Source: October 16, 1884, The Pocahontas Star Herald
Scanned by James Whitlow
Just before the Ringling Brothers formed in 1884, one of the major circus productions touring the country was S. H Barrett & Co’s New United Monster Railroad Show. Formed by Sheldon Hopkins Barrett, it was actually a conglomeration of several circuses including The Oriental Circus, The Egyptian Caravan, and The Universal Exposition of Living Wonders. Barrett travelled the country from 1883 – 1889 under this name, then joined forces with his brother-in-law and ran under the name of the Sells Brothers Circus until 1895.
The circus in the late 1800s was a huge form of entertainment, famous for drawing crowds 5-6 times the population of the town. The population of Walnut Ridge in 1884 would have been around 400 people, so it would have been possible for as many as 2,500 people to have been in town that day. Imagine elephants, camels, and other animals parading down Main Street Walnut Ridge, which was dirt at the time, and before there was even a Street Car. This same circus played for weeks at a time in larger cities like St Louis and San Francisco.
Following is the write up in the Pocahontas Star Herald that ran with this advertisement:
Next to the Presidential election, the greatest occurrence among the people of this section this year will be the advent of S. H. Barrett & Co.’s great show, which will exhibit in Walnut Ridge on Saturday, October 18th.
This monster organization, the fame of which extends over two hemispheres, comes to us with the highest encomiums favorably given from all quarters. We can safely say ourselves that the man or woman who misses this opportunity of seeing the greatest show in the world (that is what it is) will not have our sympathy if the miss was intentional, because sympathy will be needed and much vain regret will be in order – after the show has gone – by those who did not see it.