Odds and quads

These handbills come from the John Bramwell Taylor Collection, which forms part of the University of Sheffield's National Fairground Archive.

November 25, 2010

Taylor was a Yorkshireman who moved south during the 1930s and spent his working life as a porter at The Travellers Club in London.

Yet he devoted all his free time and money to collecting printed ephemera. The material of interest to the archive was purchased from his estate after he died in 2003.

The collection consists of 19th-century flyers, handbills and programmes for shows, fairs, expositions and circus performances.

The Pavilion of the Gigantic Whale, for example, displayed the huge carcass - which experts estimated "must have lived nine or 10 centuries" - in a tent. Spectators were invited to ascend a platform inside the whale's ribcage and enjoy a performance by a 24-piece orchestra.

The archive is a unique collection covering every aspect of the culture, social history and everyday life of travelling showpeople. It now holds more than 80,000 photographic images as well as manuscripts, audio-visual material and fairground machinery.

Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to: matthew.reisz @tsleducation.com.

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