There are three basic types of clowns:
|The Whiteface clown is the oldest and most well-known of the clowns||The Auguste clown is the least intelligent, and zaniest of the clowns||The character clown is most commonly represented by the Sad Tramp or Happy Hobo|
Special thanks to Jim Howle, for the graphics of the clowns found on these pages.
Swede Johnson photo gallery, famous circus clown and animal trainer. After coming to the United States, Swede took the first job that he could find – as a rodeo clown, afterward becoming a circus clown. He then had a long career in the circus, working at different times and circuses as clown, animal trainer, and other things. Some of the circuses that he performed in include the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey, Bradley & Benson Circus & Rodeo, C. R. Montgomery Circus, Elks Circus, Shrine Circus, Biller Brothers, Rogers Brothers, Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, Paul A. Miller shopping center circus.
Frankie Saluto photo gallery – Frankie Saluto was a famous circus clown and little person, who became famous with the Ringling Brothers Circus as the whiteface dwarf with the large live rabbit. His career also included an interpretation of a miniature Charlie Chaplin and he was a member of the Ringling Giants, a midget baseball team that promoted the circus.
Bill Ballantine photo gallery – Bill Ballantine, illustrator and writer, traveled with the Ringling Brothers circus during the 1946 tour, caught the bug and become a professional clown the following season. From 1969 through 1977, Ballantine served as dean of the Clown College. (more…)
Paul Wenzel photo gallery circus clown – Professor Paul Wenzel was born in 1878 and performed as a circus clown for over 60 years throughout the United States of America. Paul Wenzel appeared with large and small shows before finding a permanent home with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Bill Ballantine (1910 – 1999)
Born in 1910 in Millvale, Pennsylvania, Ballantine was introduced to circuses by his father, a member of the Mystic Shrine and once mayor of their home town. Mixing sawdust and grease paint with the sparkling tarnish of the music hall next door to his childhood home, Ballantine developed a lifelong hunger for show business.
After graduating from high school, Ballantine found work in sign shop, painting posters for local movie houses, and after several years, began attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, beginning his long career as an artist/illustrator and later writer. He traveled with Ringling Bros Circus during the 1946 season and then, finally, in 1947, he decided to bid a temporary farewell to the workaday world of publishing and run away to the circus.
Earl Chaney (March 6, 1945 – )
Earl Chaney – Mr. Clown – has been making children of all ages laugh for over twenty years.
He perfected his clowning talent in Clown College. Earl Chaney went on to become one of the best-loved clown characters with the Ringling Brothers Circus from 1972 through 1975.
After leaving the circus to pursue his own business interests in the clowning field, he played throughout the United States from 1975 through 1984 with Buttons’ Clown Alley and American Contemporary Clowns. During this same time, Earl Chaney was the original Ronald McDonald. He was seen on many McDonald television ads, for over 20 years. He has also conducted clowning lectures for such prestigious organisations as Clowns of America, The World Clown Association, The Shriners, and others from coast to coast. Spreading his knowledge through joy-filled lectures continues to be a big part of his business. (more…)
Frank Oakley, aka. Slivers, 1871-1916
Frank Oakley, also known as Slivers (1871 – 1916) was the most popular circus clown of his generation. Born in Sweden, both of Oakley’s parents were concert singers. At the age of 14 he began to practice as a contortionist and at 16 he joined his first circus. His parents convinced him to enroll at the University of Michigan but two years later Oakley was back under the big top.
His first show was Andrew MacDonald’s Circus, but in 1897 he joined the Ringling Bros. Circus. Before the turn of the century, Oakley performed with the Barnum & Bailey Circus, followed by three seasons with the Adam Forepaugh & Sells Bros. Circus (1900â02). Oakley returned to the Barnum & Bailey Circus for four seasons (1903â07), where he reportedly earned up to $1,000 a week. (more…)