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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



Wild, Weird, and Wonderful: The American Circus Circa 1910 as seen by F. W. Glasier by Mark Sloan, F. W. Glasier (Photographer), Timothy Tegge (Illustrator) (The Quantuck Lane Press, Norton) Hurry, hurry, step right up – for the greatest show on earth!

In Wild, Weird, and Wonderful, Mark Sloan's presents the photographs of Glasier (1865-1950), a commercial photographer in Brockton , Mass. , who shot promotional photos of the various circuses that repeatedly came through town over the years. These photos, printed fully rather than as they were cropped for ads, reveal a subculture presenting itself unapologetically, even defiantly, and fascinatingly.

Here, in both glory and grit, is the American circus during the most vibrant period in its history. These photographs, not seen for almost a century, show it all, from the pre-performance parades and tent raisings to the magical events under the "Big Top" and the train leaving town. In this high-quality, 10-by-11-inch album, we see people milling before the sideshow tent, already marveling at one of the "freaks" playing a violin; elephants lining up after unloading from the circus train; roustabouts driving tent stakes; and an eight-horse team pulling an ornately carved wagon in a small-town parade. We see performers hanging by their teeth and hanging out the laundry, and much in between. These remarkable images capture both the intensity of the routines and the spirit of camaraderie of the performers. Glasier's work was unique in many ways, not the least of which was the off-hand elegance he allowed his subjects, even the animals. In this era of the big tents, they appear as seductive, gossamer backdrops to the performers.
In addition, an introduction by essayist Timothy Tegge vividly traces circus history back to
Rome .
The discovery of Glasier's work is a gift to circus lovers and all of us who care about our past. Anyone interested in American cultural history will find that the 62 black & white photos in Wild, Weird, and Wonderful reveal a great deal about how performers – often from a great diversity of backgrounds – comport themselves toward their art.

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