From Rock ‘N’ Roll to the Circus: Feld Follows the Path of P.T. Barnum

The cover of the souvenir program for “The Biggest Show of Stars for ’57.” This program is a cross collectible, sought-after by circus collectors and rock & roll collectors alike. It has a value of $25 to $50. Hard to find window cards for this show are valued in excess of $100.

The cover of the souvenir program for “The Biggest Show of Stars for ’57.” This program is a cross collectible, sought-after by circus collectors and rock & roll collectors alike. It has a value of $50.00 to $100.00 but has sold on eBay for as much as $305.00. Hard to find window cards for this show are valued in excess of $100.

Collectors of circus memorabilia do just that—collect items from circuses past and present. However, there are some items that are not circus at all, but are somehow related to the circus. In this article we will discuss one such item from the recent past that has a parallel story in the distant past.

P.T. Barnum entered the circus business late in life. In 1871, at the age of 61, he initiated his circus career when P.T. Barnum’s Museum, Menagerie and Circus premiered in Brooklyn. Within a year it was dubbed “The Greatest Show On Earth,” a title now known throughout the world. For more information on the history of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, The Greatest Show On Earth see my article titled: Circus Show Names and the Greatest Show Name of All Time.

Years before he had his own circus, Barnum, always the entrepreneur, was busy with his American Museum in New York City. He exhibited the likes of the Feejee Mermaid and General Tom Thumb. In 1850 he entered the concert business by promoting the American tour of Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale. The singer gave nearly 100 concerts and earned $250,000. Barnum netted at least double that amount.

Inside 2

Fats Domino & Clyde McPhatter

Inside 3

LaVerne Baker & Frankie Lymon

Inside 4

Chuck Berry & Fats Domino

Inside 5

LaVerne Baker & The Crickets

Inside 6

Clyde McPhatter & The Diamonds

Inside 7

The Biggest Show of Stars for ’57

Inside 8

Buddy Knox & Jimmy Bowen

Inside 9

The Everly Brothers

Inside 10
Chuck Berry & The Drifters

Inside 11

Paul Anka & Eddie Cochran

Inside 12
Harold Cromer & Paul Williams

Signature
Irving Feld’s signature

Fast forward 107 years. In 1957 Irvin Feld, also a concert promoter, toured a show called “The Biggest Show of Stars for ’57.” In that one show some of the biggest names in rock ‘n’ roll appeared on the same bill: Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Paul Anka, the Drifters, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, the Everly Brothers, The Diamonds, Eddie Cochran, Clyde McPhatter, LaVerne Baker and back-up band, Paul Williams and his Orchestra. At that time, Buddy Holly and the Crickets were so new on the scene that didn’t even have a professional publicity photo. The shot used in the souvenir program book has the four guys in T-shirts.

The record order form offered records by the artists for 89 cents each.

The record order form offered records by the artists for 89 cents each.

In the back of the program book there’s an order form for Super Enterprises, Feld’s mail order record house located in Washington, D.C. If you ordered 10 records at the regular price of 89 cents each, you received one record free. Shipping was 50 cents.

In 1967 Irvin Feld and his brother Israel bought the total assets of The Greatest Show On Earth from the Ringling and North Families for $8 million. For maximum publicity, they signed the contract in the Roman Coliseum in Italy. Feld was following in the footsteps of the great showman, P.T. Barnum. It is interesting to note that they both knew instinctively what the public wanted.

Larry Kellogg is a WorthPoint Worthologist specializing in circus memorabilia.

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No Comments

  1. Rachael says:

    Hello:
    I will make this as brief as possible. I have traveled with Ringling Brothers & BB 15. My 15 years with them involved my soul passion antiqueing for circus memorbelia. I have an extensive collection which I sometimes exhibit. Many people advise me to research the values, but didn’t know where to find a specialist until I ran across your site.
    Would you advise the best way for me to present them?
    Regards,
    R. Hamm

    • Larry Kellogg says:

      I’m not sure I understand the question:
      “Would you advise the best way for me to present them?” Are you looking for a way to display your collection? How many items in your collection? What are the items? Posters? Programs? ???

  2. Trinichel says:

    Hello Sir. Thank you so much for posting this. Is there possibly a place where I could purchase a copy of this book? Dr. Harold ‘Stumpy’ Cromer is my GREAT Grandfather, and I would love to give him this book for his birthday that just passed on MOnday! Thank you so much for your time! I really appreciate it!

    Sincerely,

    Chelsea Phillips
    Trinichel@gmail.com

    • Larry Kellogg says:

      It’s great to hear from you. I remember Harold Cromer from when I saw this show in 1957 in Topeka, Kansas. Programs like this with the title “Biggest Show Of Stars” come up in internet auctions. There are several listed now on eBay. None of them are exactly like the one described above and the ones listed don’t mention Harold Cromer. But since he wasn’t one of the headline stars the seller probably wouldn’t include his name in the description. It would be a good idea to email the seller to see if your great grandfather’s name and photo are in the program you are interested in buying.