Posted 12 months ago
Mrs. Clyde (Harriet) Beatty
By Chris Berry
The image of Clyde Beatty has appeared, by far, on more circus posters than any other individual. Starting with Hagenbeck Wallace in the early 1930s and continuing until his death in 1965 artwork featuring "Mr. Circus Himself" appeared on many lithographs, posters and window cards.
Prior to the new Cole Bros Circus opening in 1935, Beatty and elephant trainer Eddie Allen developed an act where a lion and a tiger would ride on the back of an elephant. In 1936 that act was presented by Mrs. Clyde (Harriet) Beatty. As part of the promotion of this unique act, the artists at Erie Litho created a special poster for her.
Over the next couple of decades similar artwork was created for the Clyde Beatty Circus in the 1940s with variations of the general image used by both Clyde Beatty and Clyde Beatty Cole Bros Circuses.
In the late 1940s, well-known circus artist Forrest Freeland was engaged to create his version of this poster. In this version only a tiger is seen with the elephant. There was also an eight sheet version of this artwork that was used for a few seasons.
By 1950 Clyde Beatty was a household name and thousands of posters were used each season to promote his railroad circus. During the tour that season Harriet Beatty began feeling ill and on September 25, 1950 in Kosciusko, Mississippi she passed away. The third image of this poster was used to promote the act well into the 1960s, however without Mrs. Harriet Beatty's name.
Incidentally a woman named Alvian Say, daughter of Harriet Beatty from a previous marriage, did present a mixed wild animal act at various circuses billed as "Harriet Beatty" well into the 1960s. Although she was promoted as "Daughter of Clyde Beatty" she was actually his step-daughter, and not his wife who starred in the center ring of the Cole Bros Circus in the mid-1930s.