Howe's Great London 1900-1924
Bandwagon, Vol. 8, No. 5 (Sep-Oct), 1964. Note: Only some articles are included in this online edition. Many illustrations are not included. The Circus Historical Society does not guarantee the accuracy of information contained in the information in these online articles. Information should always be checked with additional sources.
The beautifully equipped 25 car circus put out in 1921 by Jerry Mugivan, Bert Bowers and Edward Ballard under the title of Howes Great London Circus and Van Amburg's Trained Wild Animals has long been a favorite of circus photo collectors. Very few shows, if any, ever surpassed it in photogenic appeal and today it stands near the top as an all time favorite of collectors and historians. No doubt the widely circulated prints from the Langer and other negatives has whetted interest in this show.
Like so many other famous old titles in American circus history the names of Howes and Van Amburg were two that were perpetuated and used by operators long after the originators had passed from the scene. Seth B. Howes died in 1901 but he personally had not been connected with circuses bearing his name in over 25 years. His brother, Nathan, and Isaac Van Amburg had been dead for some years before that. The titles of Howes and Van Amburg were two in the depository of old circus names held by Mugivan, Bowers and Ballard. An interesting fact to note is that in 25 years of circus ownership Mugivan and Bowers never once used their own names for the title of any show they operated but continually followed their policy from their earliest days of using some contemporary well known circus title or a name of value that had been popular in days gone by. When they sold their holdings to John Ringling in September, 1929, this transaction, in addition to the physical properties of five active circuses, included almost a dozen of the best known circus and wild west titles of all times.
Mugivan and Bowers' first show which was put out in 1904 was called the Great Van Amburg Show. The physical property for this show had come from the purchase of a railroad circus owned by Bill and Frank Smith of Kansas City using the Howes Great London Show title in 1903. In mid season 1908 the name of the show was changed from Van Amberg to Howes Great London Show and the former title was not again used until 1921 when it became a part of the lengthy title of the show in this article.