whiteface clown

Pat Valdo's famous whiteface clown on a Ringling Brothers poster

Pat Valdo

Pat Valdo (1881-1970)

Pat Valdo, in whiteface clown makeup, entertaining a group of children with a toy

Pat Valdo had a long career with the American circus.  He became one of the iconic clowns, and later became director of personnel at the Ringling Brothers circus. (more…)

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Swede Johnson “salutes”

Swede Johnson photo gallery

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.

Many of these photos are courtesy of the Clown Hall of Fame – they have our thanks. (more…)

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Frankie Saluto and bunny

Frankie Saluto photo gallery

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.

Several of these photos of the International Clown Hall of Fame our thanks to them. (more…)

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Bill Ballantine, dean of Clown College

Bill Ballantine photo gallery

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…)

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Paul Wenzel, color photo from the International Clown Hall of Fame

Paul Wenzel photo gallery circus clown

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.

Many of these photos are courtesy of the International Clown Hall of Fame our thanks to them. (more…)

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Face of Glenn Frosty Little

Frosty Little photo gallery

Frosty Little photo gallery dedicated to Frosty Little, “Boss Clown” of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey circus for several years. (more…)

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Bill Ballantine

Bill Ballantine

Bill Ballantine

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.


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Earl Chaney - Mr. Clown

Earl Chaney – Mr. Clown

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…)

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Frank "Slivers" Oakley in his baseball skit

Frank “Slivers” Oakley

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 (1900–02). Oakley returned to the Barnum & Bailey Circus for four seasons (1903–07), where he reportedly earned up to $1,000 a week. (more…)

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Jackie Le Claire, inducted into 1996 Clown Hall of Fame

Jackie Le Claire (1927 – 2019)

Jackie’s parents were performers with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus when he was born. He started clowning at a very young age, and as a young man became a salaried performer in partnership with his father who was also a clown. When he was 19, Jackie became an aerialist. He soon returned to clowning but maintained his aerial skills. He doubled on the trapeze for Cornell Wilde in the film Greatest Show on Earth. After graduating from high school, Jackie took his father’s place in the show the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey sent to Havana, Cuba. During the 1950’s Jackie booked his one-man act for fairs and other circuses. In the 1960’s he once again worked with Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus.

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