The front page of the Bloomington (IN) Evening World on October 22, 1917, announced that Bloomington, the home of circuses and circus men, was to have another big show enterprise organized by J. W. Gentry, East Kirkwood Avenue, who helped make the Gentry Bros. Show famous from coast to coast. Gentry reportedly was at work on the formation of a company that would take out a big, overland circus next spring to be transported from town to town over the entire United States by motor trucks.
Gentry noted that the new circus will have elephants, camels, lions, monkeys, dogs and ponies and all kinds of circus acts, the best that money can buy. As soon as the regular season opens, the show will play its opening performance here and then start out on a schedule that will take it to every state in the union.
The new project of transporting a big circus from city to city on motor trucks is no experiment as it was tried successfully last season by two or three men who stand high in the circus world, one of them being the son of Al Ringling of the famous Ringling show. There are many things in favor of a motor transported circus, the chief item being the fact that one can be hauled and operated for about $500 less per day than those carried by the railroads. With the wonderful improvement in road building, which is generally all over the country, a caravan of motor trucks can move the biggest kind of load over a hill, and the show has the advantage of being able to stop at all towns, playing them as they lay on the map.
The show will be first class in every particular and will start out with the Gentry stamp on it which means the very highest and best. I will travel with the show as its head and general manager which will give the enterprise a wonder prestige wherever it goes. A herd of elephants will be carried which insures that the equipment will be safely transported as the “bulls” could be used to boost the heavy trucks over any hill in case anything should go wrong with the motor.
The Gentry boys always put their whole soul into every project they undertake and with my 25 years of practical experience in the show business, the present undertaking will be like play.
NOTE: In spite of this announcement, according to the February 2004 issue of the Journal of Gentry Genealogy the Gentrys lost control of the show in 1915 and 1916. The new owners were Ben Austin and J. C. Newman. In 1922 James Patterson purchased the circus and operated it as the Gentry-Patterson Circus until Henry and Floyd King took over in 1925. On Thursday, October 23, 1929, the day before Black Friday on Wall Street, the Gentry Bros, in Paris, Tennessee, played it’s last and final show. It then went into receivership and was eventually sold in lots. James William “J. W.” Gentry died on December 3, 1936 at the age of 68 and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery
Blog post by Randi Richardson