February 7, 2014

Circus Day at Lewistown

The Fergus County Argus declared July 6, 1908, “the biggest day in the history of Lewistown, so far as crowds are concerned.” That was the day the Norris & Rowe Circus would perform their spectacular show under the Big Top for the people of Lewistown. Special trains ran to carry the circus into town and to bring revelers in from the surrounding area. The morning of the show a grand parade of exotic animals marched through town to the tune of the circus band. For the residents of Fergus County the event held special significance—this was the first circus to ever visit Lewistown.

Fergus County Democrat, June 30, 1908
Fergus County Argus July 3, 1908
It is no wonder that the arrival of the Norris & Rowe Circus was so hotly anticipated. Their promotional materials boasted, among other things, 10 Reckless Rough Riders, 100 Shetland Pony Ballet, Educated Seals and Sea Lions, 18 Daring Aerialists, and 23 Merry Clowns.  Also promised were a real Roman Hippodrome, Scores of Trained Wild Beasts, and 20 Astonishing Acrobats!

Norris and Rowe Circus Band in Lewistown, Montana July 6, 1908
The Fergus County Argus later reported that “some 5,000 people filled the big tent, and all were satisfied.” The excitement of circus day left the town abuzz even after the performers had moved on to the next town. By all accounts, the arrival of the Norris & Rowe Circus was an historical moment for the people of Lewistown. They were lucky to catch the circus at all. By the end of 1909 the circus was in financial troubles, and by 1910 it had disbanded.*

Circus Elephants on Parade in Lewistown, Montana

*Circus Historical Society

 Thousands of stories just like this can be found on the Library of Congress web site Chronicling America, where over 150,000 pages of historical Montana newspapers are available for searching and viewing.