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    The "Two Hemispheres": "The Aristocrat of the Bandwagon Family."

    Barnum & Bailey Parade Wagon Circa 1903. That's how circus historian A.L. Chumley described this monumental survivor from the golden era of the American circus, and no term could be more apt. Twenty-eight feet long and weighing some 13,600 pounds, it was the largest, grandest, and most famous example of its type.

    Commissioned by the late P.T. Barnum's partner James A. Bailey, the "Two Hemispheres" made its debut in 1903 in a grand parade welcoming the Barnum & Bailey Circus home from a triumphant five-year world tour. The decorations celebrate that tour, and the seals in a row on each side represent those nations where the circus had performed. The basic wagon was fabricated by The Sebastian Wagon Company of New York, with the carved devices supplied by the workshop of Samuel Robb, perhaps the most renowned carver of cigar store Indians and other such monumental works in wood. Our research has turned up conflicting reports on the wagon's cost, the most modest price being $4400, the cost of a very respectable home at the turn of the century. Pulled by a team of 40 horses, four abreast, the "Two Hemispheres" was driven by the Circus giant, Jack Posey. Two additional handlers walked along the sides to help tighten or loosen the reins, and a third carried a bucket of pebbles-the lead horses were beyond the driver's whip, and this man would throw the pebbles at the flanks of lagging horses to spur them forward.

    The "Two Hemispheres" was the focal point of Barnum & Bailey Circus parades until around 1919, and it is believed to have last been used in a circus parade by Fred Buchanan's Robbins Circus in the early 1930s. The proliferation of power and telephone lines and other modern impediments made it impractical to include it in parades through towns or cities any longer. The wagon then languished in disrepair for a decade until rescued from the Ringling Brothers' "graveyard" by Colonel B. J. Palmer in the early 1940s. Palmer undertook a full restoration, refurbishing the bandwagon to its former glory, and in 1944 it went on display at the Davenport, Iowa Fairgrounds where a special building was constructed around it. The "Two Hemispheres" was too massive to fit into any of the fair's existing buildings. In June, 1945, pulled by a tank, it was featured in the Heroes' Day Parade and 7th War Bond Rally at Davenport. In 1955, Colonel Palmer placed the wagon on display at the Circus Hall of Fame in Sarasota, Florida. At the time it was valued at $115,000 according to a contemporary newspaper article. The Sarasota museum closed its doors in 1980, at which time it was purchased by the present owner.

    It is difficult to overstate the importance of the "Two Hemispheres" as an icon of American popular culture. Twenty-first century Americans, virtually inundated with an endless variety of events, activities, and entertainment may find it hard to envision a world in which the arrival of the circus in town was something anticipated for months and, when the magical day came, the focal point of the entire community. The arrival of the circus was always heralded by a grand parade through town, featuring everything from acrobats to elephants, but always the colorful large wagon which carried a brass band. The bandwagon provided the music for the event, and was in a very real sense, the heart and soul of the circus parade.

    Offered for public sale for the first time in its history, Heritage is proud to present the ultimate circus bandwagon-the biggest, the finest, the most famous of them all-built for the Barnum & Bailey circus, the "Greatest Show on Earth." Very few of these behemoths have survived. Their very size and issues of maintenance led most to be abandoned or dismantled years ago, with only a few of the more dramatic carved adornments preserved. The "Two Hemispheres" has been carefully maintained and is in fine condition for use or display. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own the ultimate circus collectible.

    Please note that there was a misprint in the printed catalog. The starting bid is $200,000.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2016
    14th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 6,870

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $200,000 (minimum $19), plus 20% of any amount between $200,000 and $2,000,000, plus 12% of any amount over $2,000,000 per lot.

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