Heritage Circus Displays

The State Library has been abuzz throughout the summer holidays with Circus activities for children and their parents continuing until 25 January.

Members of the public view collection materials.

It is not just the littlies who've been entertained. Circus displays including photographs, books, posters, tickets and newspapers from the State Library's collections and a film from the National Film and Sound Archive showing Wirths Circus coming to Brisbane in the 1940s have proven to be very popular with "ladies and gentlemen, and children of all ages," in the words of Barnum & Bailey's ringmaster.

Among the members of the public attending the daily talks and displays (between 11.30 and 12.30) of circus related materials in the Fox Family White Gloves Room have been a number of past and present circus performers.

From left Danica Hilton, Chantel Rodriguez, Natasha Schultz, Monique Law, and Remi Rodriguez visit the Circus displays.

Chantel Rodriguez, daughter of circus matriarch Jan Ashton, and her nephew Remi both of Xsavia Circus inspected the display and discovered plenty of Ashton family memories. Danica Hilton currently performing with Cirque du Soleil in Macau was also in attendance with Monique Law and her friend Natasha Schultz, grandaughter of circus great Captain Fritz Schultz.

Barry Cannon, aka Beppo the Clown, recounted stories from his life as a circus clown and discovered a newspaper article from 1985 in the display titled "Beppo the clown turns 25". Beppo is probably Australia's most experienced full time professional clown and continues to perform his comedy juggling, cycling, hand balancing and novelty tricks.

Mr Carl Jossé of Redcliffe, who came to Australia from Speyer-on-Rhine in Germany in 1953, attended the Heritage displays with his wife Eleanor. Carl and his sister Freya both performed in Australian circuses in the early 1950s, including Wirths, Sole Bros and Sorlies.

Mr Carl Jossé today  Carl in New Zealand in 1954

Carl with Jonas Zilinskas in the early 1980s

Carl played accordian and clarinet and performed as an acrobat and clown whilst Freya amazed crowds with her highflying trapeze work, acrobatics and contortion acts.

Freya Jossé on the trapeze in Germany Freya in costume

Freya performed in Wirth's Circus between 1952-53 with the famous Jonas Zilinskas before moving to New Zealand and then the USA where she worked for the Ringling Bros. She once performed for Queen Elizabeth II at London's Royal Palladium before returning to Germany where she lives today.

Circuses have been a part Queensland's popular culture since the earliest days of the colony and stories of circus life continue to fascinate. Come and share your circus memories and take in the Heritage Displays on level 4 of the State Library's building at South Bank.

Many thanks to Carl and Eleanor for bringing in their photo album that includes images featured in this story.


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Dear Sir,MadamI have just self published my book sawdust & headaches on our family the Perry's they have a lot of history with Queensland from when George Perry arrived in Tasmania as a convict on the ship waterloo in 1835 100 years later Perry's had one of the biggest circuses in Australia they also used to own the half way hotel on the barcoo rivernear tambo in western Qld. Robert Perry

How can I obtain a copy of " Sawdust and Headaches ".

We will look into this and get back to you soon

Many thanks for the information re "Sawdust and Headaches".

Hallo, kann mir jemand weiter helfen?Ich komme aus Deutschland und habe gerade die Großtochter meines Vaters (Wilfried Schulz) Onkel hier gefunden. Weiß jemand die Adresse?Sie ist ober auf dem Bild, Ihr Name:Natasha Schultz, grandaughter of circus great Captain Fritz Schultz

Hello Sandra. I met Natasha when we put on the circus display back in 2009. I believe she lives in Brisbane. You should contact the Ashton family via their website at http://www.circusjosephashton.com.au/. Natasha is a friend of Chantel Rodriguez of the Ashton family who is also in the same photograph.

hi sandra,my email is christopher.schulz@uqconnect.edu.auyou are more than welcome to get in contact with me..JOL admin... I have unbelieveable amounts of media and hisorical goodies that may be of interest..regardschris

Sounds great Chris. We'll contact you to arrange a visit.

I remember Captain Shultz coming to New Farm, Queensland, to visit my grandparents, Florian and Julia Kocka.

My father Charlie Waaka a maori from New Zealand worked for wirths circus as a elephant handler in the early - mid 50's and would love any information and photographs of his life with the circus .