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Holden Brothers Circus
Image: Digital Photograph - Holden Brothers Circus, Man Holding Baby while Balancing on 'Slack Wire' with Children Watching, early 1940s
Source: Museum Victoria
The Holden Brothers Circus was founded in Melbourne in 1892 by Adolphus Holden. As a youth, Adolphus Holden lost part of 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, and many of them performed in the circus with their father.
The circus toured Australia, and was originally transported from town to town by horse and wagons, then in the mid 1920s the circus began using motor vehicles for this task. The circus continued touring Australia until the early 1950s, being managed by Ernie Holden, one of Adolphus' sons, after Adolphus' death in 1938. According to his family, Ernie Gordon Holden was acclaimed as being the first and greatest rope spinner in Australia. In one cast of the lasso he could rope in as many as seven horses and their riders. Ernie and his father Adolphus were also original members of the Flying Gordons, a trapeze act that was part of the circus's performances. Later, Harry Mackenzie joined the Fying Gordons, doing a three bar trapeze act with the Holdens.
The family state that 'Over the years Holden Brothers Circus gained a great reputation and goodwill throughout the country.' The Holden family have contributed 29 photographs to Museum Victoria's 'Melbourne's Biggest Family Album' Collection.
A broader collection, donated by another branch of the Holden family, is held by the Performing Arts Museum in Melbourne, consisting of photographs, maps and journals, publicity material, performing props and costumes, and instruments:
Family history provided by Barry Holden and Melba Ryan, nee Holden.
Items per page: 10 50 (showing 1 - 10) 29 items
A 'Big Top' circular tent is being raised up a central pole, while trucks, caravans and tents set up around it. The Holden Brothers Circus crew raising the 'One Pole Big Top' tent, ear ...Images: 1
A boy sits backwards on a pony with a dog, while the pony's foal has a drink. This photograph shows Freddy Mayanard of Holden Brothers Circus, circa 1935. He is sitting backwards on a ...Images: 1
Black and white image of a group of men repairing a Model T Ford motor car that has broken down on the side of the road in the 1920s. The car was being used to transport the Holden Br ...Images: 1
An Indigenous man riding a rearing horse by a wooden fence. This photograph shows 'Combo' George, a Holden Brothers Circus show hand and horse handler, circa 1900 - 1910. Melba Ryan re ...Images: 1
An Indigenous man with a bridled grey horse. Another horse grazes in the background. This photograph shows 'Combo' George of Holden Brothers Circus, probably bridling a horse, circa 19 ...Images: 1
A man cleaning fish, in front of a cooking fire, with a circus caravan behind him and a little girl standing next to him. This photograph shows Adolphus Holden of Holden Brothers Circu ...Images: 1
A man crouching over a fire, cooking in a frying pan, with a woman standing behind. This photograph shows a man cooking over a fire at the camp site for Holden Brothers Circus, circa 1 ...Images: 1
A man holding a baby in front of a circus caravan in an open field. This photograph shows Danny Dealma of Holden Brothers Circus, holding Francis Holden's son Frankie, early 1940s. One ...Images: 1
A man holding a baby while balancing on a 'slack wire'- children watch him. This photograph shows Francis Holden holding one of his sons and balancing on a 'slack wire' in the early 19 ...Images: 1
A man in a 'cow-boy' hat spinning a lasso in a field. An indigenous man is walking up by him. The photograph is hand-tinted. This photograph shows Ernie Holden rope spinning, circa 191 ...Images: 1