Today is the birthday of Fayette Lodawick “Yankee” Robinson (1818-1884). Originally from Livingston County, NY, Robinson had been a shoemaker before joining June & Turner’s Circus in 1846, He learned his trade there and with Lennox’s Floating Circus prior to founding his own show in 1854. He is said to have been one of the first circus managers to have living accommodations for his performers as part of his traveling unit, as opposed to putting them up in hotels.
Robinson was an ardent Abolitionist. In addition to his circus programs he presented productions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. He lost substantial sums when his planned tour of the South was repulsed by angry locals in the years prior to the Civil War. In the last year of his life he merged his show with that of the Ringling Brothers who were just starting out at that time. He acted as a mentor to them, giving them the benefit of his nearly 40 years of experience in the business. He died while on tour with the combined show.
To find out more about the variety arts consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous