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Alson F Wheeler Circus Owner

Alson (F.) Wheeler

Sept. 18, 1873 - May 14, 1957



Our thanks to William Wheeler, great-grandson of Al F. Wheeler for providing this information.


Alson (F.) Wheeler (1873-1957)
An Abbreviated Biography

Alson was born in Poestenkill, NY on 18 Sep 1873, the youngest son of Edmond and
Maryette Wheeler. He had no middle initial. He had three older step- brothers and one older stepsister.
He also had three older brothers. At age 7 his father took him to his first circus, Van
Amburg & Co. Menagerie, which was playing in nearby Sand Lake. In 1883 Edmond moved the
family to Troy, NY. Al played the mellophone. His love was horses. Alson had his first sideshow
with Charles Lee's Great London Shows in 1892. By 1893 he owned the candy privilege
and a dog act for the Welsh Bros. Circus with Sam Dock. Al formed Wheeler & Co.'s Circus in
the fall of 1893. He met Carrie Elizabeth Hart in Troy and married her 7 Feb 1894. Al opened a
one-ring wagon show on 14 Apr 1894 at Ft. Thomas, PA. Al's first son, Alson Hart Wheeler, was
born 13 Jan 1895. There is no record of that first circus making it into 1896.

In 1897, the D. & Co., ice merchants, was established in Schenectady, NY. Brother
Dennis was President; Alson was Secretary/Treasurer; and father Edmond was part owner. The
1900 census listed that the family owned W. & Co. (probably a circus), and D. & Co., ice dealers.
Whether or not there actually was a circus at that time has not been determined. On 10 Oct 1901,
Al's second son Leland Elliot was born.

In early 1902, Al visited Jethro Almond who owned his own circus. Jethro relates that Al asked many questions. Al assumed the middle initial "F" for business purposes and in 1903 began the Al F. Wheeler's Circus. That first season had the circus in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut and New Jersey. The one-ring wagon circus changed its name to Al F. Wheeler's New Model shows in 1906 and wintered on the fairgrounds in Oxford, PA. The 1908 season added Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware to the route. In the fall of 1908, Al moved his family to Oxford, PA. The barn in back of the house at 161 Pine Street was used to fix the canvas and wagons during the winter.

In 1909, the circus expanded to two rings. The season opened in Oxford. In the fall of 1910 Al combined with Andrew Downie to form the Downie & Wheeler's World's Best Shows Combined. In 1912 Al expanded the railroad siding in Oxford to accommodate 30 or more cars. In 1913 the circus expanded to three rings and went by train. Al purchased the Oxford fairgrounds. A fall route in 1913 included North and South Carolina and Virginia. Al and Andrew Downie parted ways in 1914 and Al moved out, this time with a new partner. He joined with Tompkins who owned Tompkins Wild West. The route included most of the previous states on the East Coast adding Rhode Island and Vermont. In 1915, World War I caused the circus to go back to wagons. Al F. Wheeler New Model Shows had 32 wagons. In 1916 Wheeler Bros. Enormous shows
opened in Oxford and moved by train. The circus played in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. The circus went south for the winter and continued shows in Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida. There were probably shows in South Carolina and Georgia, but no written record. The circus stayed in the south into December of 1917 visiting Florida, Lousiana, Mississippi and Alabama . The circus came north in the spring of 1918. After the 1919 season, Al began to sell fairground property.

The next eight years are considered the "lost" years because to date, very little information has been found detailing the activities of Al F. Wheeler during that time. There are implications that he was with the Rose Killian Circus and possibly Hunt's Circus. There is a partial route list from 1921 that includes shows in North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and Oklahoma. An article in Bandwagon says that Al F. had the reputation of "healer of sick circuses" and that he would join up with a failing circus, nurse it back to health, and then move on. An evidence of that is the story of the Silvan-Drew Circus.

In 1928 Al started with the Silvan-Drew Circus which opened in Oxford and moved by truck. By 1930 the circus was healthy and Al bought out the Silvan-Drew Circus and renamed it the Al F. Wheeler Circus. For 1931, Al joined with Jethro Almond to present the Wheeler & Sautelle's Circus. For 1932 the show was renamed Al F. Wheeler's Circus and Tiger Bill's Wild West. The 1933 Wheeler & Almond Circus started in Pennsylvania, and included Maryland and West Virginia.

For 1934 Al owned a side-show and started the season with the Schell Bros. Circus. He left in mid-season for the Almond & Conley Circus. In 1935 and 1936 Al managed the side-show for the Hunt's Circus.

At this time Al retired form the circus business and took up Real Estate full time in Oxford. In 1938 he was elected Coroner. Al died 14 May 1957 in Oxford, and is buried in the Oxford Cemetery with his wife.



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