Posts Tagged ‘Circus Historical Society’

I sometimes stumble upon things and don’t quite remember how or why I got to them in the first place.  Such is the case with this kind of neat photo that’s currently up for bid on eBay.  It’s a card promoting the 19th century circus strongman John Jennings, the Iron Jawed Man.  My jaw is sore just looking at this  and I finding myself wondering if it’s a real feat that he regularly performed in his act. 

I decided to try to find out a little more about this iron jawed man but there;s not a lot to be found with a quick search on the web.  The circus life of the the late 1800’s was not the most documented or stable aspects of the American landscape and I’m sure many of the performers and crews of these circuses were a little on the sketchy side.  I did however come across an interesting site, the Circus Historical Society, that has listings of circus people of that era, including one from a book titled Olympians of the Sawdust Circle.  This book had a short listing of Jennings alongside the likes of the The Albino Brothers, who were a gymnastic group,  and Admiral Dot,  aka the “California Dwarf”, and a slew of other intriguing figures.

Jennings lived from 1845 until his death in 1906.  It mentions that he was injured in a wreck of a circus train in Tyrone , PA and died in Harrisburg.  His last engagement was with Ringling Brothers.

I find this a curious world, this one filled with strongmen, trick horse riders and freaks that trekked all over our country back in the day.  I can only imagine some of the stories that could be told and I’m sure there are some that well beyond my imagination.  Most, I fear, are lost to memory.  But at least the Iron Jawed Man still is around, forever gripping that barrel with its two riders in the iron vice of his jaw.

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