PAST AND PRESENT
OF
MENARD COUNTY, ILLINOIS - 1905

Chicago: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company

   
Page 368

EDWARD SHIP. One of the best known men of Petersburg is Edward Shipp, who has been connected with the circus for many years and has traveled the world over. He was born in Petersburg, August 26, 1864, and is a son of Role and Parthena Jane (McHenry) Shipp, the former born in Kentucky, in 1828, and the latter in this county in 1831. The father made farming his life occupation, was a Democrat in politics and a prominent Mason. He died in August, 1871. The mother was twice married her first husband being a Mr. Lamkin. By the second union there were nine children, of whom only three are now living-our subject and two daughters: Alice Ann, wife of J.C. Buckley, a retired farmer of Petersburg; and Laura, wife of Thomas P. Reep, who is now serving as states attorney and resides in Petersburg.

During his boyhood Edward Shipp attended the public schools of this county and for one summer worked in the foundry at Petersburg. In 1882 he joined his half-brother, Harry Lamkin, who was then with the Cooper & Jackson circus showing in Petersburg. Two years previous to this time Mr. Lamkin put the first vaudeville show upon the road and our subject went with him as doorkeeper, but they were only out a few weeks as that venture proved unsuccessful as that line of attraction was then too new for the public. On the 19th of September, 1882, Mr. Lamkin secured a position for our subject as bass drummer in the band with Cooper & Jackson circus, which was a wagon road show and traveled south through Arkansas and Texas. That winter they crossed the Rio Grande and traveled by train through Mexico and were the first to take an elephant into that country. This animal caused so much excitement among the natives that the troops had to be called out to keep them away from the animals. Returning to Laredo, Texas, the company traveled by wagon through that state and came north as far as Indian Territory but were not allowed to exhibit there. While in Kansas in the spring of 1883, the circus attracted many Indians in war paint, cow-boys and a tough element generally.

In December, 1883, Mr. Lamkin built the present ring barn in Petersburg and that winter taught our subject to ride. The same old mechanical arrangement which he used is still to be found in the barn and has been used in teaching a great many prominent bare-back riders, including the Lowande Brothers, Cecil and Alex, and also Oscar, who have become famous the world over. Here other noted riders, acrobats and aerialists have also learned the business. It would be impossible to give the names of all the prominent performers who have either learned or improved their acts under the guidance of Mr. Shipp.

In the spring of 1884 he went upon the road with the oldest showman in the world-P.A. Older, who was formerly a partner of P.T. Barnum and who afterward sold his circus to that gentleman. George J. Crane, who is now a prominent insurance man of Omaha, was then a partner of Mr. Older and furnished the money to carry on the business. On the 6th of January, 1885, Mr. Shipp sailed with the Gardner, Lamkin & Donovan's Great American circus from New Orleans to South America and landed first at Colon, Isthmus of Panama, work on the canal being then in progress. They remained there eight weeks and then proceeded to Kingston, Jamaica, where they spent two weeks, after which they went to Cienfuegos, Cuba, for two weeks. They next visited Santiago and Mr. Shipp well remembers how Moro Castle looked. There the company was disbanded and he sailed for New York, arriving there in the middle of March, 1885. That season he was with the Frank A. Robbins' circus, and in the fall of 1885 again started for South America with the circus that he was with the previous winter. They visited Georgetown, British Guiana, where they spent two weeks, from there went to Port of Spain, Trinidad, and up Lake Maracaibo to the City of Maracaibo in northern Venezuela, where they gave a special performance on Christmas day, which Mr. Shipp said was the hottest day he ever experienced. They next went to Carthagenia, which is on eof the oldest cities in South America and is surrounded by walls, and from there they proceeded to the Island Cuarason and on to Colon on the Isthmus, where they gave a special performance at the home of Ferdinand De Lesseps, the French engineer who was then the prime mover in the construction of the canal. There Mr. Lamkin was taken ill with yellow fever and after four days' sickness died in February, 1886, being buried in the noted cemetery at Monkey Hill. Becoming scared and disheartened the company then sailed for New York.

Mr. Shipp was next with Gardner and Nick Roberts, of old Humpty Dumpty fame, and in the capacity of bare-back rider went with their circus to Nova Scotia on a sailing vessel from Yarmouth, stopping at the coast towns along the way, many of which places had never had a circus before. They went as far north as Sidney, Cape Breton, then to Charlottestown, Prince Edwards Island and back to New Brunswick and down through Maine, touring the New England states and spending three weeks at Park Square, Boston. The following fall they again went to South America and Mr. Shipp rode the horses owned by Mr. Lamkin's widow. They gave performances all through the West India Islands and at the city of Panama he contracted the yellow fever but having witnessed many cases before he was able to treat it successfully, though he was ill at the Grand Central Hotel for five weeks, at the end of which time he rejoined the circus. While at Colon they were notified that a rebellion was about to break out and they just escaped before the town was burned, returning to New York in March, 1887. That year Mr. Shipp was with two different shows, one being the Huffman circus. Returning to Petersburg in the fall of 1887, he opened his winter circus, which he has conducted ever since with the exception of two winters spent in Mexico. In the spring of 1888 he joined Ringling Brothers at Baraboo, Wisconsin, and toured the western states by wagon. He rode with Al Ringling. In the fall he returned home.

On the 21st of February, 1889, at Philadelphia, Mr. Shipp married Miss Julia Lowande, who was born in that city, December 26, 1871, and is a daughter of Alexander and Virginia (Guering) Lowande, the former a native of Boston and the latter of the Island of Jamaica, where they were married. Her father was an old circus man and became quite wealthy, owning a large circus in Brazil. He was a personal friend of Dom Pedro the former emperor of that country. He died at Port-au-Prince, Cuba, in 1882, and was buried there, while his wife's death occurred in Petersburg, Illinois, August 23, 1903, and she was laid to rest in Rose Hill cemetery. She always accompanied her daughter on her travels up to the time of the latter's marriage. Mrs. Shipp has two brothers who are now bare-back riders with our subject's circus. When only seven years old she was also taught to ride by her father and with her parents she appeared before the public until her father's death, when her mother retired, but the daughter has continued to ride up to the present time. In 1884 she came to Petersburg to visit her half-sister Mrs. Lamkin, who was the widow of our subject's half-brother and it was thus that the young people became acquainted. For two seasons they were together with Mr. Lamkin's circus, but in 1886 Mrs. Shipp toured the eastern states with John O'Brien's circus. The following three seasons she was with Adam Forepaugh and after her marriage joined Ringling Brothers, remaining with them during the season of 1890 and was next with Van Amburgh, touring the northwest as a wagon show. In November, 1891, they went by rail to the city of Mexico, joining Orrin Brothers circus.

On the 4th of December, 1891, at Vera Cruz, Mr. Shipp broke his leg while riding in a jockey act, and a few days later, the leg being put in a plaster cast by a Mexican physician, he started for the city of Mexico, but as he was forced to ride in the baggage car the rough jolting broke the cast and also the leg in several places. He could feel the bones cutting through the flesh and the pain was terrible during the entire trip. The winter had passed before he recovered, during which time he remained in the city of Mexico. The following season he again signed with Orrin Brothers and toured the entire republic, showing in all the large cities. They took the first train going over the road between the city of Mexico and Oaxaca. In March, 1893, Mr. Shipp returned to the United States and joined the F.J. Taylor circus but the first day out, at Malvern, Iowa, he fell and broke his leg again in the same place, thus ending his career as a bare-back rider forever. He also lost both of his ring horses by death about the same time. His wife continued with the circus throughout the season and rode one of the company's horses. The following winter was spent in Petersburg and in the spring of 1894 they joined the Wood Brothers circus. During the great railroad strike in Chicago that season, the strikers would raise the side walls of the tent and enter without paying. Mr. and Mrs. Shipp were with the Royal English circus and Water Carnival in Chicago and in the fall went to Milwaukee with a similar show. After the winter spent in Petersburg they joined Ringling Bothers in the spring of 1895 at Tattersall's in Chicago, returning home in the fall. Their daughter, Virginia Jane, was born April 19, 1896, and that season Mrs. Shipp remained at home for the first time in her life, but Mr. Shipp joined Wood Brothers. The following fall he returned home and again opened his winter circus. In 1897 they joined Ringling Brothers, Mr. Shipp going as assistant equestrian director under Al Ringling, and he has remained with them ever since in the same capacity. In 1898 he was with the Robinson circus, which was virtually Ringling Brothers property, being leased by them during the season of 1898. In 1902 he was with Ringling Brothers and the following two seasons was with Forepaugh & Sells Brothers, with which show he will remain during the season of 1905 as equestrian director. This is the seventh annual tour of his own circus, known as Shipp's Indoor circus, which gives performances in the theaters of the large cities and is composed of first class performers.

In his political views Mr. Shipp is a Democrat and in his fraternal relations he is a Mason, having joined the order about five years ago and holding membership in Clinton lodge, No. 19, A.F. &A.M., of Petersburg. He is also a member of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks at Port Huron, Michigan, and the Knights of Pythias and the Modern Woodmen of America. Mrs. Shipp is a lady of culture and refinement and one would hardly recognize her in the tinsel and glare of the arena as she appears in her thrilling bare-back riding as the same modest, retiring wife and mother in the home. Notwithstanding her extensive travels and the excitement of appearing before the applauding public she loves the quiet life of her little home in Petersburg and she and her husband have many friends here, being held in the highest regard not only by the citizens of Petersburg but by the people of Menard county in general . This has been the winter home of a great many people of recognized prominence in the circus profession and this is largely due to the popularity of Mr. Shipp. Possibly no one in the business has a wider acquaintance or warmer friends than he. He is a man of shrewd, keen judgment and is cool and collected while handling performances, but he always has a friendly smile and a kind word for all. It is a noticeable fact that his presence in the arena is an encouragement to performers and should they happen to make a mistake in their daring feats or an unsuccessful attempt in the act, his kindly smile and word of cheer seem to imbue them with a desire to excel and hence his wonderful success.


Transcribed by: Kristin Vaughn


1905 Bio. Index

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