Tag Archives: minstrel shows

Entertainment in Rural Towns–Dancing Bears and Monkeys?

Entertainment in Rural Towns–Dancing Bears and Monkeys?





The Middle class Victorian families were at always happy at leisure in their drawing rooms or parlours playing chess backgammon or some other game board singing around their expensive upright pianos.

The Victorians had an appetite for the exotic and the strange, no doubt about it. They wanted novelty like the strange vaudevillian shows and feature presentations. They found joy in strolling entertainers around town such as dancing bears, *monkeys, the fire eaters and the jugglers. I have read many times that sometimes the Vaudevillian shows staying in our towns would provide a free street show at lunchtime… or some even sat in windows demonstrating their talents.

In October of 1887 a performing bear was listed as causing chaos in Lanark County. The postmaster of Perth shared his home with a travelling performer with his dancing bear. The postmaster accommodated the Bruin with a bed in the barn being careful to make sure he was chained at the stake.

In the small hours the bear got loose and went on a foraging expedition killing hens, skimming milk pans, and eating butter on the host’s supper table. The postmaster hearing a noise came down the stairs in his robe de nuit to see what was going on. When the two met face to face the Bruin hit down after feasting on the milk and butter. The postmaster escaped but his garment was rent. The bear’s owner was  made to leave quickly after that and the postmaster demanded  he had to pay $10.




Lewis and Wardrobe Hippolympian appeared many times at The Chatterton House Hotel.  They performed songs and choruses, acrobatic and gymnastic feats, contortions etc. The Carleton Place Herald reported that Lewis and Wardrobe also  formed themselves into a brass band and performed in the town streets wherever they went. Nothing but talented, unique, and beautiful people.–Part 6-The First Mosh Pits in Carleton Place — The Opera House of the Chatterton House Hotel


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and Screamin’ Mamas (USA)




Monkeys Create Chaos in Carleton Place

The Day the Hypnotist Came to Carleton Place

Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Carleton Place

Mrs. Jarley’s Wax Works -Creepy Entertainment

Mrs Jarley and her Waxworks Hits Lanark– and they call me strange:)

The Killarney of Canada in Lanark County

John Sparrow’s Royal Parilion – Chatterton House Hotel Carleton Place

Ontario’s Version of the Marks Bros-Tales of the Queen’s Hotel





Tales About the Travelling Musical Troupes

Tales About the Travelling Musical Troupes


BarrieHotel-644x491 (1).jpg

The Barrie Hotel was constructed in 1843/44. The Hotel later became The Imperial Hotel on Wilson Street. Miss Fidler’s–School was next door.  Photo courtesy the Perth Museum and Perth Remembered


May 21, 1897

At eight o’clock a Perth hotel keeper was awakened by a party of men under the influence of liquor, singing, “You Have Got a Sweetheart, and So Have I” outside his window.  He went downstairs, but on seeing their condition, he would not let them in so he went back to bed.

He fell into sound sleep, leaving one arm hanging over the side of the bed. Awakened suddenly, he became alarmed as something had bitten his wrist in two places. The blood ran freely and and an immediate search was made for the animal that had nipped him. The only trace that he found was a black mark in the bed clothes, and he thought that a rat made it with it his tail, and in passing bit his hand.

Some time ago a troupe of actors and actresses stopped at the hotel, and one of the girls had a live lizard, which she allowed to run around the room. When she went out she took the animal with her. The hotel keeper wanted to keep it as a pet but she said she wouldn’t take the $25 he offered for it. Before going to the doctor to attend to his wound, the hotel-keeper thought that the the actress had forgotten to take the lizard with her and that was what had bitten him. The physician, however, said that the wounds were the work of a rat.




By the Victorian Era it was common knowledge that rats carried diseases and thousands of the nefarious vermin infested sewers, factories, and homes. Rat catchers were in high demand and many children preferred catching rats to cleaning chimneys, working in mills, or hawking wares. One reason rat catching was popular with the youth was because it was lucrative.

Jack Black

The second reason rats were captured alive was to breed and sell as house pets. One famous rat catcher was named Jack Black. Black worked as Queen Victoria’s personal rat catcher. He was the self-described “rat and mole destroyer to Her Majesty”  and started preying on unsuspecting rodents at the age of nine. By the early 1840s, he was the rat-catcher for various government departments in London, including the Royal Palaces occupied by the Queen. He caught all sorts of rats, including unusual coloured ones and bred them and sold them “to well-bred young ladies to keep in squirrel cages.”


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and Screamin’ Mamas (USA)