Happy Hobo and Sad Tramp Clowns

Bert Williams

Bert Williams

Bert Williams (Egbert Austin Williams) (1874 – 1922) Born in the West Indies, Bert Williams was a black entertainer appearing as a song-and-dance clown in the minstrel/tramp tradition of McIntyre and Heath. He was also an excellent pantomimist. His contemporaries considered him the greatest entertainer of his generation. Because of his talent, he broke through […]

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Harold "Happy" Kellems

Happy Kellems

Harold “Happy” Kellems (1905-1987) Happy Kellems was a tramp-character clown, minstrel, and vaudeville performer. A native of Evansville, Indiana, he began his entertainment career in medicine shows, joined by longtime partner, Van Wells. Together they moved to vaudeville and burlesque and then turning to minstrel shows, which became their great love.

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Joe Jackson Sr.

Joe Jackson Sr (1873-1942)

Joe Jackson Sr. was born as Joseph Francis Jiranek in Vienna, Austria. He was Austrian bicycle champion, and a member of a world champion bicycle polo team before he became an entertainer. He started with a serious bike riding act, and then developed it into a comedy break- away bike act performed by a tramp […]

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Al Ross, famous Shrine clown

Al Ross, famous Shrine clown

Al Ross (1907 – 1981) Born Alphonse Helwig in Cincinnati, Ohio, he took the professional name Al Ross in 1930 when he was part of the Ross acrobatic troupe. Ross, a tramp clown, provided training for fellow shrine clowns in proper clowning skills and etiquette. He would shoot long balloons into the circus crowd. When […]

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Hobo Jim - Jim Howle

Jim Howle, tramp clown, artist and teacher

JIM HOWLE (1939 – ) Jim Howle is one of the most versatile clowns performing today. In addition to his performing skills, which are finely honed, he is also a famous artist and expert on clown make up. Jim is a native of Darlington, South Carolina, where his mother was an artist, and Jim was […]

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Otto Griebling and baby

Otto Griebling – circus tramp clown

Otto Griebling (April 28, 1896 – April 19, 1972) Inducted into the Clown Hall of Fame 1989 Otto Griebling, who became a fixture of the American circus as a tramp clown performing for the most famous circuses of the 20th Century, began his career not as a clown, but as a bareback rider.   And this […]

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Emmett Kelly as Weary Willie, painting by Jim Howle

Long-lasting smile – a story about Emmett Kelly Sr.

A Long-Lasting Smile – a story about Emmett Kelly Sr. Shortly after World War II, when I was 9 or 10, my parents took me to the Ringling Brothers Circus. I loved the circus, especially the clowns. There was one clown that I knew by name. Everyone did: Emmett Kelly. We had some of the […]

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Emmett Kelly as Weary Willie

Emmett Kelly Sr. biography – world famous tramp clown

Emmett Kelly, Sr. (December 9, 1898 – March 28, 1979) – Weary Willy Emmett Kelly Sr., the most well-known of the tramp clowns of the circus. His character, Weary Willy, was the perpetual underdog, who never gave up – and, because of it, occasionally won.   He was inducted into the Clown Hall of Fame […]

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Mark Anthony, art by Bill Ballentine

Mark Anthony, famous tramp clown

Mark Anthony, famous circus tramp clown Mark Anthony was born Mark Galkowski in Norwich, Connecticut in 1915. During the depression, he first joined the circus in 1937 in South Carolina. Except for a two-year stint in the Merchant Marines during World War II, he spent most of his life working with various circuses: Sells-Floto, Harris […]

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Don Burda as Homer with Dee

Homer / Don Burda – last walkaround

(from Richard Snowberg) Dear Clown Camp Family Members, We have lost a member of our family. With sorrow I am writing to tell you that Don Burda passed away this morning (Thursday, September 11) at 5:15 AM. I have spoken with his daughter, Denise, and she was able to share with me the arrangements that […]

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