Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Martini Maccomo--The African Lion King

I find it interesting that the gentleman pictured below in front of Manders Menagerie and named 'Black Joe' bears a striking resemblance to trainer Martini Maccomo, 'The African Lion King' who was mauled by yet another lion named Wallace?

Frommer's Britain For Free - Google Books Result

The Circus "NO SPIN ZONE": Wallace the Lion

Illustrated and descriptive history ... - Kevin Scrivens, Stephen Smith ...

Black animal trainers in late 19th century Britain
By Jeffrey Green

The old horse-drawn menageries expanded as railways provided faster journeys between towns and permitted more of the public to gather in one place. Animals on show were exotic but to increase the attractiveness men (and some women) performed with them. Lion tamers were at the top of the list for thrills – and a large number of them were ‘coloured’ or ‘black’.

In August 1860 the Alhambra in central London had a boring show with a black man riding on a hippo. On 6 January 1862 The Times reported that Maccomo the ‘African lion tamer’ working with Manders’s menagerie in Norwich had been attacked by a lion. The year before, the census had recorded him as Angola-born Martini Maccomo aged 25, then in Bath. He performed with both lions and tigers, and was in Newbury then Southampton in July 1870. He died in Sunderland in January 1871.

Charles Wood was attacked by a bear at Day’s menagerie in Walsall (Birmingham Daily Post, 28 September 1870). Martin Largue worked with both lions and tigers for the Sanger-Astley group in London in 1879 (Standard 21 January 1879) and the Aquarium in Shoreditch, London, had Richard Jorgnis (he worked as Dacona) in 1880 according to Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper of 18 January. Hezekiah Moscow had that job in 1884 – the RSPCA alleged he had mistreated a bear but the law relating to animal cruelty was restricted to domestic animals and bears were not domestic (Morning Post 4 February 1884, Manchester Times 9 February 1884 etc). Ledger Delmonico was successfully sued by the RSPCA for cruelty to his hyenas in Derby in 1880.

Some of these animal trainers were foolish: Alexander Young returned drunk from a day at the races in Irvine, Scotland in August 1889 and got into the lion’s cage (Glasgow Herald 27 August 1889) and Marcus Orenzo went into a cage of five lions with just a short stick – and was attacked (Shrewsbury, September 1889).

The fashion for coloured animal trainers can be seen in advertisements in Britain’s weekly show business magazine Era: 28 October 1893, 1 June 1895, 2 May 1896 for example.

Ephraim ‘Eph’ Thompson was a skilled elephant trainer born in Philadelphia and known well into Russia. He and his beasts were in London in December 1893. He died in Egypt and is buried in Woking, Surrey as is his Russia-born son. There are relatives in England a century later. Martin Bartlett was based in Yorkshire in the 1890s. And Alexander Beaumont had been attacked by one of his lions in Bolton in January 1893, and was killed by one in Islington at Christmas 1895. John Humphreys who was born in St Vincent in the British West Indies was widely known as Alicamousa, and was in London in 1882 and in Scotland in the 1890s. An American who married into an English circus family in 1866 worked as a lion tamer before becoming an actor. Joseph Ledger died in England at the end of the century.


R.Perkin said...

Eph Thompson's son Leo died in Yardley Sanatorium Birmingham UK, he suffered the same illness as his father.In the 1911 Census it gives Leo as an animal trainer and he was living in London at that time and i am wondering if any of your readers have come across him.thanks from Leo's grandson

Anonymous said...

from Jim Stockley:

1862: Alarming Accident in a Menagerie: Macomo, "the African lion tamer", well known throughout England in connexion with Mander's menageries, is now confied to his bed at Norwich, having met with rather an alarming accident a few days since while going through some of his performances. It appears that Macomo, who is a very intelligent and couragous African, was engaged in representing a lion and tiger hunt when a young lion suddenly reared and caught him by the shoulders. Macomo had a spangled dress on, or probably the performance would have been his last; as it was, he was dragged down and the lion fastened upon his left hand. Macomo, however happily slipped and fell under the lion near the railing of the large den in which the "hunt" had been represented; and his assailant being beaten off with an iron rod, he was quickly released from his critical position. It was then found that he had been severely bitten in the hand, and part of the fore finger has been amputated. Macomo (who was bitten in the leg by a lioness while exhibiting in Norwich two years since) is now progessing favourably. (The Times, 6 Jan 1862)

Wade G. Burck said...

Thank you, good stuff. Although I question whether you could "slip happily" under any animal. I have always found it to be more of a bitch then pleasant. :)


Anonymous said...

from Jim Stockley:

I suppose you can 'slip happily' if it gets you out of the pooh and safely home? It is all a question of degrees of happiness, I suppose? ;-)

" .... There are relatives in England a century later. Martin Bartlett was based in Yorkshire in the 1890s......."

If the writer means Martini Bartlett then he is mistaken to add him to his list of Black Trainers. Martini Bartlett (aka Tommy Day of Day's Menagerie - brother to James "Wild Beast" Day) was married to Pauline Chipperfield (my GGreat Aunt's daughter)- famous for the bouncing lion act and exiting the wagon, leaving the door open and a lioness stood in the doorway roaring at the crowd .... a good way to clear the place for the next show?

"Alexander Beaumont had been attacked by one of his lions in Bolton in January 1893, and was killed by one in Islington at Christmas 1895."

Beaumont worked for Andrew Purchase (my uncle Jimmy Chipperfield was married to Rosie Purchase, granddaughter of Andrew Purchase). Beaumont was working for Fossett's at Christmas 1895 when attacked but I think he only died the following April .... (before antibiotics the infection killed them). Young Andrew Purchase took on the name 'Beaumont' after the death of Alexander Beaumont.

In the late 1920's my aunt, Maude Chipperfield, left the family for a while and for a time worked a group of Great Danes and Lionesses at Sedgewick's Menagerie.

I love all this old menagerie stuff .... wish I'd had a tape-recorder as a kid and made more notes (and paid more attention) when my Aunts and Uncles told the tales!

Jim Clubb has been assembling notes and clippings for years and may EVENTUALLY write a book on all the old Menagerie trainers ;-)

Wade G. Burck said...

Yes, the old menagerie day's were something special. The work involved in setting up, putting on, and then moving is mind boggling indeed. I don't think enough credit for what we know today is given to those who preceded us. For all their faults, they were learning as they went.
I agree Clubb needs to quit mucking about training new acts and get busy with writing a book. If he is having a problem getting started I am sure Jamie could help.


Anonymous said...

Mr husband's great grandfather was Thomas Crouch, 'Captain Ricardo' who rescued Alexander Beaumont from the lion in Islington. We cannot find any more information about him, whether he came from a circus family and nobody seems to know. Does anyone have any information?

Jill Fuentes said...

Ray, your grandfather was boarding with my great grandparents in Streatham London.