Today is the birthday of the great showman William Cameron “W.C.” Coup (1836-1895).
An Indiana native, Coup worked first as a printer and then (starting in 1853) managed the side show of Mabies Grand Olympian Arena and U.S. Circus. From 1866 to 1869 he ran the Yankee Robinson Circus, and in 1871 he joined forces with P.T. Barnum, creating “P.T. Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Circus and Hippodrome.” Barnum supplied his name, prestige and backing; Coup supplied the expertise in running a large scale travelling circus (Barnum had operated small traveling shows in his early days but most of his career until that point had been spent owning and operating the American Museum). It was Coup who came up with the idea of the first circus train, and who added a second and third ring to the circus, thus accommodating thousands more audience members. Coup broke with Barnum in 1875 and went on to found W.C. Coup’s United Monster Shows (see above), W.C. Coup’s Equescurriculum, an aquarium, and several wild west shows.
To find out more about the history of show business, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc