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SHOWMEN'S LEAGUE MEMORIAL

The above photo and the text describing it are ©1997 by Matt Hucke and are reproduced with his permission from the excellent web site GRAVEYARDS OF CHICAGO

On June 22, 1918, at about 4 am, the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus train was heading toward Hammond, Indiana, carrying 400 performers and roustabouts. The train stopped near Ivanhoe in order to cool an overheated wheel bearing box. Red lights were turned on to warn any other approaching trains that a train had stopped on the tracks. An empty troop train was approaching at full speed from behind, piloted by engineer Alonzo Sargent, who had previously been fired for sleeping on the job. Ignoring the red lights, and the efforts of a flagman to signal the oncoming train, it plowed into the back of the circus train, destroying three cars before finally coming to a halt. A fire then broke out. Survivors of the crash, trapped under the wreckage, were unable to free themselves and escape the flames. An estimated 86 people died in the accident. Most of the dead were never identified. Circus.......(workers) were often known only by nicknames, and many had joined only recently. (Two stones, for example)......are labeled "Baldy" and "4 Horse Driver"; almost all of the others simply read "unknown Male", followed by a number. Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus only missed a single (show date), the one (scheduled for)......Hammond. By the next day they had borrowed enough acts from other circuses to be able to put on the (scheduled performances)......in Beloit, Wisconsin. Five days after the crash, the survivors gathered at Woodlawn Cemetery (in Chicago) for the burial of 56 of the fellows in a section owned by the Showmen's League of America, bought several months before the crash. Years later, five elephant markers were placed at the corners and rear center of the Showmen's Rest plot. The elephants each have a foot raised with a ball underneath, and the trunks lowered. Raised trunks are a symbol of joy and excitement, lowered trunks symbolize mourning. The base of the large central elephant is inscribed with "Showmen's League of America". On the others are the words "Showmen's Rest". According to local legend, the elephants are there to commemorate the elephants killed in the wreck and buried in this section. In some versions, the elephants are said to have aided in rescuing the trapped performers by pulling away burning wreckage, at the cost of their own lives. It's said that on some nights, the haunting cries of elephants can still be heard in the distance. In reality, however, there were no elephants on the circus train, and no animals were killed in the crash. Most of the left half of the Showmen's plot contains victims of the 1918 wreck. The other half is used for burials of other circus performers, up to the present day.

On the next page you can the see the CLYDE BEATTY CIRCUS being set up.

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