Digital Photograph - Holden Brothers Circus, Two Girls Hanging Upside Down on Trapeze, Inverloch, late 1940s Image Reg. No: MM 111181

Black and white image of Melba Holden, of Holden Brothers Circus, and Stella MacKenzie hanging upside down on a Holden Brothers Circus trapeze, at Inverloch in the late 1940s. Melba is at top and Stella is at bottom.

According to the family: 'Melba Holden learned the trapeze and performed with the circus. Stella Mackenzie wasn't performing, but she and her family were down visiting for the day, so the girls thought they would 'have a play'.'

Stella Mackenzie was the daughter of Harry Mackenzie, who travelled for performances with Holden Brothers Circus, Perry Brothers Circus, Wirths Circus and Ashtons Circus. He performed as a clown with Holden Brothers Circus and also sometimes performed with Adolphus Holden and Ernie Gordon Holden from Holden Brothers Circus as the Flying Gordons, doing a three bar trapeze act.

According to the Holden family, the Holden Brothers Circus was founded in Melbourne in 1892 by Adolphus Holden. As a youth, Mr A Holden lost a leg in a railway accident near the Royal Melbourne Zoo. His family note that 'He overcame that hardship to achieve fame as an athlete, circus proprietor, animal trainer, acrobat and sensational aerial loopist and triple horizontal bar performer.' His family consisted of 10 sons and 1 daughter. In the early days the circus was transported by horse and wagons, then in the mid-1920s the circus began using motor vehicles. The original members of the Flying Gordons were Adolphus Holden and Ernie Holden. Ernie Gordon Holden was acclaimed as being the first and greatest rope spinner in Australia, in one cast of the lasso he roped in as many as seven horses and their riders. The world famous Flying Jordans Troupe also toured with the circus for a time. The family state that 'Over the years Holden Bros Circus gained a great reputation and goodwill throughout the country.'
Description Of Content:
Two girls hanging upside down on a trapeze, one above the other. The girls are wearing shorts and tops. The trapeze is set up above grass and secured by a number of ropes. Behind the trapeze is a makeshift curtain made up of different pieces of fabric. Behind the curtain a motor car can be glimpsed. In the far background are trees and an electricity pole.
Acquisition Information:
Copied from Mr Dennis Ryan, 2006
Discipline: History

More information

Tagged with: holden brothers circus, circuses, performers, youth, outdoor life
Themes this item is part of: Holden Brothers Circus, Leisure Collection, Working Life & Trades Collection, Melbourne's Biggest Family Album Collection
Primary Classification: RECREATION & TOURISM
Secondary Classification: Performing Arts - Circuses
Tertiary Classification: performers
People Depicted: Holden, Melba; Mackenzie, Stella
Organisations Depicted: Holden Brothers Circus
Format: Digital Still Image: Black & White; Tiff
Place & Date Depicted: Inverloch, Gippsland, Victoria, Australia, late 1940s

Source of Date Depicted: Assistant curator's estimate based on the age of Melba Holden pictured in this photograph.
Photographer: Mrs Doris Holden
Organisation Depicted: Holden Brothers Circus, Inverloch, Gippsland, Victoria, Australia, late 1940s
References: Information has been updated via DC Enquiry 68154, 68248, 68249.


jeanette crowley Posted on 18 Apr 2010 2:21 PM
my father harry mackenzie and my family travel with holden circus . I would love any picture you have or inforation you have on my family when they travel with the circus its is my sister stella who is in this picture wwith melba holden many thanks jeanette crowley
Discovery Centre Posted on 20 Apr 2010 11:55 AM
Museum Victoria Comment
Hi Jeanette. We have a number of images of Holden Brothers Circus in the collection. Simply click the tag 'holden brothers circus' above left and you will come up with almost 30 images, including one of your father. The Arts Centre in Melbourne holds a collection from the Holden Brothers Circus, details can be seen here. They may have further archival information on the circus that may be of interest to you.
jeanette crowley Posted on 25 Apr 2010 2:42 PM
my father harry mackenzie travel with perry bothers , wirths circus . and ashtons circus . am hoping you may have more pictures of him with the circus has well thanks for your help jeanette crowley
Discovery Centre Posted on 28 Apr 2010 9:55 AM
Museum Victoria Comment
Hi Jeanette, all of the images Museum Victoria hold of the Holden Brothers Circus can be seen above on the right. Consider contacting The Arts Centre in Melbourne and searching Picture Australia for more images and information.
Greg Schirmer Posted on 10 May 2010 7:48 PM
The Girl on the Bottom is my Auntie Stella, my Mothers Elder Sister by two years. My Mother Dorothy Mackenzie (Now Schirmer) Must have been around there somewhere.
Kevin Teasdale Posted on 02 Feb 2012 9:46 PM
Thanks for the memories. I can vouch for Ernie's rope prowess. He used to lasso me on stage! I was about 7 (1947) when my father and Ernie teamed up. Dad was a "Travelling Picture Show Man". I think the movie showed before interval followed by the circus acts. I also remember Leo, Audrey and Melba. Audrey was a contortionist.

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