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The exact date of this photograph is not known, but in this article, historian Judy Deeter explores the clues that led to the idea that it was taken sometime around 1906 in downtown Troy. See more photos below the article.

Photos courtesy of The Troy Historical Society.

A Circus Parade on Troy's South Market Street

By Judy Deeter

TROY - At the start of the 20th century, community entertainment in Troy was done by human performers. There were no films, television shows, radios or stories/information on computers. Entertainment came to local residents by live theatrical productions, musicians, great speakers, and the circus. 

   The wonderful old photographs shown here were recently given to The Troy Historical Society by the Melvin family of Troy. They show the excitement of a circus parade on Troy’s South Market Street. (The historical society believes the photographs were taken in 1906 or soon thereafter). Here we see elephants, horses, a Native American chief and two boys in the street for a close-up view of the passing parade. It is interesting to note that although animals are moving in the photographs, the image of them is very clear. Old cameras had slow shutter speeds and images of moving objects are often blurry in old photographs.


   The pictures have no information about the photographer, the name of the show/circus in the parade or the date of the parade. Troy historians have studied the pictures to see what the photographs tell us about the time and place of the parade.


   The parade is shown as passing by the Troy Christian Church (now First United Church of Christ) at 120 S. Market St. The church building cornerstone was laid on Thursday, May 4, 1905 and it was dedicated from April 1 to April 15, 1906. The building still stands at the site today.

   An interurban railroad car appears on the left side of the photographs. It was standing at the depot for the Dayton and Troy Electric Railway (an interurban rail line). The Dayton and Troy Electric Railway was one of two interurban train lines that operated in Troy.  (The other line was the Springfield Troy and Piqua Electric Railway.)  At the depot, local residents often bought tickets for travel to Dayton where they shopped or had an evening of entertainment.  Excursion tickets could also be purchased for places farther away.  The cost to travel by traction line to Detroit was $4.00 and Buffalo, New York $9.25.  Passengers may have had to travel on other traction lines to reach excursion destinations. The railway operated with the use of electric lines. Some of the overhead electric lines in these pictures were used to move the interurban train cars.

   Originally, there was one set of railway tracks on South Market Street. In the photographs, two sets can be seen. The second set of tracks was added in 1906.  At least part of the old depot building still stands today.  It is the building on the southwest corner of South Market and West Canal streets.  A Troy Historical Society photograph at the Troy-Miami County Public Library Local History Library shows the old depot building standing across Canal Street from the Troy Christian Church (First United Church of Christ).

   In the photograph with the horses (below), we can see a man with a cart on the left side of the picture. This indicates that this was a time before automobiles were in general use in Troy. Also, South Market Street had not been paved when these pictures were taken.  The Troy Public Square was paved in 1907; streets leading away from the Square shortly after that time.


   The style of clothing worn by people in the pictures is that of the very early years of the 20th century:  people are wearing hats, ladies have ankle-length skirts, and several people have white blouses or shirts. 


   Records show multiple shows and circus acts in Troy and Miami County in the early part of the 20th century. This circus may have been what was billed as “The Great Van Amburg Shows.” It was in Troy on September 6, 1907. It had a parade at 10:00 am that day.  An advertisement for the show appeared in the August 29, 1907 edition of the Miami Union newspaper. According to the advertisement, the show had “400 people, 250 horses and ponies, and 20 funny clowns.”  It featured Babe, the largest elephant in the world, the largest gorilla ever exhibited in America (he was 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighed 150 pounds), and Marion Sheridan and her troupe of performing lions.

In 1911, the John Robinson Circus came to Troy.  A parade for that circus was held on July 20, 1911.  A picture of a circus vehicle in the parade appears on page 20 of the 2014 bicentennial history book TRANISITIONS OF TROY.   Some historians have speculated that these photographs might be from that parade.  A copy of the book can be viewed at the Troy-Miami County Public Library Local History Library.

   Circuses often traveled by train to Troy.  Some circuses had their own train cars.  (They were moved by rail on long distance freight and passenger trains tracks that also served Troy; not the interurban system previously mentioned.)  They set up in an area of Troy designated as the “circus grounds.”  Local historians have not confirmed the location designated as the “circus grounds” or the if the circus grounds location changed from time to time.


   In recent years, several circuses have gone out of business.  It has been a long time since there was a circus parade in Troy and there may never be another. These old photographs show a bit of circus life from long ago.

(ABOVE) A second view of the Circus parade on Market Street.

(LEFT) A color post card of Market Street. It is post marked as August 15, 1908. Note that in this post card, the electric wires that were on the street above do not show. The interurban tracks are there but not the wires that helped move the train cars.

(BELOW) This black and white post card shows the same area a little better than the color post card.  You can see a little of the depot building on the left side of the card. The "OY" from the name TROY on the interurban depot building can be seen as well. Both post cards show the clock tower that was originally on the Troy City building, but removed years ago.

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