Interscholastic Circus Performers (4) | University of Illinois Archives
Image features members of the interscholastic circus practicing and performing their acts like walking on their hands, the tightrope, axe juggling, and trapeze artistry. Because the circus was traditionally held under the lights of Memorial Stadium field, these images show performers doing their routines on the military practice field just north of the stadium. Presumably, this image series was taken during the daytime practices before their night-time performance.
The interscholastic circus was an annual spring event where students, under the training of circus coach Carlos Wagner, trained as clowns and performers to put on a university circus show. There were awards presented to different categories focused on clownery, performance, and fraternity/sorority participation. Campus Greek life was integral to these performances every year.
During the performances, people in odd-ball costumes would entertain crowds as clowns. However, as we reflect on these clowns, there are racially charged elements of blackface and red face that were normal at the time but are inappropriate and racist by modern standards. We mention this to note that some may be offended by these images, and we want to provide context, not justification.
Due to the volatile nature of nitrate film, the image can be found here:
Copyright Bernard A. Strauch.
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