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Remember This? The day main street was a circus

If the circus comes to town but the newspapers don't report it, does it still draw a crowd?

Don’t underestimate the level of excitement on Collingwood’s main street over 100 years ago. Naively, staff believed that a circus parading along Hurontario Street would have been a big news item in 1914. This was not the case.

A search through four local newspapers at the Collingwood Public Library revealed very little about the arrival of Robinson’s Circus on June 15, 1914. Not a single reference, before or after the event, could be found in the Collingwood Enterprise, Saturday News, or Collingwood Bulletin.

The only local newspaper to announce the circus’ arrival was The Messenger, having both an advertisement and very brief article about the elephants soon to be arriving. Both have been included with today’s featured photograph. A report recording approximate numbers of attendees, performers, animals, and floats could not be found.

The article in the paper reads:

Robinson’s great herd of performing elephants is a special feature of every performance with Robinson’s Famous Shows. These elephants created a sensation at the Paris and Berlin expositions, and their equals have never been seen in America. At Collingwood, Mon., June 15, afternoon and night.

The Messenger, 6 June 1914, p.4

The poster advertisement boasts the arrival of 500 people and beautiful horses; a mighty arenic wonderland; the world’s best artists, riders, and daredevil acts; amazing displays, a museum menagerie; and hippodrome.

Today’s photograph is one of five in the Huron Institute’s collection that document the events of June 15, 1914. Together, these provide the only account of the downtown activities.

As promised, beautiful horses may be seen parading along the street, some with riders while others pull covered wagons with circus staff perched on top. At least five elephants were in attendance, as well as four camels.

If you have any information about the arrival of Robinson’s Circus on June 15, 1914, please contact Collingwood Museum staff.

Remember This is a weekly series of historic photographs submitted by the Collingwood Museum to These photographs were originally collected and documented by the Huron Institute in an historical catalogue entitled Huron Institute Paper and Records: Volume III. Much of Collingwood’s early history has been preserved due to the dedication and foresight of the early museum’s founders, namely its secretary-curator David Williams, upon its establishment in 1904.