonly 1

File 16. Clippings, 1988 - Box 2 Show allonly 1

File 17-18. Clippings, 1988 - Box 3 Show allonly 1

File 19-22. Clippings, 1989 - Box 3 Show allonly 1

File 23. Clippings, 1990 - Box 3 Show allonly 1

File 24-26. Clippings, 1990 - Box 4 Show allonly 1

File 27. Clippings album, 1990-92 - Box 4 Show allonly 1

File 28. Clippings, 1991, 1993 - Box 4 Show allonly 1

File 29. Issues of Bandwagon: the journal of the Circus Historical Society, 1988, 1991, together with photocopied historical articles about circuses - Box 4 Show allonly 1

File 30. Clippings album, 1950, 1975-87 - Folio-Box 1 Show allonly 1

File 31. Clippings album, 1950-80, including Monte Carlo International Circus - Folio-Box 1 Show allonly 1

File 32. Scrapbook containing invitations, tickets, programs, publicity brochures, posters and flyers, 1950-90 - Folio-Box 1 Show allonly 1

File 33. Miscellaneous undated clippings and memorabilia, c. 1950s-1989, including Save the Circus Association of Victoria petition - Folio-Box 1 Show allonly 1

File 34. Clippings album, February 1951-November 1980 - Folio-Box 1 Show allonly 1

File 35. Clippings album, 1951-87 - Folio-Box 1 Show allonly 1

File 36. Clippings album, 1971-72, together with official program for 1956 season of Shrine Polack Bros. Circus - Folio-Box 1 Show allonly 1

File 37. Clippings album, 1959-69 - Folio-Box 2 Show allonly 1

File 38. Miscellaneous clippings, 1959-85 - Folio-Box 2 Show allonly 1

File 39. Clippings album, 1966, 1974-78 - Folio-Box 2 Show allonly 1

File 40. Clippings album, 1967-82 - Folio-Box 2 Show allonly 1

File 41. Clippings album, 1967-83, including articles about Tommy Hanlon - Folio-Box 2 Show allonly 1

File 42. Clippings album, 1968-86 - Folio-Box 2 Show allonly 1

File 43. Clippings album, 1971-72 - Folio-Box 3 Show allonly 1

File 44. Clippings album, 1971-74, including 'The Clown Who Lost His Circus', the German National Circus, Ashton's Circus and other circus acts - Folio-Box 3 Show allonly 1

File 45. Bacchus Marsh Lion Park, 1971-74; visit by the Great Moscow Circus, 1971 - Folio-Box 3 Show allonly 1

File 46. Miscellaneous clippings, 1971-74 - Folio-Box 3 Show allonly 1

File 47. 'The Clown Who Lost His Circus', 1974-75; miscellaneous clippings, including Will 'Sugarfoot' Hutchins, 1971-79 - Folio-Box 3 Show allonly 1

File 48. Clippings album, 1971-85 - Folio-Box 3 Show allonly 1

File 49. Clippings concerning lion parks, fauna and game reserves, marine sanctuaries, safaris, zoos and animals, 1971-87 - Folio-Box 3 Show allonly 1

File 50. Clippings album concerning 1972 tour by German National Circus - Folio-Box 4 Show allonly 1

File 51. Clippings album, 1972-86 - Folio-Box 4 Show allonly 1

File 52. Animals, 1973-84 - Folio-Box 4 Show allonly 1

File 53. Miscellaneous clippings, 1974, including television commercial featuring Paul Hogan - Folio-Box 4 Show allonly 1

File 54. 'The Clown Who Lost His Circus', 1974-75, Wentworth Park, Sydney, clippings and programs - Folio-Box 4 Show allonly 1

File 55. Clippings, 1974-76, including lion parks, zoos - Folio-Box 4 Show allonly 1

File 56. Clippings album relating to tour by Los Muchachos, 1975, including autographed program - Folio-Box 4 Show allonly 1

File 57. Miscellaneous clippings, 1976-77, including animal welfare and tickets for Los Muchachos tour, 1975 - Folio-Box 4 Show allonly 1

File 58. New Zealand tour, 1975-76 - Folio-Box 4 Show allonly 1

File 59. Clippings album, 1975-78 - Folio-Box 5 Show allonly 1

File 60. Clippings, 1976-80, together with photocopied article 'Saga of the Circus', People, 22 April 1953, pp. 15-17 - Folio-Box 5 Show allonly 1

File 61. Clippings album, Perth season of Ashton's Circus, 29 July-14 August 1977, including marketing and publicity - Folio-Box 5 Show allonly 1

File 62. Clippings album relating to Ashton's and other circuses, 1977-87; Los Muchachos tour, 1975; animal articles, c. 1950s - Folio-Box 5 Show allonly 1

File 63. Clippings album, 1977-90 - Folio-Box 5 Show allonly 1

File 64. Other circuses, 1977-92 - Folio-Box 5 Show allonly 1

File 65. Clippings album, 1978-84 - Folio-Box 5 Show allonly 1

File 66. Clippings album, 1980-81 - Folio-Box 6 Show allonly 1

File 67. Other circuses, 1980-90 - Folio-Box 6 Show allonly 1

File 68. Clippings album, 1 January-15 December 1982 - Folio-Box 6 Show allonly 1

File 69. Clippings album, January-July 1983 - Folio-Box 6 Show allonly 1

File 70. Clippings album, 1984-86 - Folio-Box 6 Show allonly 1

File 71. Advertisements, 1984-87 - Folio-Box 6 Show allonly 1

File 72. Clippings album, 1985, including photocopied extracts from the Wagga Wagga advertiser (1879) and other newspapers, 1857-58 - Folio-Box 6 Show allonly 1

File 73. Clippings album, 1985-87 - Folio-Box 6 Show allonly 1

File 74. Clippings album, 1986-89 - Folio-Box 7 Show allonly 1

File 75. Clippings album of paid newspaper advertisements, 30 July 1986- 31 March 1990 - Folio-Box 7 Show allonly 1

File 76. Clippings album, October 1987-June 1988 - Folio-Box 7 Show allonly 1

File 77. Clippings album, June-December 1988 - Folio-Box 7 Show allonly 1

File 78. Clippings album, November 1988-March 1990 - Folio-Box 7 Show allonly 1

File 79. Clippings album of paid newspaper advertisements, 2 April 1990- 13 May 1992 - Folio-Box 7 Show allonly 1

File 80. Clippings album regarding animal welfare, 1990-92 - Folio-Box 7 Show allonly 1

File 81. Clippings album, 1979-82 - Folio-Box 8 Show allonly 1

Item 82. Ashton family tree - Folio-Box 9 Show allonly 1

Item 83. Photocopied photograph of Marie Louise Melville and Madame Schreiber, c. 1923, together with clipping about Ashton's Circus, 1983 - Folio-Box 9 Show allonly 1

Item 84. Circus drawings by Grade 1, Christ the King Primary School, Graceville [Qld] - Folio-Box 9 Show allonly 1

Item 85. Ashton's Circus poster, c. 1980s - Folio-Box 9 Show allonly 1

Class Acc06-115. Consignment added 2006 Show allonly 1

Comprises an original photograph of Wirth's Circus, featuring Thomas Dunn, dating from a tour of New Zealand, ca. early 1900s (photographer W. Hall Raine, Wellington), together with one page featuring colour copies of a photograph of James Henry Ashton, a photograph of Vera Ashton (sitting) and Ethel Ashton, and the 1920 burial certificate for Elizabeth Ashton.

Contained in 1 folder.