The “Pics” You Can’t Resist

Circus Monkey Art


Who doesn’t love to monkey around? In all seriousness, though, you can’t be an American History buff and overlook the importance that early US circuses and carnivals had in our past. The American circus began not long after our country was founded, after all, grew exponentially with the Industrial Revolution, and was often many people’s very first view of new technology, exotic people and animals, and the forms of entertainment that were more readily available in other parts of the world. One of the most popular attractions on the midway at carnivals and circuses? Monkeys – so much so that the “Monkey Speedway” was born in the 1940’s, where monkeys sat in specially designed minature cars that ran on beveled wheels on a roller coaster type gravity track. Some monkeys were actually trained to operate small gasoline engine powered cars, but with monkeys behind the wheel, you can imagine it was as much a demolition derby as a race. Fans loved to see them bump and crash into each other. Funny thing – it’s been said that “The history of the circus is in many ways a microcosm of the history of America”. Could be true, monkeys and all.

Learn more about the history of the circus and it’s importance to America here.

Want to know more about monkeys on the midway? You may want to take a look at Memoirs of a Carny Kid: Monkeys on the Midway.   



14 thoughts on “Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys”

  1. Matt Watts

    It was very rare to have a real Circus come through our town because we were home to The County Fair every year. So mostly I remember the carnival. Going to the Carnival for my first time on my own with my own money gave me some lessons in the value of a dollar and what was a fair bargain versus a flimflam con. The games were so rigged as to be impossible and almost the only people who won were fake wins when there was a big crowd to get people to throw down their cash. It was like an education in stuff they did not teach in school. I remember spending nearly all my money on a game I could not win just to try to get a giant cigarette lighter, and I did not even smoke. I just thought it was so cool. And there was the Giant Alligator and the Three Legged Horse, Cotton Candy and just everything classic Americana. And antiques are always a part of The Fair, from tractors and old steam engines to spinning wheels and butter churns. The traditions keep old memories alive and show kids how the olden days were. Hey, maybe American Pickers can do some work for County Fair exhibits?

    1. Bill

      I been Picking scence I was 13 I am going to be 51 in sept. I can relate strongly to Mike and frank. I also have a best friend his name is Pete. we been friends scence I was 8 years old. I still have the “Rusy Gold” as it’s called Ford wrenches that were my Grand fathers & Great grandfathers. I also have a clown suit that William (Buffalo Bill )Cody Gave to him when he was in boston in the Late 1800’s early 1900’s. I also have some early Pictures that I Purchyased on ebay there of the circus out side the tent .
      I was told that they were personal pictures of the circus doctor for the animals there is even a picture of his home in the lot.

      I still Love to restore Antique Phonographs as well as some tubed radios.. i take great pride in my wood restoration skills.
      It’s a labor of love .

  2. Suzanne Blum

    In the 1950’s, a giant Big Top Ringling Brothers Circus came to Rochester, NY. It was everything you see in the movies. The smells, the sounds, the constant entertainment, the clowns, the animals, etc. The trapeze artists gave me vertigo (which I didn’t know what that was but I remember getting very dizzy)
    It was one of the last true Big Tops to come through our area, and I’ll never forget the experience.

  3. Hank Vinson

    I remember seeing these when I was a very young kid…Thought it was my imagination or something I dreamed… YEA ! they were real.. Thanks

  4. Charlie

    The carnival always hooked me.
    I remember loosing my paper route money at the dart game
    Luckily I got to make sone of it back helping to break down the Ferris Wheel on the last night of the show.
    My Dad showed up around midnight,wondering if I had
    run off with the carneys.

  5. Denny

    I recently purchased a large photo of a circus many years ago with my family name. I believe there were many family circuses making there way across the country many years ago.

  6. Gary D

    There is a fair that comes through town every year and they have monkeys….and the best part is the monkies race on top of dogs around a track!

  7. Susan

    Thanks SO much for sharing the MONKEY SPEEDWAY !
    We love the history of the circus – and how great was the speedway.
    Thanks for sharing the vintage video – what a treasure !!

  8. KATT

    I collect circus/sideshow related tattooed performers pics and memorabilia so am always looking for items of the like everywhere I go. It’s pretty fascinating to see these people from 100 years ago totally tattooed!

  9. LeAnn Plank

    I enjoy your show very much. The value of watching a show about preserving our past and seeing art in everyday items goes much deeper than “the pick”. I believe it teaches valuable life lessons such as respecting other people and looking for common ground in the midst of diversity. The team at Antique Archeology is celebrating America with every piece of “rusty gold”. Pick on, my fellows!

    1. Suzanne

      I agree with your statements. Love watching. I want to add one little thing to your comment, directed at Mike and Frank and their writers.
      The little informational blurbs you put up are so interesting and invaluable and I never fail to learn something. HOWEVER, I struggle to read that quickly. Is there anyway you can leave it on screen 3 more seconds? Please.thats truly my ONLY complaint.

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