American boys used to dream of running away to join the circus. I don't know, but I suspect that this was the case in many other countries as well. In the days before modern mass media, the circus coming tgo town was a major event in the lives of children. All the wonderful animals and thrilling acts caught the imagination of countless boys. I think the same is true of girls as well, but contemporary social values mean that girls were much likely to run away from home, or even to think about it. We see many boys in circus performer costumes. Often we do not know if they actually were performers. In fact we do not kbow how common it was for boys to actually run away to join the circus. We suspect that most of the children involved were the children of circus/Vaudeville people, but here we are only speculating. Perhaps HBC readers sill know more. We have a specific American performance page on this area.
Here is a CDV portrait of a boy in a circus or other performance costume like Vaudevulle (figure 1). The portait is undated, but looks to have been taken in the late 19th century, probably the 1870s. The boy's nane was Basil Kite who was about 12 years old. He had been taken to the circus, was fascinated by the high wire acts, and aspired to be an aerialist himself. It isn't clear whether he actually became a performer in the circus or only wanted to perform, but the costume looks quite professional, so perhaps he actually realized his dream at an early age. Then again we see portraits of both children and adults in elaborate costumes during this period. I am not sure how common circus costumes wre, but we see many costumes. We note that clown costumes which also came from the circus seem to have been particularly popular. If Basil was the son of a circus performer, he might have got into the circus through his upbringing. But as we lnow Basil was taken to see the circus, we know his prents were not circus people. Thus it seems unlikely that at this age he was actually involved in the circus himself. It seems a bit unlikely that parents would allow their son to engage in such a risky activity as trapeze work unless they were themselves in the entertainment business. Rather it seems likely that his prents endulged Basil by buying a cotume and treating him to a portrait in his costume.
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