The Circus Comes To Town: The Circus Parade

The Circus Comes To Town: The Circus Parade
Access fees

The members of Wirth’s Circus and Zoo parade down the main street as a large crowd looks on. The parade includes elephants, clowns, performers on horseback and caged animals. In another shot, Shetland ponies are led by boys over a bridge towards the showground. Intertitles are used to describe the action. Summary by Poppy De Souza

The popularity of the travelling circus is clear in this clip with heavy crowds swarming the streets to watch members of Wirth’s Circus and Zoo – one of Australia’s famous circus troupes – parade through the city. While there are no details on the actual film as to the location of the city, the bridge shown at the end of this clip is most likely the William Jolly Bridge in Brisbane, Queensland. You can also see the tram tracks on the road as the parade passes down the main street.

Title Synopsis

This silent documentary follows Wirth’s Circus and Zoo as it travels to Brisbane, Queensland. It shows the arrival of the circus train at the station and the elephants hauling equipment from the train. A large crowd gathers around the elephants and fills the station platforms. A circus parade of performers and animals goes through the main street. The big top is set up in the showground and the main entrance is erected. The film ends with crowds entering the showground. Intertitles are used to describe the action.

Title Curator's Notes

This silent documentary is a visual record of one of Australia’s early circuses – Wirth’s Circus and Zoo. Brothers George and Philip Wirth entered show business in the 1870s when they worked for the Ashton’s Circus in Queensland. They formed Wirth’s Circus in 1882. Wirth’s Circus disbanded in 1963.

Travelling circuses and itinerant performing troupes have undergone many transformations in recent decades, due in part to the diversity of entertainment options now available to people but also because of the rise of the animal rights movement. The caged animals and elephant trains which are paraded through the streets in this film are now a thing of the past, and the great circus families of yesteryear no longer have the impact they once had. Of course families still go to the circus, but the images here of the parade through the main street and the crowds gathered in their thousands at the train station to witness the circus train’s arrival are all the more powerful because they are a prism into history. The images really capture the excitement and wonder that the circus used to bring to people of all ages.

Harry Poulsen made this film in the early 1940s as a private venture. It was shot on 16mm and he sold some prints to the Queensland Department of Education. However the film never had a theatrical release and no negatives exist.

Notes by Poppy De Souza

Production company:
HP Aurora Films
Harry Poulsen