The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

July 13, 2016

July 13, 1862

Walter L. Main (July 13, 1862 to November 29 1950) was the owner of a series of circuses and became wealthy at this enterprise. His father had had some foothold in the business in Ashtabula County, Ohio, and the son cleared $10,000 his first year, 1888. According to a circus website:

By 1891, his circus required 10 railroad cars to transport. Two years later, the Walter L. Main Circus was all but destroyed when his circus train, rounding a curve at Latrobe, Pa., wrecked...

Another account details the wreck:

On the morning of May 30, 1893, a circus train convoy chock full of lions,elephants, and camels fatefully rounded a bend of a rural Pennsylvania mountain.

The conductor was going 40 miles an hour, and the Walter L. Main circus flew off its rails.

Fourteen of its 17 cars tumbled down a 30-foot ravine, piling on top of each other. Hundreds of animals streamed out and into the surrounding forest.
Luckily, the performer car had stuck to its track. But even so, five circus employees were killed along with dozens of animals.

Two so-called “sacred” cows and 50 horses died in the wreck, and countless animals were injured. Those who weren’t seized their chance at freedom.

A gorilla, tigers, lions, zebras, alligators and other exotic beasts took the opportunity to slip their broken chains and cages to make a run for the nearby woods. The elephants, camels and others were retrieved, but many were not.

An unfortunate fate befell the Bengal tiger, who quickly began hunting the local’s cows.

A bear hunter was summoned to take care of the problem, and the tiger’s skull is on display today in the town’s hunting club.

The local hospital took in the human injured, and a newspaper item the next day listed those receiving care. The first poor soul, John Chambers, had reportedly been “bitten severely by a lion.”

The circus, which was on its way from Lewiston to Honesdale, spent more than a week at its unplanned stop. Then it got back on the road, traveling through Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts for the rest of the year....

A conclusion offers a bit of hope for those who find wild animals confined a horrifying spectacle.

No-one knows where the circus animals that died in an 1893 Pennsylvania train derailment are buried—or where the ones that survived escaped to.

Lewis started and sold several more circuses over the years.

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