Krihor Hakimian will be in Almonte on Saturday afternoon at 3.30 and plans to plunge into the Mississippi river at front bridge. When Mr. Hakimian called here on Tuesday he was lightly clad and had just emerged from a swim in the river. Lask Sunday he took his bath in the Madawaska at Arnprior after eating an ice cream cone. He does his swimming in the winter time. Newspaper reports tell of him following an ice breaker around the bay of Port Arthur; of swimming the Niagara river between Canada and the United States. An Armenian, Krikor, is 23 years old and has swuin in practically all frozen rivers in Canada. And if anyone will make the plunge and stay in the water until Krikor leaves it, that someone will receive a reward of $25. He’s a pretty cool fish, this Krikor. Currents, eddies, whirlpools do not bother him any more than the chilly water. “Can’t be any worse than Niagara, can they?” he asked when it was pointed out to him that there were strong currents where he proposed to swim and added: “I like ’em. They tickle my toes.” March 1937 Almonte gazette
Update to performance- Marche 1937
A large crowd of people turned out last Saturday afternoon to see Krihor Hakimian, known as the “human seal,” put on an exhibition of swimming in winter weather in the Mississippi River. “The Seal,” arrived from Carleton Place about three o’clock where he had taken a dip in the river at the bridge on the main street of the town. Previous to the plunge he walked about in a pair of bathing shorts, passing the hat and it is said collected $25. ( $25.00 in 1937 is equal to $465.13 in 2021) He reached Almonte in an automobile with a blanket thrown,, over him and proceeded to take up a collection which brought about the same as in Carleton Before going into the water the seal rolled around in the snow and ate an ice cream cone. He then jumped into the river off the stone wall at the foot of Mr. Robt. Patterson’a garden and swam across ther icey stream. People who watched him felt they had their money’s worth. They also thought “the seal” had earned whatever he collected. Krikor passed away in 1971.
I was looking for some information for someone on Friday when I came across this photo of The Great Peters who did a dazzling feat at the Ottawa Ex in August of 1938. I asked myself if he made it through life trying to hang himself daily, and somehow I just knew that he had screwed up somewhere.
None of them had expected to see a man actually die that night in St. Louis in October of 1943 at Tom Pack’s Police Circus tours. In spite of the announcement before The Great Peters act none of those almost 6,000 folks ever thought he might become the victim of the leap which he had performed hundreds of times.
Booked as “the man who hangs himself and lives to tell it,” Aloysius Peters, 45, was killed at the Arena, the victim of a leap from a defective rope. Peters climbed to the 75-foot trapeze bar for his act and, adjusting a noose around his neck, plummeted into space before 5,627 horrified spectators.
A veteran performer, who said his family had been in circus work for more than 500 years, was listed as No. 13 that night on the Firemen’s Wild West Rodeo and Thrill Circus. It was his death number as he climbed to the 75 – foot trapeze bar for his act and adjusted a noose around his neck before he plummeted into space.
Always before he had grabbed the rope a second or so before he hit the end of the jump, thus taking the jerk with his arms. That night he apparently reached for the rope to break the fall a split second too late and was hanged.
The “rope” he used was not resilient enough, his wife said, and put his timing off. Made of strands of rubber covered with canvas, the rope was a new one which he purchased two weeks previous in Cleveland and the wartime rubber was not the same quality he previously had purchased from London. When he jumped that night the rope tightened under the impact of his weight, then jerked him 20 feet into the air to dangle like a sack until attendants brought his body down.
The performer was rushed to Deaconess Hospital but was pronounced dead before arrival. The police report said death was caused by a broken neck. Billed as “The Great Peters” the showman received, from $650 to $1,000 a week from his act, according to Jack Van Pelt, publicity director of the show. Fire Chief Egan Richter said that a check for approximately $800, a full week’s salary, would be sent to the widow.
Peters was adding a new thrill to his performance that night and was jumping 30 feet farther than before. Because of the longer distance, it is believed he failed to estimate the exact moment to grab the rope to keep the noose from his neck. For the first time his wife, the former Catherine Cowdery, failed to watch his performance. As an expectant mother, she had assisted with the act until two weeks ago. She remembered he worked with the rope all day on the kitchen floor, testing it again and again. He didn’t say anything about it not being up to standard or she would have insisted he use the old rope to make the usual jump.
The crowd had been warned by the announcer when Peters began his act that he required absolute quiet in order to concentrate fully. The arena was brilliantly lit as the figure in white-spangled tights started the headfirst dive which ended his life. Spectators were quiet until he reached the end of the rope, then they roared their approval, not realizing he had been fatally injured.
Members of the family described the rope as “one-half inch rubber rope”, and said it did not contain any steel cable or other metal. Perry held the ladder for Peters as he climbed to the 75-foot high platform for the finale of his act. “I have seen him jump many times, Perry said, “but he went so fast this time that I knew something was wrong. That new rope just didn’t have enough ‘give’ to it.”
Mrs. Peters was expecting the birth of her child the next day the newspapers said. She was taken to a hospital the night following the tragedy, but was resting at the home of an aunt and uncle the next day. When asked if she would permit her expected child to become a circus performer, Mrs. Peters replied, “No sir. After all the circus is not in my blood, and even though my child will have a heritage of several centuries on the paternal side, I will discourage any signs of showmanship. I don’t want my child to be a performer.”
Peters, who was born in Germany, came to the United States in 1931 and appeared with Tom Mix, the Ringling Brothers circus and Gene Autry. “My husband had been doing this act for almost 13 years,” Mrs. Peters said. “In Canada a few weeks ago he did a 165-foot jump, much longer than last night’s jump, and nothing happened. His family has been in the circus business since the year 1800. He always told me that everyone had a time to die and, no matter when it was, when his turn came, he would be ready to go. Every time one of his old circus friends met with a fatal accident he cautioned me to be ready if such a thing ever happened to him”.
“But I wasn’t ready,” she kept repeating. Mrs. Peters met her husband when he appeared with the Police Circus and they were married almost three years ago.
The huge crowd sat in hushed silence following the accident, at first unaware of the tragedy. When Peter’s body snapped into the air following the impact at the end of the jump the announcer told the crowd, “He’s dazed momentarily.” When the body continued to hang limp in mid-air, A. P. Seldon, one of the circus performers who is booked as “the man who swings and sways in the air,” climbed the ladder to remove the body. Fire Chief Egan-Richter directed the removal. It took over an hour to remove the body in a packed arena. Many customers walked out and some performers refused to perform after the incident.
Veteran circus performers stood by and wept unashamedly, but all went on with the show when their spots came. Tears streaming down her makeup, Genevieve Canistrellis declared the entire company considered Peters “a great performer.” Billy Pape said he had a premonition as he went on for his act that something might happen to Peters. Brightly dressed clowns, too, were crying backstage.
To make matters worse a dummy clown was shot out of a cannon later on in the evening, but none of the paying customers realized it when the dummy’s head hit the ceiling and was stuck between two girders.
Ernie Young, arena director, who said he had booked Peters for 10 years, asserted he was one of the top performers. Peters’ death wasn’t the only excitement provided the opening-night crowd. A wild Brahma bull bucked his rider off and leaped over the 5-foot-high side rail, scattering those in box seats into the ring or to standing positions on their, chairs. The animal charged through the aisle in back of the boxes, running halfway around the Arena before he was captured. The bull’s rider, Russell Bryan, 28, of 457A Eichelberger St., was taken to City Hospital where he was pronounced suffering from a possible fracture of the left forearm.
Cause of death? Aloysius Peters, known to fans as “the Great Peter” and “The Man Who Hangs Himself and Lives,” lost his life at Louis, Mo., Firemen’s Annual Benefit Show when the new rope used did not have sufficient elasticity to break his fall. Reality? Production of rubber, and plastics leaped during the war, nearly quadrupling so it went down in quality. That rope really was not appropriate fare for a death defying circus act of that magnitude.
What is this show which, like a Roman carnival, horrifies the spectators with the drama of sudden death? It is billed as a Wild West rodeo and thrill show. It is a professional carnival enterprise, in this Instance bolstering its profits by sharing receipts with the firemen’s benefit fund. As worthy as is this fund, can the firemen of St. Louis afford to be longer associated with this kind of entertainment which so recklessly allows performers to expose themselves to danger, and the public to possible scenes of horror?
My Grandfather used to tell me stories about his youth in London, England in front of the old radio after the BBC news. Some were about life in the trenches in World War 1, and others were about life with his mother Mary Knight, not to be confused with my Grandmother Mary Louise Deller Knight.
Actual postcard of the grave 1912 that was destroyed in World War 2
Great Grandmother Mary came over to Canada with her son Fred when he emigrated to Cowansville, Quebec after the war. His father Alexander Arthur Knight had left them and his job running a music publishing business in London to only die upon his entry into the United States to become a songwriter at the age of 53. His body was sent back and buried in Plymouth, but the cemetery was bombed in World War 2 and everything was destroyed.
Grampy Knight used to tell me stories about the British Music Hall scene and because of his stories I always wanted to be a carny in a travelling carnival. But that was never to be, but the stories I remembered. Here is one of his many stories:
The circus was on a Monday night and it was said to be the best talent ever seen in the city of London. There was a good sized sized audience and Mother and I sat in the balcony in the seats my father had provided for us. The first person I remember seeing was someone dressed in a ridiculous costume selling peanuts and candy. He was persistent all evening and Mother would not allow me to have any refreshments as she said it would cost Father money we did not have.
I remember the orchestra being quite grand, and there were all sorts of people under the circus tent. The one thing that still stands out in my mind were the photos of freaks exhibited on the front canvas, and how the circus announcer told stories about them, and for a nickle they could all be seen inside. People stood there in wonderment but, Mother hurried us along to the big tent.
Really, I told Mother, all I wanted to see was the freak show and hear the barker explain all about their peculiarities. I had seen the snake charmer with the red wig and elaborate costume with huge diamonds and snakes around her neck while Fiji Jim danced wildly around her. But Mother was a no nonsense woman and before I knew it the first act of dancers came on stage wearing light trousers and white sweaters. The ringmaster wearing red tights, blue coat and high boots cracked his whip at the audience as the dancers left the stage and the white horses came out and galloped around while the band played a circus song.
My father Alexander was at the side of the stage selling songbooks, and all of a sudden small books came showering down from the gallery and everyone got a copy of the 1903 Almanac. The crowd went wild and the ringmaster told them sternly to keep their seats and he cracked his whip again for the rest of the show to begin. Two elephants played with the clowns and a giraffe did the cake walk. After the tightrope and the contortionist act the ringmaster advised the audience not to leave early and stay for the finale.
At the end some of the audience was asked to come to the front and others remained in their seats. The curtain went up and the stage was in utter darkness. There was a sudden flash of light, a picture had been taken of the performers and a voice from the darkness said the concert was over. I realized this might be the last time I see such a thing, as Father was restless. Like life the circus had arrived without warning, it was simply there when yesterday was not.
Photo from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum. Possibly Riverside Park 1920s-“The Circus Comes to Town”
The Rosamond Woollen Mill shut down on Wednesday in order to give the employees an opportunity of attending the circus. The great event of the week was the appearance of Howe’s Circus. A large crowd of people was attracted to Almonte and the attendance in the afternoon was very large and in fact it was estimated just a little of over 3000 people came to attend the event. The attendance was so large in the afternoon every tier of seats in the large pavillion was over crowded. At night the attendance was also good but not as large as the afternoon when the Rosamond Mill was closed. To mar the event an individual hailing from Carleton Place, having taken one glass too much, became *obstreperous, and was collared by Constable Patterson and taken to the lockup
The man named O’Donnell, who was drunk and disorderly, was endeavouring to create a disturbance at the Almonte House, when one of our newly-fledged constables “went for him ” in lively style, and eventually bore him off to the lockup in triumph. In consequence, the prisoner had to pay, $8 and he was liberated the next morning and told to return to Carleton Place immediately.
Previous to 1825 a circus top had not been used by the few small shows hardly worthy of the name of a circus. That year “Uncle” Nathan Howes of Putnam County, New York, became possessed of an ancient elephant called “Old Bet” and organizing a small show he started forth with a topped tent and about a dozen men and horses, making an incursion through New England as far East as the Indian Village of Bangor, Maine. Seth B. Howes, a boy of eleven, afterwards a famous manager, accompanied the expedition. “Uncle” Nate’s success turned the heads of many “Put County” investors and all the boys of the region caught the circus fever. In the writer’s early days, you could make no mistake by going into any store or office at Brewsters Station and talking circus. Every mother’s son of them had “followed a red wagon” in their day in some capacity or “been ahead of the show.” The youth of “Put County” “took a course of circus” just the same as they “go through college,” these days.
Danbury, like Bridgeport later on, became a circus town, the former on account of its being the home of the Turners and George F. Bailey, and the latter by its’ development by P. T. Barnum. Danbury was also famous for horse thieves, it summered and wintered the horse theves and wintered the circus. There was no connection between the horse thieves and the circus, but the fellows who appropriated other people’s horses never meddled with the circus stock as Mr Bailey once humorously remarked, “they extended the usual courtesies to the profession,” explaining seriously, “the crooks were afraid of being caught before they could cross the York State line and that the showmen would take the law into their own hands and take the halter off the horse and put it on the thief .”
When the small circuses dragged around the country on wheels, there was little offered in amusements summer or winter, outside the, larger cities, and these were few in number and, small in population. The stage was under a ban almost everywhere, and but few of the people traveled or passed beyond the borders of their own town. A stage coach trip, like seeing the elephant on a visit to the circus, was the event of a life.
Nathan Howes, who put a cloth roof over the circus, was a wire walker in his younger days, traveling from town to town exhibiting his skill in hotel dining rooms at a shilling a head. He was in himself “the whole show” and when he appeared before twenty paying people assembled with the landlords family and the help admitted free he was “doing a good business.”
It was some years before Aron Turner and “Uncle” Nate Howes” called off the mounted advance agent and replaced him with the bill wagon and the advertisers buggy. Paste took the place of tacks to fasten the bills. The wooden curb ring that was hauled about the country in sections and the man on horse back ahead of the show, lingered long after the abandonment of the sidewall topless circus. He exhibited under a sixty-foot round top which would not make a dressing-room for a circus of today. This innovation had seats four tier high and a twenty-foot dressing room; also a four-horse band-wagon. Undoubtedly competitors gave the enterprising manager a wide berth and avoided his chosen territory. —Circus in the Days of Old
In an interesting note circus horse driver Tom Lynch (1856-1938) was born in Carleton Place. He was a trainer and 40-horse driver. At age 15 Tom ran away from home to work for a stableman in Ottawa; pursued by his father, boarded a train and headed for the United States and reached Philadelphia.
First job, assistant hostler, Rice, Ryan & Spalding, 1873. P. T. Barnum’s, 1874; Melville, McGinley & Cook, 1875; Great London, 1876-79; Barnum & Bailey, and Ringling Bros.’ until his retirement, 1936, with 34 years as superintendent of baggage stock. Drove the 40-horse hitch. [New York Herald Tribune: “His horse sense was uncanny, and even when he was in his seventies, the wagons rolled with smooth celerity, whatever the weather, as Tom Lynch prowled from one trouble spot to another about the lot.”] Died, Bridgeport, CT, age 82. Member of the Elks, Odd Fellows, Eagles and Moose. Wife’s name Rebecca, non-professional.
At an early hour on Friday morning, Perth presented a scene of unusual animation and bustle, scores of heavily loaded wagons and more pretentious buggies, with here and there a sort of two-wheeled equipage termed a gig, wended their way through clouds of dust, and by 9,30 o’clock several thousand people had arrived in town to see that wonderful sight popularly known as ‘the Elephant.’ which in the present instance was Bailey & Co’s Circus and Menagerie. Amorous swains and and loving damsels, benedicts and bachelors, matrons and maidens, small boys and little girls, happy in the expectation of soon beholding something extraordinary, perambulated the streets with admirable perseverance, and kept a sharp lookout for the appearances of the procession.
Entree Into Town
Before 10 o’clock, the music of the Brass Band was heard in the direction of the ‘Long Swamp,’ and in a few moments the first wagon, drawn by eight horses, and conveying the Hippopotamus, reached the Lewis House, and followed by fifteen immense vehicles, containing various sorts of wild beasts, proceeded through the town. The dust was simply horrible, but despite this disagreeable circumstance, a large crowned accompanied the procession in its course.
The performance had been announced for 2,30 o’clock, and the interim was employed in erecting the Pavilion and making preliminary arrangements. One or two “side shows” speedily got under way, and attracted considerable numbers, who evinced a very laudable curiosity to witness the ‘melting’ sight of a sudatory “Fat Woman. ” somewhere in the neighbourhood of a quarter ton weight; and the “tall’ spectacle of a man ninety-five inches high. Pending the opening of the “Big Show,” the assembled masses dispersed in all directions, and anxiously awaited the hour at which the proceedings were to commence.
Finally the time at which the outside world might enter the huge tent drew near, and in a short time every available seat was occupied, and many hundreds had to be content with standing room. As the day was exceedingly warm and upwards of three thousand persons were crammed closely together, it may well be imagined that comfort was entirely unknown, and indeed many were under the necessity of leaving.
Placed in wagons on either side of the entrance, were the wild beasts; the collection, however, was not nearly so varied as most people expected. The hippopotamus, apparently almost overcome with the heat, came in for a fair share of attention; the lions, leopards, elephants, another smaller animals, were also viewed with no little interest.
The athletic, gymnastic, and equestrian feats of the various performers, were quite equal to any ever before witnessed in Perth. The poses of the Australian Family, the splendid exercises on the Double Trapeze, and the daring horsemanship of James Melville, elicited frequent bursts of applause as hearty as it was deserved. the Trick Pony, the Comic Mules, and the Performing Elephant, all sowed a high degree of systematic training; and altogether the Circus proved a decided success, not only in a pecuniary point of view, but also in the general satisfaction it afforded to the vast assemblage both in the afternoon and veining. Early next morning the entire company departed for Smith’s Falls, in which classic village two exhibitions were given on Saturday.
Since writing the above we learn that the hippopotamus died when on the way to Kingston, in the beginning of the week. The poor animal appeared to be suffering even during the time of its stay in Perth, and many of the coguoscents, then declared that it would not survive for any length of time. Its live was insured for something like $3,000.
Actual picture of Fanny Farah Farkentelli that I bought in San Francisco and now in my home-
Young Fanny Farah Farkentelli was born in San Francisco near Haight Street to a well to do family that had roots in Italy. Her mother made clothing and hats and she made Fanny a fabulous accordion dress for her sixth birthday. Her father who worked for the newspaper took the above picture the night before as they were all going to the Opera House to see Enrico Caruso sing. Fanny loved the dress so much that she wore it to bed after they got home much to the chagrin of her mother. She tossed and turned all night long with dreams of ice cream and arias in her head.
At 5:18 the next morning she woke with a jolt as the whole house was shaking. Fanny ran down the stairs screaming and her parents rushed her outside. Everything was falling around them and all they could do was run up the hill. The earthquake shook and shook some more and finally it stopped. Her father figured the safest place to be was in Golden Gate Park and that is where they ended up staying for months as the city burned to the ground behind them.
Fanny wore the accordion dress for weeks on end, wreaking of smoke. She met Eduardo Di Capua who wrote the melody for O Solo Mio and lived in the tent beside her. Enrico Caruso had abandoned his musicians and his 200 suitcases after the earthquake so Eduardo was left to fend for himself. The love for her soiled but still spectacular dress inspired him to teach Fanny the accordion. Fanny did not have much else to do so she played and played until she became the O Solo Mio Queen.
Fanny learned as much as she could in the tent city from Eduardo and when they returned to their old home she played on the steps. The house was still a wee bit crooked so Fanny would forever play her accordion on a slant. She won hundreds of contests and was sought after from far and wide. Fanny never married until one day in 1939 she met Franco Faranoucci, another accordion player at The New York’s Worlds Fair. They fell in love at first sight and were now billed as a duet. They were called The Fabulous Faranouci’s and they toured with The Flying Willenda’s.
Fanny and Franco would play their accordions while The Flying Willenda’s did their high wire act. They would play strong slow loud music while the audience gasped at the daredevil stunts. During the finale of the show Fannie would break into her crowd-pleasing song of O Solo Mio. How many times over the years did Fanny play that popular Italian song? On the back of the above picture of Fanny Farkentelli Faranoucci there are over ten thousand, three hundred and forty seven marks. One for each and every time she played O Solo Mio.
P. T. Barnum’s Great Travelling World Fair, Museum, Menagerie, Caravan Circus and Colossal Exposition of all Nations will pitch its Mighty Metropolis of twenty Centre Pole Pavilions at Carleton Place on Wednesday, July 15 and at Perth on Thursday, July 16 1896. The only time a circus could not perform in Carleton Place was in the late 1800s when Van Amberg’s Circus bivouacked there one day in Franktown because both Perth and Carleton Place were too small to entertain so massive an establishment.
Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum: We believe the Grandstand was built shortly after the town established Riverside Park in 1904. In 1905, “Use of the Town Park was opened by the visit of a three ring circus with a thirty cage menagerie, a twelfth of July celebration attended by 5,000 out of town visitors, and a lacrosse game between Renfrew and Carleton Place teams at the newly built grandstand and fenced athletic grounds.”
We are unsure of the exact date that the second section was built, however we have photographs of it as early as 1945. Here is one of the Grandstand on V.E. Day!
Page from the Chatterton House Hotel (Queens Hotel) in Carleton Place. Not sure if it was the popular Hargreaves Circus that came through town many times, but the signature belonged to one of the travelling shows. –Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum.
The Ottawa Free Press published a story the first week of August in 1907 about a mysterious disappearance of R. F. Blair the former manager of the Union Bank of Carleton Place. They reported that his body was found in a field near Perth on Tuesday the 16th. The Central Canadian says the Carleton Place papers knew about him all the time. Blair left Carleton Place the day the Hargreaves Circus was leaving town.
Officials of the Union Bank were in Carleton Place and intended to counsel him and remove him to a Quebec town. Blair suspected his dismal future and fled. His bicycle was found later at the Perth station unclaimed, and it was recognized as belonging to Blair. Mr. Blair is believed to be alive, and his wife and friends are waiting to hear from him.
Mr. Blair was never heard from after that day. Did he ride his bicycle along side the Hargreaves circus, leave it in Perth, and continue on with the circus?
A new branch of the Union Bank of Canada was in operation in Carleton Place in 1900, in addition to the longer established branch of the Bank of Ottawa. The current Royal Bank of Canada, originally the Union Bank of Canada, is constructed of concrete blocks fabricated to resemble stone. Traces of two styles of former lettering remain about the columns.
The Hargreaves Circus led by Thomas Hargreaves with his mud and Railroad Circus was out of Chester, Pa. until 1910. Circuses were the norm in those days causing great excitement in town when they came. Missing husbands were also the norm also in those days, as I found many classified ads of wives looking for their husbands and lamenting “since you’ve been gone”.