The title of the 1934 Popular Science article by A. Morton Smith says it all: “Worlds Strangest Circus.”
Back in 1930, the townspeople of Gainesville held a circus to raise money for the town’s community theater group. The circus was so popular, that nearby Denton asked them to perform there, too. And so the Gainesville Community Circus was born.
Staffed by mostly amateurs, the circus gave over 350 performances during its 23 years. From housewives to mayor, townspeople trained year round for their acts. Sometimes professional circus performers would winter in Gainesville, and provide the amateur circus artists with training in tightrope walking, acrobatics and even contortionism.
During the circus season (summer and fall), Gainesville Community Circus performed throughout Texas. Even with its new found fame, the circus retained its amateur status. Circus proceeds went to buy circus equipment and maintain the growing number of circus animals.
Yes, Gainesville became home to not only the horses used in the bareback acts, but also to circus lions and elephants.
Whole Gainesville families participated, some as performers and others as supporting staff.
“Little Jimmie Scruggs, an eleven-year-old school girl, performs on the loop-the-loop trapeze. Mrs. Geraldine Murrell, young society matron, supports the weight of a 200-pound man on a rope looped around her waist as she does a split on the roman rings. Margaret Talley, beauty shop operator, throws her body over a trapeze bar in a muscle-grind endurance test as many as 103 times at a single performance,” writes Smith in his article.
In 1954, a fire destroyed circus equipment ending the performing days of the Gainesville Community Circus. However, a bit of the circus continues to this day. The Frank Buck Zoo in Gainseville was created to house and keep the circus animals.
See Frank Buck Zoo – a Gainesville Gem for more information on the zoo and town.