International Independent Showmen’s Museum –
A museum that is uniquely different from any other museum in all the world. As the name suggests, our beautiful new building houses amazing artifacts, countless photographs spanning over a century of traveling shows in America and eclectic memorabilia from the colorful carnival and circus midways of the past. Simply put, there is nothing like the museum, showcased under one roof, anywhere in the world.
The history of the organized traveling shows in America is as old as the country itself. The first circus in America is credited to John Bill Rickets in 1793 and the first traveling carnival made its appearance in 1864 in the form of a traveling carousel hauled to and from community fairs and market places by a German immigrant named Michael Dentzel .
Small theater troupes and medicine shows moved by wagons over roads that were nothing more than rutted tracks during the 19th and early 20th century. By the middle of the 20th century, dozens of mile long trains consisting of 60 or 70 brightly painted railroad cars, crisscrossed the nation playing dates in every state in America. Motorized truck shows moved over every highway in the country, playing county fairs and local street celebrations, even in the most rural areas.
The traveling shows brought thrilling entertainment to the grassroots people of America through two world wars as they waited for loved ones to return from the front and struggled to keep the country together at home.
In our modern world of satellite television, mega theme parks, computers and I-Phones it is difficult to imagine the America of a century ago. Many communities would see their first motion picture under the canvas of a carnival tent, get their first look at an exotic animal in a circus parade and experience the taste of cotton candy at a county fair. For much of America, the traveling carnival, wild west show or tented circus brought the only form of entertainment they would experience all year long. They saved their nickles in Mason jars and piggy banks and waited in anticipation for those colorful railroad trains to bring mysterious wagon loads of exotic fantasies that they could scarcely imagine.
That world of long ago is carefully preserved under the big top of the International Independent Showmen’s Museum. Come take a walk back in time and see for yourself those rides, games, sequined costumes and colorful wagons of a bygone era.