Mystery History Comes to Town

Nov 28, 2012

Where are we? What’s happening?

In the photo to the right, the tents are all set up in the Arroyo Seco for the Clyde Beatty and Russell Brothers’ Combined Circus, which was in town for two days in May 1944.




Here’s an excerpt from a Pasadena Star-News article published May 4, 1944:

Highlighting the two-hour, star-studded program is Clyde Beatty, world’s foremost wild animal trainer, who appears in person at every performance with the world’s largest group of performing jungle-bred lions and tigers.

Daring death twice daily…Beatty presents a startling and thrilling exhibition exemplifying man’s dominance over the most savage, cruel, bloodthirsty and ferocious beasts of the jungle…

…Additional thrills are provided by the world-renowned Flying Concellos exemplifying the poetry of motion in the air in a sensational exhibition of aerial agility on the flying trapeze; Miss Estrelita, top-ranking exponent of thrilling heel and toe patches at dizzy heights; the Great Olveras, world’s most astounding head balancing perch act; Mario, unrivaled and amazingly versatile genius of the tight wire, and scores of other aerial, arenic and trained animal exhibitions punctuated by the absurd antics of a comical contingent of clowns.

Here’s a photo from the article:

Caption: Clyde Beatty, world’s foremost wild animal trainer, who dares death twice daily in the Clyde Beatty and Russell Bros. Combined Circus battling 40 ferocious, blood-thirsty, jungle-bred lions and tigers in a mammoth steel arena.

And a photo from a May 2, 1944, article:

Caption: An aerial ballet girl files the toenails of Big Margaret, one of the star pachyderm performers of the New Clyde Beatty and Russell Brothers Combined Circus coming to Pasadena Friday and Saturday of this week. According to attendants, the elephant really likes the treatment.

Circuses that feature “wild or exotic animals” are no longer allowed to set up shop in public rights of way per the Pasadena Municipal Code, which also outlaws rodeos in public areas. The amendment to Title 8 of the code was approved by the Pasadena City Council on Feb. 5, 2001.

Many thanks to Pasadena Public Library.

Ann Erdman is happily retired after decades of loyal service to the City of Pasadena as the Public Information Officer. Her blog can be found at



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