Col. George W. Hall, sometimes known as "Popcorn" Hall, is one of Evansville's famous men. Hall was a circus owner and animal trainer. He was known throughout the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean Islands.

No exaggeration is necessary in describing the life of George W. Hall. His adventures were real and courageous. Hall's greatness is measured as much by his business success, as by his generosity to the poor and disabled.

Like any showman, he loved publicity and the drama of the circus world. With good management and a keen sense of what the circus public wanted to see, George W. Hall developed a family circus business. The Hall circus grew from a small traveling museum of stuffed birds and farm animals, to a railroad car circus with a menagerie of exotic animals from around the world.

His love of show business was passed on to several generations of his family. From a very young age, George Hall's children, grandchildren and great grandchildren took part in the activities of the circus business. In the 1870s, Evansville began to claim the Hall circus as its own. It was the beginning of a piece of Evansville history that would include four generations.

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George W. Hall and animal friends

George W. Hall knew the circus business at many levels. He was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, December 5, 1837 to Joseph and Susan Nichols Hall. He was one of six children. Joseph and Susan Hall moved to Wisconsin in 1859 and purchased a farm in Magnolia.

Young George had his first taste of circus life at the age of 10 and until his death in 1918, he never lost his love for the business. According to the Commemorative Biographical Record of Rock County, published in 1909, "he would run away from home in the spring, spend the summer with some circus, and then return home in the fall to spend the winter at home."

For a short time he worked in a candy factory in Boston, then went to Concord and started selling popcorn on the trains. In 1855, he went to New York to sell popcorn. He made contact with Solon Robinson, an editor of the New York Tribune. Robinson had encouraged him to sell popcorn in New York and after purchasing a supply of popcorn, George became a popcorn vendor, also selling his goods on the trains. Horace Greeley, another famous New York Tribune editor, was credited with giving him the name "Popcorn" Hall.

In March, 1855, at the age of 19, George Hall married Sarah Wilder. Sarah shared her husband's enthusiasm for the circus business. She was an active participant in the circus, raising four children and often traveling with her husband.

Their oldest son, George, Jr. was born in 1857, a daughter, Ida, was born in Evansville in 1861. A second son, Charles, was born in 1864 and a daughter, Jessie May in 1871. All of the children eventually entered the circus business.

In 1860, George W. Hall joined the Dick-Sands wagon show. From New York, the circus followed the wagon roads through Canada and what was then the West. The Sands show played in towns in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. That winter, Hall lived with his father on the farm in Magnolia.

In 1861, Hall went out with Jerry Mabie, a circus owner from Delavan, Wisconsin and the next year, Hall worked with the George F. Bailey and the Van Amburg shows.

The winter of 1862-63, George Hall rented a storefront in Madison Wisconsin and opened a small museum. For the next two years, Hall took his own show on the road in the summer.

His first spring on his own, Hall had to contend with a very rainy season. He headed for the lead mining region in the southwest corner of the state. His operating expenses were $250 to $300 a day and when it rained, the show business was slow. It was a short season for the new business. George Hall then put together a small side show and traveled outside Wisconsin with Jim French's roundtop.

Hall once described the routine of the wagon show to a reporter: "we invariably had a 3 o'clock breakfast on short rides, but if the drive to the next town we had billed was twenty-five or thirty miles we started away in the evening as quick as we got through with our performance. All long trips were made by wagon trail."

Some towns were so small that there were no hotel accommodations for the circus personnel. Then the women and children were housed in the homes of the villagers and the men slept under the wagons.

When the Hall troupe was not traveling with another circus, or performing on their own, they made the rounds of the county fairs. In the winter, the circus disbanded and Hall would either rent a store for a museum in a larger city or return to his father's home in Magnolia. There he would trap animals and sell the fur.

Putting a show together was an expensive undertaking. Hall estimated that it had taken $10,000 to produce his first circus. Equipment, horse riders, acrobats, clowns, and animals were all part of even the smallest shows.

An August 1871 article in the Evansville Review gave the salaries of circus performers. Those in the highest salary ranges were with the larger circuses, including P. T. Barnum's famous show. First class horse riders could expect $100 a week, plus their traveling expenses. "A good rider who has three or four smart children or apprentices can make a very large salary." Acrobats and clowns were paid from $20 to $150 per week.

Barnum's show was traveling with 40 railroad cars filled with circus people and paraphernalia in the early 1870s. The Evansville Review noted in 1872 that P. T. Barnum's circus would show in the larger towns, such as Janesville and Madison. Barnum estimated that it cost $4,000 a day to operate his circus and they needed a large audience to cover the expenses and make a profit. The larger shows could not afford to come to smaller communities.

The Evansville Review, February 11, 1874, reported that Hall was making preparations to go into the show business on a much larger scale than he had ever done before. "Mr. Hall has all the energy and tack of a showman; and his keen eye to business will ensure him success in his favorite undertaking" the Review reporter predicted.

Wagon shows, such as those owned in the early days by George Hall, made the rounds of the smaller towns. When Hall began putting his show together for the 1874 season, he spent several months having his carriages and cages repaired and painted and four large tents were prepared for the traveling show. A large of collection of "embalmed birds, embracing many rare specimens" that had been on display in a local jewelry store, was to be one of the major attractions.

Chapin's Champion Roman Hippodrome Asiatic Caravan and Grand Golden Show, {owned by another local man whose first name was never mentioned in the news articles) traveled with Hall's Great California Exposition in the summer of 1874. Their first show was on Friday, June 19, in Evansville. It was the first Hall circus to be shown to Evansville audiences.

However, there were many years when Hall did not show in Evansville. Other circus owners did not hesitate to compete with the Hall Circus for the Evansville audiences. Adam Forepaugh brought his "Four Mammoth Exhibitions" with four large tents to Evansville in July 1872. Burr Robbins, whose show originated in Janesville, held a circus in Evansville in 1875.

In 1876, George W. Hall married Marie Louise Tolen in St. Louis, Missouri. They had one daughter, Mable, born in 1878. George Hall's second wife, known as Lu, became an active part of his circus as well.

Success in the circus business depended on mobility. George Hall's circus traveled long distances over unpaved roads to find an audience.

In November 1878, George Hall spent a short time in Evansville to settle up some real estate dealings. Then he headed South to catch up with his show that was in St. Louis, Missouri. From Missouri, Hall intended to go to Texas. He had discovered that in the winter months, he could keep the shows operating, by moving to the Southern states.

Some years, he spent the entire winter season in the South. In 1879, he opened a museum in a store front on Main Street in Memphis, Tennessee. He happened to be there on January 6, 1880, when a terrible fire in Memphis left one fireman dead.

George Hall's generous spirit came to front following the disaster. He gave a benefit for the widow and children of Ed Leonard, the fireman killed in the fire. The city of Memphis was overwhelmed by his generosity and decided to give him a medal.

An article about the ceremony was printed in the Memphis Public Ledger on February 2, 1880 and copied by the Janesville Gazette on February 6, 1880. The medal was presented to George Hall by the fire chief "in recognition of the bounteous sum he bestowed on the widow and children of the late fireman Ed Leonard." Hall would proudly wear the pin for the rest of his life.

The medal was a gold eagle, suspended from a cross pin. The eagle was holding a wreath in its bill and inside the Etruscan gold wreath was the inscription, "Presented to G. W. Hall by the fire department of Memphis, Tenn. for giving a benefit in the aid of the widow and orphans of the fireman killed at the Main Street fire, January 6, 1880. Amount realized $566.66. "Popcorn George".

At the ceremony, Popcorn George displayed his modesty and generosity. He also told a great deal about his work. To the mayor of Memphis and the people of the city, Hall replied: "Gentlemen, I am not worthy of this high honor. The people of your city put the money in my museum treasury for the very purpose you say I gave it. The part I played had good return."

"Why a letter you gave me to the Mayor of New Orleans secured permission for my great moral entertainment to exhibit free of charge in that great city until the first of April next. I haven't done a thing to deserve it. Never since the day I began the struggle of life on my own account as a seller of popcorn on railway trains have I been so embarrassed as on this occasion."

"I can stand in front of my museum and expatriate for hours upon the beauties of natural history; the animal species, and the promotion of science through instruction received by all who visit my collection of curiosities, but I am not a speech maker when it comes to a thing like this. Here Mr. Fire Chief, take this hundred dollar bill and use it for those little children whose father lost his valuable life while earning a pittance to buy them bread."

Then George Hall handed the fire chief the hundred dollars. Several of those who listened to the speech and saw the presentation, wiped tears from their eyes.

This was the first of many notices of Hall's generosity to the poor. He often gave benefit performances to support organizations that gave to those less fortunate. Civil War veterans and orphans were always given free admission to his shows.

In the 1880s, the Hall family purchased property near Evansville and made its winter headquarters in Wisconsin. George Hall Jr. purchased 20 acres of land in Section 34 of Union township from L. H. Walker for $1,250. This became the headquarters of the Hall Circus at the south end of what is today First Street.

Animals in the Hall circus included a trained hog named Charley. Hall claimed he had shown the animal to more than 400,000 people. When it became too old to perform, the animal was sold to the firm of Smith & Eager, a general store and grocery owned by Almeron Eager and William Smith. What the store owners did with the trained pig was never reported.

A mountain lion was one of the larger animals in the circus. The cat had come from Texas and measured seven feet from head to tail. Another curiosity was a gander that could perform card tricks. Monkeys and lions were also part of the show.

The farm was a working farm, as well as a circus headquarters. When tobacco became a popular cash crop, George Hall was one of the first to begin raising it. He also had livestock and announced sales of pure-bred stock on his farm in a November 1882 ad in the Evansville Review.

Hall, also began to accumulate real estate in the village of Evansville. In 1882, he purchased land to build a boarding house near the Seminary. The Evansville Review predicted that "Mr. Hall will always have his building profitably occupied."

Most people knew the Hall family for their circus work. Preparation for the summer season began in the early spring. Wagons were built, painted, and cleaned for the coming season.

People were hired to go with the show. In April 1883, a former Evansville Review printer, C. N. Wells, joined the Hall circus as a clown. When the show was ready for the season, Hall had decided that there were already too many circuses headquartered in Wisconsin and he decided to take his circus to the south to join the George DeHaven show.

In 1884, Hall went to New York to purchase some exotic animals from one of the shows he had followed. The Van Amburg menagerie auction sale was held in March 1884 and George Hall purchased 10 to 12 thousand dollars worth of animals, including two Egyptian camels, two African dromedaries, an East India elephant and a South American jaguar.

The animals were included when his show went on the road the following summer. His acts also included Charles and Viola Lane, a husband and wife team of trapeze artists. The Hall Circus was booked for engagements in Eau Claire, Elroy, Stoughton and Brodhead in the summer of 1884.

While performing in Eau Claire, the Lanes had a terrible accident. The Lanes' trapeze had been suspended 20 feet into the air. Charles Lane was swinging from the trapeze and reaching out for Viola Lane when the support poles gave way and the performers came crashing down to the ground.

The gas lights that hung from the center pole also came down, spilling gasoline on the performers, and the ground. Flames from the gas lights spread across the dirt floor, nearly reaching the canvas of the tent.

The audience began to rush for the exits. Amid the excitement, some members of the audience and the circus crew had the presence of mind to try to extinguish the fire before it reached the side walls of the tent.

The impromptu rescuers threw sand on the fire. Others helped the Lanes escape from the flames. A serious disaster was averted and the Lanes were shaken, but suffered no permanent injuries.

Hall became more adventurous in his travels with the circus. The following year, Hall once again joined up with George DeHaven's Circus. In the winter of 1884-85 the Hall and George DeHaven circuses rented a ship and traveled to the Caribbean Islands. All of their tents, equipment, animal cages and personnel went by ship.

George Hall's second wife, Mary Louise Hall, wrote a letter to her mother from St. Pierre Island of Martinique on January 26, 1885. The letter was published in the February 17, 1885 Evansville Review.

According to Lu Hall's report, the Hall circus had played for four days at St. Johns in Antiqua. There were no horses on the island and to get the circus to its location on the island, all of the items had to be transported by carts, drawn by men who lived on the island. The carts were so small that only one animal cage would fit in a cart.

While the animals were being transported on the small carts, one of the islanders became curious about the animals and opened one of the bear cages. The bear escaped and panic broke out. The islanders were so frightened that they never attempted to open another cage. After the fiasco with the bear, the trainers decided that the elephant would be brought ashore at night.

In the summer of 1885, his shows were in Chicago. The following December, George Hall was traveling in Mexico with his circus.

He had planned to spend the winter in Galveston, Texas, but a large fire destroyed the area he had intended to use for setting up the circus. When the fire was raging, Hall moved his circus five times to escape the flames.

From Galveston the Halls went to Nuevo Laredo and crossed the border into Mexico. They arrived in Monterey, Mexico and the company found itself in the midst of a civil war. They stayed for eight days and Hall telegraphed to Mexican President Diaz to send troops to protect the Americans.

Diaz complied and sent troops to protect the Hall circus. Hall told the reporter for the Evansville Enterprise that the "excitement kills the show business." He had seen five men killed and ten or twelve wounded, during his travels in Mexico.

Not wanting to give up the business in Mexico, Hall moved his circus by railroad across 400 miles of Mexico. He showed in cities from Zacatecas to the City of Mexico, then came back to the United States the following spring.

Some of his circus personnel had been sick with small pox and many of the towns in New Mexico and Colorado quarantined the show and would not let the Hall circus perform. Hall decided to close the show and shipped it home to Evansville.

By 1887, Hall seemed to have decided on a quieter life. He sold his show to George D. Haven for $10,000. Not wanting to give up the show business entirely, George Hall kept an Arabian dromedary, and a few other animals.

That winter he spent most of his leisure time trapping mink, along the streams of Allens Creek. After he trapped the animals, he tanned their pelts and had the furs made into clothing for himself and his family. It was only a temporary rest from the circus business.

What made the Hall circuses successful was George W. Hall, Sr.'s ability to be creative in the face of adversity. He had the foresight and financial ability to purchase circus animals and property, that others avoided.

His gregarious personality put him in contact with many others in the show business. This allowed Hall to learn trade show secrets and to be in touch with the economic forecast for the success of circuses in various parts of the country. When one area of the country was in economic decline and the fortunes of the circus business seemed low, Hall would change the location to what would seem to be a more profitable location.

George Washington "Popcorn" Hall set up his show tents in Evansville in October 1887. He opened his show on a Saturday and showed a collection of Mexican "curiosities" which included Navajo blankets, Mexican lace, Indian war clubs and other items he had collected as souvenirs during his Mexican journeys. Hall also had on display some rare tropical birds and an "educated pig and gander". The cost of the show was 10 cents.

While his family performed in various acts, including tumbling and daring fetes on the trapeze, "Pop" Hall explained the various animals that he had on exhibit in the menagerie. The Evansville Review reporter noted that "Mr. Hall, possesses a genius in that line and manifested an apparent delight in doing so".

Although the show had not been as well attended as it could have been, the proceeds of the program were twenty-two dollars. Hall donated his time and that of his performers so that all of the money could be used to purchase food for those in need. Hall used the receipts to purchase 23 sacks of flour which he personally delivered to poor families in the village.

The winter of 1887-88, the Hall family remained in Evansville and "Pop" Hall's energies were devoted to farming. He advertised "rice popcorn" for sale and mentioned that it was especially good for old people, because the kernels "popped up so tender". Hall also reported the first hatch of chicks in Evansville in January 1888.

The oldest son, George Hall, Jr., was already beginning to collect animals to form his own show. He had at least one alligator and when it died, the carcass was given to William Campbell.

William and his father, Byron Campbell also collected curiosities and had enough to open a museum themselves. The Campbells had the alligator stuffed and mounted and put it on display in the Campbell & Sons meat market.

A third generation of circus performers and owners was born to the Hall family in the 1880s. George Hall, Jr. married Lida Ward in 1882 at Dubuque, Iowa. Their first son, Frank was born in December 23, 1883. On March 28, 1886, their daughter, Grace, was born and on March 19, 1897, their son, Charles Russell, was born. The children began traveling with their parents' circus at a very early age.

By 1888, two Hall circuses were headquartered in Evansville. With two George Hall circuses on the road, newspaper reporters added "Pop", "Popcorn" or "Col." to George Hall Sr.'s name to distinguish the father and son.

The Evansville Tribune reported that George Hall, Jr. had started out for Ohio with his show in April 1888. In June of that same year, Col. George "Popcorn" Hall set up his tents at the corner of Root and Wallace Streets in Chicago. One of the Chicago daily newspapers gave "Pop" Hall rave reviews.

Goodall's Daily Sun, a Chicago paper, reported that Hall had "one of the best and certainly the largest of all the cheap price shows that have ever visited Chicago and vicinity." This was a return visit as Hall had his set his circus tents on the same lot in 1883.

The Daily Sun gave "Pop" Hall credit for originating the 10 cent admission charge for circuses. The Sun went on to report that Hall's show had "large circus tents that will hold 10,000 people and the menagerie is a well selected one embracing many of the choicest and most costly animals." The Bingley's Royal European Menagerie had recently been purchased by Hall, increasing the size of the animal acts. The newspaper reporter promised the Daily Sun's readers that Hall's thirty acts would be immensely entertaining.

"Pop" Hall spent the winter of 1888-89 in the south. During the fall election of 1888, he was in Memphis, Tennessee and got into trouble with the federal authorities when he was falsely accused of illegal voting and intimidation at the polls. Hall was arrested in Little Rock and taken back to Memphis to be put in jail.

When the Federal marshals and Hall arrived in Memphis, Hall contacted the city fire chief. The chief remembered Hall's generosity to the fireman's widow and children after the deadly fire in 1880 and set to work immediately to post bail for the generous circus owner. There were several Memphis cotton merchants who posted a $10,000 bond for Hall's release.

Pop Hall returned to his show and continued on through the south until April 1889, when the troupe returned to Evansville. For a few months, Col. Hall concentrated on his farm and once again raised a crop of rice popcorn.

In July, he offered 500 bushels of rice popcorn for sale at $1 a bushel. That same month he also advertised that he wanted to buy 100 "cheap horses that will stand the road". He was about to take his show on the road once again.

This time he took Sam McFlynn as his partner. McFlynn had trained horses and dogs. The Hall-McFlynn circus gave a performance in Evansville in August 1889 and announced they were heading south for the winter. The trip was interrupted by the legal proceedings involving Hall and the federal government.

In the early winter of 1890, the charge of the illegal voting against Hall was brought to the Federal courts. Such prominent Evansville men as Nelson Winston, former banker and general store owner; Matt Broderick, livery stable owner; C. E. Lee, harness maker; and James V. Sonn, pharmacist, were called to testify in the U. S. Supreme Court in Memphis on behalf of Col. Hall. In February 1890, Hall was acquitted of all charges. The trial resulting from the false accusations had cost him nearly $5,000, but he was free.

In the spring of 1890, George Hall, Jr. was ready to set out from Evansville with his show once again. In April 1890, he loaded a railroad car filled with show stock and shipped it to Warrenburg, Missouri. There he joined the Whitting Brothers Show.

After spending the early spring and summer on the road, George, Jr. returned to Evansville. He had replaced the alligator that had ended up as a display in Campbell's meat market and while he was home, the water-loving creature escaped from its cage.

The July 8, 1890 Evansville Tribune announced that Hall's alligator "is now roaming at large in our village. He would be a dangerous animal to meet especially by children."

Many people thought the animal would be found in the mill pond, a favorite swimming place for young boys. However, it was discovered in the marsh, south of the village. To capture the animal, a fence board was crammed into its mouth and a chain was put around its neck. The alligator was led back to Hall's farm and once again confined to its cage.

In October, George Hall, Jr. and his son, seven-year-old son, Frankie, went to join the Cole and Middleton's circuses in Chicago. They took along their trained pig, goose and snakes. Like his father, George, Jr. was always on the look-out for different animals and performers.

In February 1891, George, Jr. purchased more circus paraphernalia from the Ringling Brothers circuses headquartered in Baraboo. He made plans to go on the road in the spring.

While his oldest son was working with shows in the north, George Hall, Sr. moved south and was showing in Galveston, Liberty and Beaumont Texas in March of 1891. He returned to Evansville in April and offered his son, Charles, a start in the circus business. George Sr.'s daughter, Jessie, who had married to another circus performer, Frank McCart, traveled with Charles' show.

"Pop" Hall, the McCarts and Charles organized a "Grand Railroad Show" and the new circus gave its first show in Evansville in May. They rented Dr. Evan's pasture, north of the Evans home on West Main Street.

The circus band led the street parade to the grounds where the show was to be held. The program opened with a horizontal bar trapeze act and a tumbling act. Jessie's husband, Frank McCart, performed juggling and trapeze acts.

Following its opening show in Evansville, the show went on the road. In June, the circus had traveled across the prairies and reached Wyoming where a private "pleasure garden" leased the show.

That August, Col. Hall returned home to Evansville so he could begin preparing for another southern tour. According to a Janesville Gazette report, the trip would include the Caribbean islands he had visited six year earlier.

"Pop" Hall hired local wagon maker, Joel W. Morgan, to repair cages. Caleb Lee made new harnesses for the horses and George Backenstoe was busy painting wagons and cages. The troupe would travel by four railroad cars. Backenstoe was also hired to paint the railroad cars before the show turned south.

While the preparations for the southern tour were taking place, " Pop" Hall heard of a large sale of wild animals. Always looking for new exhibits for his menagerie, Hall went to St. Louis in early August 1891 for large sale of animals. He made several purchases and a few weeks later cages of wild animals arrived at the Evansville depot.

The purchases included two lions and a elk. He had also purchased a Brahma cow, which he billed to his circus audiences as the sacred cow of India.

In September, the Evansville Tribune reported that "Our town is full of showmen and show fixtures preparing for the departure of Hall's great combination shows." Hall, his son, Charles, and the Sam McFlynn Show had joined forces for the winter.

Once again, Col. George Washington Hall displayed his generous spirit to the people of Evansville. The Hall-McFlynn Circus gave two performances in Evansville and the proceeds from the first day were given to build a band stand near the Central House. The second day's proceeds were given for the relief of the poor people in Evansville.

The winter of 1891-92, the Hall shows played in Florida cities, including Tampa and Jacksonville. George Hall sent orange blossoms and palmettos to his friends in the North. Almeron Eager, who often acted as his financial agent, reported that the Halls had purchased more than $5,000 worth of cars, camels and show animals, and they expected to purchase an elephant.

The combined shows were enjoying great success in Florida. Proceeds from their programs were ample to take care of the expenses and to purchase the new equipment. "This success of Messrs. Hall is not only gratifying to themselves, but quite as much so to their many friends at home.", a Review reporter noted in February 1892.

In the spring, the Halls returned to Evansville, to organize their shows for northern tours in the summer. All of the children by Col. Hall's first wife were out on the road when they received word that their mother had died.

Sarah Wilder Hall had remarried following her divorce from "Pop" Hall in the 1870s. She was living in Kansas City, Missouri at the time of her death.

Accompanied by her two daughters and their husbands, the body of Sarah H. Wilder Hall Pettengill was brought back to Evansville for burial. The obituary notice in the September 20, 1892 Tribune told of the arrival of Sarah's children for her funeral. Daughters Ida and Jessie were in Kansas City, Missouri with their husbands, Tod Blair and Frank McCart.

George, Jr. was in Dubuque, Iowa and he sent his wife, Lida, to represent him at the funeral. Charles' shows were playing in Oklahoma and he also arrived by train in time for his mother's funeral. She was buried in the cemetery plot purchased by her son, George Jr..

Tragedy would fill the lives of Col. Hall and his children during the next few years. His daughter, Ida, had "Brights' Disease", an inflammation of the kidneys, also called nephritis. In June 1894, Hall persuaded Ida to go to a Chicago hospital for treatment. Her father and husband accompanied her to Chicago. Within a short while she returned home. The newspaper announcement of her arrival noted that "she received but little help or encouragement and is still suffering greatly from Bright's disease."

After his attempts to get treatment for Ida, "Pop" Hall returned to his show in the east. While the Hall show was in Cincinnati, "Pop" Hall heard that a circus owned by a man named Davis was in financial trouble.

Hall contacted Davis and offered to purchase the entire show. Davis agreed and offered to include an elephant named Empress that was leased from the Empire Printing Company of Chicago. Hall took charge of the elephant, as well as the other circus goods.

One evening, Hall was feeding his own elephants, when Empress became jealous and attacked Hall. The animal knocked him down with her trunk. The fall had knocked Hall unconscious and before help arrived, Empress pressed Col. Hall into the ground, breaking his right hip. Rescuers finally arrived and took the injured man to a hospital.

Hall was fearless and optimistic about the elephant, even if it had attacked him. He contacted the Empire Printing Company while he was still in the hospital recovering from his injuries. The owners agreed to sell Col. Hall the elephant for $1,000. In return, Hall promised he would not sue Empire Printing for damages. Hall's gain was a rogue elephant that he could not tame. He sold Empress in the summer of 1895 for $2,000.

While Col. Hall was bed-ridden with the broken hip a second tragedy occurred. His daughter, Ida, died on July 9, 1894, at the age of thirty three. Her funeral was held in Evansville and because of his injuries, Hall could not attend. Ida's brother George, was out with his show, and could also not attend the funeral.

The winter of 1894, Hall returned to Florida. The previous January he had purchased two acres of land in Tampa and told the Tampa Times newspaper that he intended to make that his winter headquarters. The Tampa Times reported that he intended to fence the property, build houses for his actors and stables for the horses and other circus animals.

"Pop" Hall's circus animals arrived back in Evansville in April 1895. The animals were led from the depot to Hall's farm. When one of the camels passed by a horse that was hitched to a post beside the street, the horse collapsed and died of fright.

In May, two different Hall circuses once again left Evansville. Col. Hall announced that he planned to retire and his son, Charles, would run a railroad show, while his son, George would operate a wagon show. It was the first of several notices over the next few years, that the elder Hall would give up the show business.

George Hall, Jr. announced in April 1895 that he had purchased his father's show animals. The new show was billed as "Geo. W. Hall Jr. Great Trained Animal Show Museum and Menagerie" and an Evansville Tribune ad announced that the first exhibit would be in Evansville on May 4, 1895.

The younger Hall advertised that his show included his father's elephants, camels and other animals. George, Jr.'s menagerie included the only living gorilla in America, three performing elephants, including Queen, Empress and Palm, and 16 cages of other animals.

Hall's brother-in-law, Frank McCart performed as the slack wire walker and as an acrobat and clown. A Prof. Showers, with his two young daughters, who were horseback riders and trapeze performers were also with the show. When they left Evansville the show's name had changed to the Hall & Showers circus.

The following winter, in early February, 1896, Charles Hall was traveling with his circus in the southern states. He had stopped his show in Meridian, Mississippi and was too sick with pneumonia to continue. His father was notified by telegram that Charles was critically ill and went immediately to see him. However, Charles died before his father arrived.

Col. George W. Hall accompanied his son's body back to Evansville. Charles' body was prepared for burial and taken to the Hall home at the south edge of Evansville. A large funeral procession led by Evansville's Black Hussar Band marched from the Hall farm to the Methodist Church on South Madison Street.

The church was nearly filled with young men who came to pay their final respects to Charles. The Methodist choir sang several selections and Rev. G. W. White preached from the text "So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."

Following the service, the Black Hussar Band then escorted the grieving family and friends to Maple Hill Cemetery. There Charles was buried beside his mother and sister, Ida.

Despite the tragedies that befell his family, Col. Hall, who was now 59 years old, came out of retirement to reorganize Charles' circus. He could not resist the call of the road, he once told a reporter.

In March 1896, the Evansville newspapers reported that Col. Hall was going to take his circus by railroad to California and Mexico. He would be traveling once again with Sam McFlynn and "educated ponies", dogs, bears, deer, goats, and monkeys would be with the show.

Col. G. W. Hall's menagerie, which he had reacquired from his son, George, included the elephant "Queen" and her baby "Palm", a baby camel. A "man eating" lion, named Nero, was also with the show. The show was billed as the "Hall and McFlynn New United States Shows".

They gave their first showing in May in Evansville. McFlynn's Japanese pony "Metoo" was in training to make a 75 foot slide down a wire that ran diagonally from the top of the circus tent to the ground. There was to be a street parade, balloon ascension and trapeze act before the show began.

Hall and McFlynn had hired an advertising agent to go ahead of their show to advertise the circus' arrival in a city. The show's general agent, Thomas R. Perry, traveled several days ahead of the show date. Perry had his own advance railroad car that carried about ten people, including five people to bill posters, a press agent, and other advertising personnel.

Though he was crippled and in ill health, Col. George W. Hall, once again answered the call of the circus ring and headed out with his "mammoth railroad show".

In the late 1890s, both Col. George Washington Hall and his son George W. Hall, Jr. were on the road with circuses. For over two years, from the summer of 1896 to September 1898, Col. Hall and his partner, Sam McFlynn, traveled in the southern United States and Mexico with a railroad show. During much of the time, his daughter Jessie and her husband, Frank McCart traveled with them. Also in the company were Pop Hall's wife, Lou, and their daughter, Mable.

The George W. Hall, Jr. show stayed closer to home and followed a circus route in the late spring and summer and the county fair circuit in the fall. In early August 1896, George, Jr. arrived in Evansville, packed away his circus property and reorganized his "fairground show" for the fall season.

George, Jr. advertised that he wanted to purchase 50 tons of hay and straw and one thousand bushes of oats and corn to feed his animals through the winter months. Circus historians believe that the availability of food for the circus animals is one reason Wisconsin was home to so many small circuses.

When the fair season was finished, George, Jr. returned to Evansville. In November 1896, George, Jr. purchased 40 acres of land in the northwest corner of section 22 in Union township. It was located just north of Evansville at the end of what is today Elmer Road.

He bought the land from local banker, George L. Pullen for $1,600 and George Hall, Jr. used this property as the winter headquarters for his circus.

During this same time, the circus operated by Col. George Hall and Sam McFlynn traveled by railroad through the southern states and Mexico. The Hall & McFlynn Circus had fifty trained ponies, dogs, bears, monkeys and the elephants Queen and her baby, Palm. Occasional news articles appeared over the next two years concerning Col. Hall and his circus, but it was George Hall, Jr. who received most of the publicity from the Evansville newspapers during this period.

News reports indicate that the Halls kept in touch with each other and shared their animals over the next few years. When the 1897 spring season began, Col. Hall was in New Orleans and the local papers reported that George Hall, Jr. shipped two of his camels to his father's show in Louisiana.

In May 1897, George, Jr. headed out with his wagon show. The Badger newspaper reported that his show was a small affair, but it had some great attractions.

For a few weeks in the early summer, Col. Hall returned to Evansville and purchased "curiosities" for his show. He was always on the lookout for the unusual and interesting. When a farmer in the area offered him a three-headed calf, Col. Hall purchased the animal to display as one of nature's freaks.

Col. Hall returned to his show in the south, and again crossed into Mexico, this time by way of El Paso, into Juarez. The show was combined with the Orrin Brothers circuses and traveled for six weeks to the City of Mexico, Tampico and other Mexican cities.

In the spring of 1898, Almeron Eager received a letter from Col. Hall and Eager shared the news with the community through the weekly Enterprise newspaper. The letter stated that Col. Hall was doing very well with his shows and had earned nearly $17,000 in just four weeks.

When Col. Hall grew tired of the railroad show, he returned to Evansville. In September 1898, Col. George W. Hall arrived from his two years of travel in the south. A large crowd gathered to greet the company.

Excitement and curiosity prevailed as the mammoth railroad show was unloaded at the depot. It was like a circus parade, as the animals were taken through the city streets, back to the Hall farm at the south edge of Evansville.

George W. Hall, once again announced his retirement. "Col. Hall has come home to stay and will discontinue the show business on account of his crippled condition and failing health", the Evansville Tribune reported.

Hall promised he would give a benefit show for the poor of Evansville, before he gave up the show business. The benefit performance was sponsored by the Women's Relief Corp. and the show brought in $38.00 for the benefit of the needy.

In his retirement, Col. Hall had decided to devote his time to farming. The farm was surrounded by twenty acres of tobacco land.

Since some of his land was in the marsh, he decided to experiment with tiling. He was one of the first farmers to install tiling to open the wetlands for cultivation. The tiles were promoted as a way to drain the marsh areas and dry out the land.

Despite his interest in farming, Hall could not give up the circus life and he continued to purchase exotic animals. In January 1899, a baby puma and its mother arrived. Col. Hall called the animals South American lions and claimed that they were very docile and tame.

George W. Hall, also continued his generous donations to the people of Evansville. In 1899, the city of Evansville began to plan for a public library. Col. George W. Hall was the first person to offer a sizeable donation. The Badger newspaper reported his gift. "Many thanks Colonel. We hope to see the day when your gift will have a fire proof room over its head."

When The Congregational Junior Society asked Col. Hall to provide an exhibit for a fund raiser, once again, he kindly offered his animals for showing. An exhibit was set up in a local bicycle shop and the proceeds went to the young people.

In addition to his farming, real estate interests in Wisconsin and Florida, and his benevolent activities, Col. Hall was still in the business of buying and selling circus animals. In April 1899, he sold the elephant, Palm, that he had raised from a baby. The elephant went to the Gollmar Brothers Shows, located in Baraboo. They also purchased some of the rare tropical birds and some cages from the Hall circus.

A few days later, Hall sold more than 20 head of carriage and work horses. More of his animals and railroad cars were sold in August 1899 to the Canton Carnival Company of Durand, Illinois.

While it appeared that Hall was disposing of his circus, he was keeping animals to be trained by his wife and daughter, Mable. Mable specialized in training circuses horses and elephants.

Mable trained horses for the chariot races that were a popular feature at circuses. She also had a beautiful white horse named "King" that she trained to do the cake walk and other fancy dance steps. King was said to be such a graceful dancer that he would "put some with human abilities to shame."

After her father went into temporary retirement, Mable began to travel with other circuses. In the summer of 1899, Mable took her thoroughbred horses to work with another show. She had been hired to participate in the chariot races. "Miss Mable is an expert driver and rider," the Badger reporter noted.

Col. Hall and his performers were also asked to appear at the first Rock County Fair in September 1899. This was the first county fair to be held in Evansville. Hall's fair exhibit included a strong man, named Prof. Thompson, a double headed cow with 3 eyes and 3 horns and the Mexican "curiosities" Hall had exhibited at his circus museums.

The fair attractions also featured many of the Hall performers. The Holloway boys and George Blunt "contortionists, gave a very fine exhibition of their skill every afternoon", one reporter commented. One of the performers, Claude Holloway, eventually opened his own circus under the title "Two Oles Show or "Ole the Swede" show.

When the fair season ended, Col. Hall placed part of his show in the winter headquarters in Evansville. A small show of the animals and performers went to Madison to appear in a carnival. When the carnival opened, the local papers claimed that Hall had the "best, cleanest and most respectable show there".

The carnival show given in Madison during October 1899 included Hall's son-in-law, Frank McCart and his wife, Jessie Hall McCart. Jessie handled the snakes, including one that was 24 feet long.

Another act was the professional lion tamer who went into "their dens and handled them as those them as freely as he would kittens". There were also performers who did juggling, a Punch and Judy show and wire walking.

Col. Hall never lost his interest in developing animal acts and in November, 1899 he hired Millie Cardona, who worked under the name Miss Valencita. Cardona had trained animals for other circuses and Hall hired her to train his leopards.

When Cardona finished with the training, Hall's leopards could perform several tricks including the rolling globe, the see-saw and the electric wheel. The leopards could also form pyramids. At the end of the performance the leopards played chimes while Miss Valencita accompanied them on the piano. Another circus owner who saw the act offered Col. Hall $3,500 for the leopards, but Hall refused.

Hall continued to breed and purchase animals for shows. In December 1900, one of Col. Hall's lions named Flora had four babies and refused to allow anyone near them except his wife, Louisa.

The next month, he purchased another trained elephant and taught his daughter, Mable to show the animal. Mable was reported to be the first woman to handle an elephant and the only woman to ever handle a male elephant.

Although the circus animals that Hall housed on his land were unusual and captivated the interest of the Evansville people, no animal or event has fired the imaginations of young and old, like the escape of the Hall circus leopard in September 1901.

All four of the Evansville newspaper ran lengthy reports of the escape and capture of the leopard. Hall had just finished a successful showing at the Evansville Fair Grounds for the 1901 Rock County Fair.

On the Sunday following the fair, Col. Hall was loading his animals at the depot to take them to Milwaukee for the State Fair. Suddenly, the leopard escaped from its cage.

Rumors of the animal's whereabouts began immediately. A Mrs. Monshau thought she saw the animal jump over the fence into the Lovejoy Lumberyard, near the depot. Mr. Eugene Blakely saw it Sunday evening crossing South Madison Street. Mr. Richard Foley was quite sure he saw the animal near the high school building, several blocks from the depot. Dr. Colony saw a large animal cross the street in front of his team on the hill in the northwest corner of Evansville. His team refused to move until the animal disappeared.

Travelers on the roads near Evansville reported they had seen the animal along the roadside. The leopard was said to have devoured 3 head of cattle and seven sheep belonging to Arthur Franklin.

Immediately, Col. Hall offered a $100 reward if the leopard was captured dead and $250, if it was alive. The township of Union offered $25 bounty, the township of Magnolia $25, the city of Evansville $25, and George Pullen $35. Pullen's offer included the stipulation that he was to receive the leopard's hide if it was killed.

On Tuesday following the escape, armed hunters with deer hounds went out to search for the animal but they came back empty handed, "with nothing but weary bones to repay them for their long jaunt". Parents kept children kept inside their houses.

Just as some were beginning to doubt that the animal was still alive, a report came into the Evansville police department. A Mr. Hess, living on a farm near Lee's creamery in Magnolia township had found two sheep killed by a wild animal, and the leopard was the chief suspect.

The Badger newspaper reported that nearly thirty hunters hired rigs to take them to the Hess farm. "The animal was located by an old well in the woods and the men began to form in double file ready to fire when the leopard again appeared in site. Fire was opened upon Mr. Leopard; he sprang upon Mr. Hess and mangled his shoulder terribly. From him it sprang to W. D. Tullar and bit him four times on the arm nearly to the bone, but while Mr. Tullar was being thus attacked he did not fail to give his opponent a bullet in the jaw."

After Tuller shot the animal and it dropped away from him, the other hunters opened fire. When the leopard was finally dead, no one could claim credit for firing the fatal shot.

Doctors were called to help Hess and Tullar. The other hunters returned in wagons and carriages carrying their trophy strapped to the top of one of the rigs. The leopard was hung from a post near Dr. Evan's Pioneer Drug store at the corner of Main and Madison Streets. Crowds gathered to see the eight-year-old leopard that had escaped.
 
 

Leopard captured after running away from "Pop" Hall's circus

At the end of the day, George Pullen got the carcass of the animal. Pullen had it tanned and made into a rug.

Tullar was taken to a hospital in Chicago and Col. Hall paid for his medical expenses. Hess survived, but to his surprise, his obituary appeared in several daily papers.

In December 1901, Hess filed a lawsuit against Col. Hall for personal damages. However, Hall and Hess settled on an undisclosed amount of money before the case could come to court.

In February 1902, a "Leopard meeting" was called at the city hall. All of those who had helped to kill the leopard came for the distribution of the reward money. Each man received $4.25.

The excitement did not dampen Col. Hall's enthusiasm for the circus. In April 1902, he sold about $7,000 worth of animals and received another shipment of animals worth about $10,000. One was the elephant "Columbus", that he purchased from the Ringling Bros circus. It was reported to be one of the largest elephants in existence, standing 12 feet high and weighing seven tons.

Hall took some of his show wagons to Baraboo where McPhearson and Smith, painted the wagons. His daughter, Jessie McCart joined the Gollmar Bros show that season.

George Hall, Jr. started the show season of 1902 with a performance in the nearby village of Oregon. Col. George Hall also stayed close to home and showed his circus at nearby towns, including a 4th of July celebration in Albany.

In early August 1902, Col. Hall opened his circus in Evansville. It was the first time he had shown in Evansville in six years. A balloon ascension and the "monster elephant" Columbus, were the main attractions. There were also singing donkeys.

While the circus was in progress, the giant elephant, Columbus, decided to leave the show grounds. The elephant pulled lose from his stake and walked out of the tent. He traveled the length of the city several times, knocking over board fences, chicken coops and other small buildings before he returned to the farm at the end of South First Street.

The Evansville Review reported that the elephant was a danger to the community and that previous owners had gotten rid of him because "he had been the cause of bringing to a sudden end several lives of persons who had him in charge."

The final show in Evansville in 1902 was the last of Col. Hall's circus performances. At the beginning of the new century the show world was changing, with Wild West shows and vaudeville routines replacing the "natural exhibits" and museums that were popular when Pop Hall started in the circus business. Adapting to changing show routines was now the responsibility of the younger Hall family circus performers.

While he seldom went on the road himself, the man who had originated the Evansville circuses, Col. George W. Hall, continued to keep enough animals to form his own circus. "It's a fascinating game, this running your own show, whether it be a railroad or wagon show or a museum," Col. Hall once told a reporter.circus troup 2.gif (2011030 bytes)

His daughter, Jessie Hall McCart, and her husband, Frank, traveled with the Gollmar Brothers Shows in the 1903 circus season. The McCarts had two children, Fred and Vivian. As a child, Fred also performed with the circus using the trapeze and snakes, learning acts from both his parents. In the summer the McCart children traveled with Jessie, and in the winter, returned to Evansville to attend school.

In the winter months of 1904, Jessie, and her nephew, Frank Hall, were booked into Chicago theaters for vaudeville acts. Jessie performed as a snake charmer and Frank showed his trained dogs.

For several years, from 1904 to 1907, Mary Louise "Lou" Hall, wife of Col. Hall, and her daughter, Mable traveled with the Hargraves Shows, a circus located in the east. While traveling with the shows, Mable met and married Frank Longbotham.

Lou exhibited a cage of leopards and jaguars for the Hargraves Shows and Mable performed with her horse "King". Mable also handled the elephant, Columbus, the biggest elephant in the world, according to the advertising.

The leopards, horses and elephant were transported to and from Evansville by railroad. While performing with the leopards in the Hargraves show in the summer of 1904, Lou Hall was bitten by one of her big cats, but the injury was minor and she continued to perform with the animals.

In 1905, Col. G. W. Hall's daughter, Jessie Hall McCart, traveled with the Forepaugh-Sells shows. This show operated out of Columbus, Ohio and was owned by, James Bailey (partner of P. T. Barnum). After James Bailey's death in April 1906, this show was purchased by the Ringling Brothers of Baraboo.

That same year, George Hall, Jr. also prepared his circus to travel by wagon. A professional trainer, a man named Costello, was hired to train ponies for George Jr.'s circus.

Winter and early spring months were spent in the repair and maintenance of the circus apparatus and training of animals. In late April or early May, the George Hall, Jr. circus was once again on the road. "George W. Hall, Jr. is fitting out in fine shape a show composed largely of trained animals which is to leave this city May. 6th," the Badger reported in 1905.

George, Jr. sent his advanced wagons ahead of the circus to distribute and paste-up posters in the towns where he expected to exhibit his shows. Following the trail of the advanced wagons, the circus troupe started out the first of May. However, the weather was so rainy in the spring of 1905 that the circus wagons returned to Evansville in late May waiting for better weather.

"George Hall's circus wagons took many tumbles during the trip from Footville to Durand, Illinois, recently. No great damage sustained but a poor beginning for the circus year," the Evansville Review reported. The weather cleared and by July 4th George, Jr. reorganized and took his circus outfit to Albany. Evansville children were disappointed, he had not chosen to stay at home and exhibit his animals.

While his children and wife were traveling, Col. Hall remained at home, working his farmland. In the summer of 1905, the elderly circus owner was kicked by one of his horses and the force of the blow broke one of Hall's legs. When he was able to be out of the house again, the Review noted: "It takes something heavier than the kick of a horse to keep him confined at home very long."

In January 1906, Jessie Hall McCart, whose shaky marriage to circus performer, Frank McCart, had dissolved in divorce, married Walter S. Gollmar. McCart died in 1912.

Jessie's new husband was manager of Barboo's Gollmar Brothers Circus. He and his brothers had been operating the circus since 1891.

The Badger newspaper carried the Gollmar wedding announcement. The marriage took place at the home of Col. George W. Hall. "The bride has made this city her home since childhood and has a host of friends who wish her happiness and prosperity." The newly wed couple planned to make their home in Baraboo.

Weather and fire plagued Col. George W. Hall in 1908. In January, Col. Hall came close to losing his circus apparatus in a fire. A tobacco shed on the farm caught fire from an overheated stove in the stripping room adjoining the shed. Old circus wagons and other circus goods were stored in the wood frame building, along with farming implements.

It was also feared that the fire would spread to the animal houses. However, the Evansville firemen responded and managed to confine the fire to the shed, saving most of the circus goods and all of the animals.

Six months later, Col. Hall lost a small house and a tobacco shed. The buildings were blown down when a tornado went through his property in late June 1908.

As though he had not suffered enough, Hall had to contend with another leopard escape that was more talk than truth. In December 1908, one of Hall's leopards briefly escaped from its cage. The leopard episode from 1901 was fresh in the minds of many of the towns people. A rumor quickly spread that the leopard had escaped into the countryside.

"Considerable excitement resulted and timid people kept well within doors", the Evansville Enterprise reported. The rumors were false and the leopard never got outside the barn. Its escape was short-lived and harmless.

His adventures made Col. George W. Hall an exciting personality for newspaper reporters to interview and occasionally he would give a lengthy one to a lucky newspaper man. Though he was not running his own show, Col. Hall enjoyed talking to newspaper reporters about his life under the big top. He bemoaned the fact that the old days of the circus were gone.

"When it comes to circuses now days they aren't in it with the good old days when we used to travel from stand to stand by wagon, when a menagerie and a January act (a clown act that featured a kicking mule) were the drawing cards," Col. Hall told a Janesville Gazette reporter in 1908. He went on to say, "The shows now days go in for a big feature act; something that is dare-devil and not for good old natural exhibits such as the white elephants, the dwarfs, the giants and the four legged girl, or two headed boy, or the Siamese twins."

"Guess my trooping days are over though, I don't have the same feeling about shows that I used to. Why, every spring it just seemed as if I must get on the road. Even when I had gone up from a wagon show to a railroad one, it was just the same."

Col. Hall told the reporter that he had enough animals on his farm to start up a good sized show. The animals included four lions, two leopards, one jaguar, one mountain lion, two bears, two badgers, one dromedary, one sacred cow, two performing horses, one trick mule for ring work and old Charley, the biggest elephant in the world.

Big Charlie and Mabel Hall.BMP (485838 bytes)

Mable Hall and Charlie the Elephant

It is not clear if Hall had changed Columbus' name or if Charley was another elephant Hall had acquired from the Ringling Brothers. In the 1908 article, Hall described Charley as ten feet high and six tons in weight. This is smaller than the 12 feet, seven ton description given Columbus, when Hall first purchased him.

Hall's daughter Mable was still in charge of showing the large elephant. "Say, you ought to see my daughter, Mable, make him stand round though," Hall said. "She is a daisy with him and no mistake."

Col. Hall also described his son, George Hall, Jrs. circus in the 1908 Janesville Gazette interview. George Jr. was traveling with twenty Norman Clydesdales. The show had an elephant, lions, ponies, performing dogs, monkeys, gymnasts and acrobats. It was called the George Hall circus.
 
 

Hall told the reporter in 1908 that the new "wild west" shows were just a repeat of the old Buffalo Bill shows, and could not compare with a real old-time circus. However, two years later, Hall had joined forces with a man called "Tiger Bill" and organized a show that offered many features of both the circus and the wild west show.

Evansville was chosen as the site of the first show of the new enterprise. A grand street parade opened the festivities, advertising the show's features in the spring of 1910. Col. Hall and Tiger Bill challenged local farmers to bring in a horse that "can't be ridden" and Tiger Bill would not only ride the animal, but also give the family a free ticket to the show. Col. Hall continued an offer he had been making for many years and invited orphan children and veterans of the Civil War to view his show free of charge.

Just as the show was about to go on the road, Charley the elephant, became too difficult to handle and Hall decided to dispose of the elephant. The Evansville Enterprise reported that "there didn't seem to be sufficient strychnine in town to accomplish that result." Col. Hall told the Evansville Review that the elephant become deranged "due to the effects of Haley's Comet."

Three years later, in April 1913, Col. Hall described the demise of the Old Charley to a Chicago Sunday Tribune reporter. "I bought him from the Ringlings after he almost killed one of his keepers. He worked for me for four or five years. I gave him a big dose of morphine and killed him. He was worth about $3,500. He is buried in winter quarters in Evansville."

The elephant was replaced with another one and the Hall-Tiger Bill show went on the road. Tiger Bill set up the wild west show in Chicago in June 1910. Later that same year, Col. Hall briefly went with Tiger Bill in a railroad car show that traveled to the south.

In August, Hall and Tiger Bill headed to New Orleans and planned to visit other southern cities intending to spend the winter. By November, they had returned with their eight 60-foot railroad cars packed with animals and other circus paraphernalia and unloaded on Main Street near the depot.

During the summer of 1911, Walter Gollmar traveled with the Gollmar Bros. Circus and Jessie Hall Gollmar did occasional shows with circuses in the area. In June, she made a brief appearance with the Hagenbeck's & Wallace Shows and the United Show Company in Chicago.

George Hall, Jr's children, Frank, Grace, and Charles Russell, had grown up in the circus and Frank and Grace also married into circus families. In November 1911, Grace Hall was married to Howard Bruce at her parent's home, with her brother, Frank E. Hall and his soon-to-be bride, Zella Wintermute, as attendants.

Howard Bruce had been in the show business since he was fourteen years old. An accomplished drummer in circus bands, Howard Bruce and his wife, Grace, would also operate a circus. The Bruce's lived for a short time in Stevens Point, and in October 1912 moved to Evansville.

In March 1912, Frank and Zella were married in Rockford, Illinois. Zella was also from a circus family. Her uncle, Harry Wintermute had operated a wagon show and in 1913 and 1914, Frank and Zella joined his circus.

The circus season of 1912 found the Hall family was once again scattered around the United States operating and working in circuses. Walter Gollmar returned to Baraboo in May for the grand opening of the Gollmar Brothers Circus. George W. Hall & Son Trained Animal Shows operated by George, Jr. headed east and north for the circus season.

"Pop" Hall's daughter, Mable, went to Iowa to join the Yankee Robinson show, exhibiting her trained horses. Mable had divorced Longbotham and had remarried a circus performer, William Campbell. The Campbell's traveled for several years with the Jones Circus.

When the summer season was finished vaudeville shows allowed circus performers to have year-round employment, if they chose. In 1913, Evansville's Crystal Theater, operated out of the Eager Building at 11 West Main Street and offered movies and vaudeville acts.

While Col. Hall claimed to be leading a farmer's life, it was anything but the routine of others working in agriculture. In February 1913, Col. George W. Hall's troupe of educated bears performed on the stage of the Crystal theater. After their Evansville performance, the bears and their trainer, Louis De Balestrier, from the City of Mexico, were schedule to perform in the Chicago Theaters.

The bear trainer, also worked with Col. Hall's lions, leopards and jaguars. The following November, an Evansville Review news item noted that Col. Hall's trained leopards were being shown in Europe, Australia and Africa, by their trainer.

By 1915, Col. Hall had a new plan for a show. He joined with his daughter, Mable, and her new husband, William Campbell, to form "The New Orleans Minstrels." Hall gave a lengthy interview about the show to the Evansville Review in November 1915.

Although he was nearly eighty years old, Col. Hall had decided that he would be the active head of the show. The veteran showman believed that the country was on the eve of great prosperity and was ready for a new show.

The Campbells and Hall purchased 2 railroad cars with Pullman staterooms "luxuriously equipped" for $12,000. The combination stateroom and baggage cars had all of the conveniences of a hotel. The troupe would be traveling in luxury with their trained horses, lions, and a band. The railroad cars were purchased in Chicago and brought to Evansville in March 1916.

When the show opened in Evansville in April 1916, the name of the show had been changed to "Campbell's New Orleans Minstrel Show". Mable Hall Campbell rode her two fancy horses, Rob Roy and the Colonel. Col. Hall led the circus parade.

In the next two years, Evansville would lose two of it circus people. In February 1917, Lida Ward Hall, wife of George Hall, Jr. died. Funeral services were held at the Baptist Church and she was buried at Maple Hill.

On May 20, 1918, death came very suddenly to the veteran showman, George W. Hall. In honor of Col. Hall, Mayor Elmer H. Libby issued a proclamation asking all business places in Evansville to close during the hour of his funeral. The longest obituary that had ever appeared in the Evansville newspapers for a local person, celebrated the life of the man they called "America's Oldest Showman".

"In the passing of Mr. Hall there goes one of the most prominent characters that this country and the show business has ever known, and who was a pathfinder and an originator of new and novel features and methods that younger showmen who followed after were glad to imitate." The Evansville Review went on to say that "his children have followed the profession, some of them gaining distinction in different lines of show work and being a credit to their father's teaching."

"Mr. Hall admired publicity, but his acts of kindness were always done quietly and without display, and where one kind act has become known to the world there are many that were not known of except to the beneficiaries." "In the passing of "Pop" Hall, Evansville loses a big-hearted, open-minded citizen, who has established himself permanently in the hearts of many of those he has befriended and who has made our little city noted in many states as the abiding place and the home of 'The Greatest Living Showman'."

The circus' continued to roll out of Evansville despite the loss of their founder. In 1919 several news articles appeared noting the beginning of the show season.

Two circuses headed out under the Hall name. Frank and Zella Hall, who had been living in Whitewater, arrived in late April to begin their work with the Col. George W. Hall Shows, operated by George, Jr. They opened the season in Evansville on May 3 with two performances.

Mable Campbell and her husband, William operated the Hall Shows. Her mother, Mary Louise Hall traveled with them.

In February 1919, Mable traveled to California to purchase an elephant. In April, a camel and a llama had been purchased for their show. The Pullman cars that had been used for the 1916 shows had been rebuilt with a new electrical lighting system. There was also a kitchen and restaurant counter for the circus employees.

Walter Gollmar purchased a home on South Madison Street in March 1919. He went into retirement after the Gollmar Bros. shows were sold in 1916.

In July 1923, Mary Louise Hall died in Murphy Tennessee, while traveling with her daughter, Mable. She was brought home to Evansville. Her funeral was held at St. Paul's Catholic Church and she was laid to rest beside her husband, Col. George W. Hall, Sr.

For the next several years, the Hall's and their spouses operated shows under several different names, sometimes in combination with other shows operated by family members. In 1920, Frank and Zella Hall started the Vanderburg Bros. Circus, operating out of Whitewater.

In 1924, Russell Hall began his circus and started from his father's farm with ten different animal acts. Because it was Russell's first time on the road alone, his father, George, Jr. intended to go with him. The show included sheep, monkeys, bears, mules, ponies, geese, and other animal routines.

Frank Hall and Howard Bruce combined their shows in a ten truck show operating out of Whitewater. They also had trained sheep and goats doing some acts that had "never been seen by the show-going public."

The headlines of the May 10, 1928 Evansville Review announced that Evansville was still a show town after 50 years. Russell Hall traveled with a truck show. That year, Russell had shows scheduled in Iowa, Minnesota and Canada.

Howard Bruce and Grace Hall Bruce operated their own show, starting with shows in Utica and Rockdale, in the 1928 season. The Bruce's named their circus the H. A. Bruce Shows.

George Hall, Jr. had retired from the circus business. He was still living on his farm north of Evansville and driving a horse-drawn carriage. In early June 1929, a car driven by Harold Teasdale of Madison, tried to pass a buggy driven by George on North Madison Street.

The buggy was smashed and George got caught in the harness and was dragged along the cement pavement on North Madison Street for a "considerable distance". George was taken to Madison General Hospital in Madison. He was badly bruised and had internal injuries, including several broken ribs. His children, Grace Bruce and Russell were called home from their shows because of his critical condition.

Although he lived for another year, George never fully recovered from his injuries. He went to live his son, Frank, in Whitewater and died there December 2, 1930. The funeral was held at the Allen Funeral Home on West Main Street in Evansville and he was buried at Maple Hill.

George, Jr's son, Frank Hall, died in August 1936 and his wife, Zella, continued to operate their shows for a few years.

Grace and Howard Bruce and their son, Mark, gave up the show business in 1935 to start the Badger Trailer company, making a travel-trailer in a factory located on North Madison Street. The Bruce's wintered in Florida and Mark had an active interest in the circus in their Key West, Florida home. Howard Bruce died in March 1969 and Grace died in November 1963.

Mark Bruce was the fourth generation of the Evansville' Halls to work in circuses. He traveled with his parents as a child and later learned many staging and show routines working circuses in Florida. He used his talents in directing and making sets for the Evansville Little Theatre.

Russell Hall continued to run his shows out of Evansville using his father's farm north of Evansville as the winter headquarters of his show until the late 1940s. He retired to South Beloit and died in January 1956.

Jessie Gollmar, daughter of George "Popcorn" Hall, Sr. lived to be eighty seven years old. A Milwaukee Journal reporter interviewed Jessie in 1940. Though she had been out of the circus business for several years, she never lost her interest in it. She continued to take the Billboard, a magazine devoted to the show business. Jessie told the reporter she still visited any circus that came within a hundred mile radius of Evansville.

Walter Gollmar, Jr. is the last surviving member of the Hall circus family living in Evansville. He also performed with a circus band in the 1930s, but returned home to live with his mother, following the death of his father, Walter S. Gollmar, Sr., in 1933.

Four generations of Halls joined the circus, beginning with the young man, Col. George "Popcorn" W. Hall, Sr. who ran away from home and found work he loved for the rest of his life. As the Milwaukee Journal reporter noted in 1940: "Things are pretty quiet down here in Evansville these days. An elephant never strolls placidly through the back yard and the citizenry never goes busting out on a leopard hunt."