Otto Griebling: From Horses to Horseplay

April 28 is the birthday of the great German-American clown Otto Griebling (1896-1972). Griebling worked his passage to the U.S. on an ocean liner as a teenager. He entered the circus business as an equestrian in the troupe of Albert Hodgini out of Baraboo, Wisconsin, performing with Sells Floto and other circuses. As happens pretty frequently in the circus business, Griebling sustained a serious injury in the bareback riding act, compelling him to take up clowning instead. Fortunately for himself, the business, and the audience, he was a natural at it. He performed his silent tramp clown character for 40 years, with Hagenbeck-Wallace, Cole Brothers, and finally Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey, where he spent the last 20 years of his career. He died of a stroke in 1972.