Local collector brings circus to Guelph Civic Museum

Avid collector and Guelph resident Eric Huber has discovered a lot of neat stuff at flea markets and antique shops through the years, but when he found a collection of Guelph circus posters, ticket stubs, and newspaper clippings at an estate sale two years ago, he was, in his own words, “simply ecstatic.”

Huber purchased the collection and then donated it to Guelph Civic Museum, where it will be on display on Wednesday, February 4, from 2 to 4 pm.

“The posters caught my eye right away,” says Huber. “They were so colourful and fun. Then I realized how much historical information about Guelph is in this collection.”

Travelling circuses have been visiting Guelph since 1849 when Man’s Circus rolled into town. The promise of spectacle, adventure and magic drew large and enthusiastic crowds.

“You have to imagine what a big deal the circus was in those days,” says Huber. “When they had their circus day parade, the stores would close so people could take part.”

The posters in the collection are striking, with bright colours and big, bold-faced type. One poster depicts a ferocious-looking hippopotamus, mouth opened menacingly wide. The caption reads, “Big Otto, blood sweating hippopotamus from the River Nile.”

In addition to the posters, Huber thinks visitors to the one-day exhibit will be interested in the newspaper clippings.

Huber’s favourite story comes from a 1925 Guelph Mercury article which recounts the circus coming to Guelph in 1853. According to the article, seven elephants escaped their keeper’s watch, and wandered through town, ending up in the Speed River for a mid-day dip.

Huber is motivated to collect by a passion for history, and a desire to see Guelph’s heritage preserved for future generations.

“I know that if I don’t collect these things, there are not a lot of people who will” says Huber. “If someone doesn’t make an effort, then it’s all lost. It goes the way of the dodo bird, which is sad.”

Huber doesn’t plan on retiring from the collecting game any time soon, especially when there are gems like the circus collection out there waiting to be discovered.
“For me, this is my retirement,” says Huber. “It’s enlightened me. Plus, it’s a conversation-starter.”

Guelph Civic Museum is located at 52 Norfolk Street.

For more information

Robin Morden
Community Relations Coordinator
Guelph Museums
519-836-1221
Robin.morden@guelph.ca