Tag Archives: entertainment

Mike Hogan’s Aqua Jester Trunk

Above: Aqua Jester Mike Hogan used this trunk at Aquatennials from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Clowns, jesters, and fools have existed for many hundreds of years in literature, dramatic performance, and pop culture. Children grow up seeing clown imagery with familiar characters like Ronald McDonald and the famous red clown noses sold to benefit charity. On a more sinister note, horror films featuring antagonistic clowns and sightings of people wearing creepy clown costumes to terrorize others have left many people with a fear or dislike of clowns, and have harmed the reputation of these performers. The objects of this week come from a trunk donated by Mike Hogan, an Aqua Jester clown between 1950 and 1990.

Len Jacobsson, another member of the Aqua Jesters, who performed at events like the Aquatennial, suggested that people who have a fear of clowns may have been embarrassed by one in the past. To combat this stigma, Aqua Jesters follow a strict code of ethics, with the guiding principle to make others laugh at their own expense rather than embarrassing their audience. Despite performing for laughs, many clowns take their craft seriously, working to perfect their appearance and comedic act. In response to the authenticity of the creepy clowns that were cropping up last year, performer Fred “Ozzie” Baisch pointed to their lack of dedication, saying, “No self-respecting clown would appear in a rubber mask.”

Aqua Jester coat 2017.0317.005.jpg

Above:; Hogan’s Aqua Jester coat is decorated with pins advertising the Aqua Jesters, the Schlitz Circus Parade, and two individual Aqua Jesters.

Not uncommon in Twin Cities history, a friendly sibling rivalry between Minneapolis and Saint Paul seems to have arisen even with their clown troupes. According to Katie Humphrey at the Star Tribune, community members in both Saint Paul and Minneapolis formed separate clown groups after World War II to perform at festivals. Later, Humphrey wrote, a women’s clown group called the Powder Puffs was formed because females were not allowed to join the male troupes. Camps and classes such as the Mooseburger Clown Arts Camp and the “Clowning Around” class at Lakewood Community College were created to train aspiring performers.

Aqua Jester Shoes 2017.0317.003a-b

Above: Mike Hogan’s oversized clown shoes were part of the gift to Hennepin History Museum that included his Aqua Jester trunk and coat.

Clown troupes in the Twin Cities were once very popular and a staple at parades and fairs. Today, membership is waning. With fewer clowns comes fewer visits to places with people in need of some cheerful clowns, especially nursing homes and hospitals. It may be time for the younger generation to try and break the stereotype of scary clowns by joining these groups to keep this historical tradition going. If you’ve ever thought of donning a red nose and some oversized shoes, this may be your time to shine.

Written by HHM intern Caitlin Crowley. Caitlin is a current Augsburg student where she is majoring in history with a Medieval History minor. She comes to HHM through the Minnesota Historical Society’s ACTC extern program.

Sources

Al Sicherman, “Class Clown,” Star Tribune, December 29, 1991.

Katie Humphrey, “Send in the clowns: Volunteer clown clubs, a staple of civic festivals for decades, are seeking more members as longtime merrymakers age,” Star Tribune, August 24, 2011.

Mary Jane Gustafson, “There is lot more to clowning than meets eye,” Newspaper Clipping from Clowns Folder at Hennepin History Museum.

Reta Stewart, “Clown ministry draws appreciative audiences,” Newspaper Clipping from Clowns Folder at Hennepin History Museum, April 21, 1986.

Sharyn Jackson, “Minnesota clowns distraught over ‘creepy clown’ craze: Professional clowns are disheartened that their image is being used as a fear factor,” Star Tribune, October 12, 2016.

Advertisements

“Fish” Jones and Hiawatha the Lion

Fish Jones.JPGRobert “Fish” Jones, with his signature beard and moustache

In 1876, a man named Robert Jones moved from New York to look for opportunities out west, and settled in Minneapolis. Missing the fresh fish so easily found on the east coast, he established his own fish market. To his chagrin, he soon gained the moniker “Fish” Jones.

Jones was an eccentric man, who wore a silk top hat, a Prince Albert suit, high heeled shoes that masked his short stature, and sported a pointed beard with a curled mustache. The name “Fish” rather suited him, as it was his lifelong love of animals of all kinds which led him to create Longfellow Gardens, the largest collection of exotic animals in the United States at the time. The gardens hosted a wide variety of animals; cats, bears, wolves, camels, elephants, monkeys, antelopes, porcupines, storks, cranes, flamingoes, falcons, peacocks, ostriches, parrots, and owls, to name a few.

LongfellowThe entrance to Longfellow Gardens

Fish Jones greatly admired the works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, erecting a statue on the grounds of the writer, modeling his home after Longfellow’s own, and even taking names for quite a few of his animals from “The Song of Hiawatha.” Notably, the names included several of his sea lions; Minnehaha, Hiawatha, Paupukeewis, Mudgekeewis, and Nokomis.

BearsFish Jones giving his bears, Teddy and Alice, their first tango lesson.

Though generally Fish seemed to have no issues allowing many of his animals roam free through the Longfellow Gardens, the sea lions once made an escape over Minnehaha Falls. This would have greatly saddened Fish, who, after receiving criticism for keeping a camel in Minnesota in the cold winters, responded by getting the camel some pantaloons and a coat to keep it warm. He would not have his camels freeze!

From early in his life, Jones was instructed by his father that animals had feelings just like humans do. The youngest of eleven children, Fish turned to animals for comfort and closeness.

Hiawatha.JPGHiawatha the Lion, Fish Jones’ beloved pet lion, at 4 years old. 

Today’s object is not an object at all but a former beloved pet of Fish Jones named Hiawatha the Lion. Named Hiawatha II, possibly proceeding the sea lion, Hiawatha I, Hiawatha II was the “premier lion” of Longfellow Gardens, and so treasured by Fish that when the lion passed away in the late 1920s, Fish took him to a taxidermist so he could preserve him.

HiawathaCloseUpHiawatha the Lion today, at approximately 110 years old. 

Jones’ practice with his animals was to spend time with each of them every day, treat them with kindness, and earn their trust with his own. Though he spoke of many of his animals fondly, Hiawatha the Lion and Fish Jones had a truly special bond. Today the only traces that remain of Longfellow Gardens are Fish Jones’ former home and the Longfellow statue, photographs and articles, and of course, Hiawatha the beloved Lion.

Written by HHM intern Caitlin Crowley. Caitlin is a current Augsburg student where she is majoring in history with a Medieval History minor. She comes to HHM through the Minnesota Historical Society’s ACTC extern program.

Sources

Gwinn, Sherman, “Jones Catches ‘Em Young But He Doesn’t Treat ‘Em Rough.” November 1925.

Lost Twin Cities 4.” TPT Documentaries. Web.

Robert “Fish” Jones Announcements Folder, HHM

Robert “Fish” Jones Brochures Folder HMM

“The Story of Longfellow Gardens,” a booklet edited and published by Fish Jones in 1911.

Zalusky, Joseph W. “He Was a Colorful Figure: Robert “Fish” Jones.”

Happy Historic Valentine’s Day!

On Valentine’s Day, secret admirers and sweethearts give one another heart-shaped boxes and lockets, red roses and bouquets, and candies with little love notes like “BE MINE.” Stores sell clothes and even lingerie with red hearts emblazoned across it. While our object of the week may look almost like a Valentine’s Day-themed lingerie set you could buy at Victoria’s Secret, in reality, it was once worn on the burlesque stages of downtown Minneapolis.

The Minneapolitan strolling down Hennepin Avenue on a weekend night may choose their vice: cocktails, dancing, or the sort of night clubs where bouncers stand menacingly outside. Strip clubs, some rather dingy in appearance, dot the downtown streets, and many visitors come and go from these places unaware of their connections to the burlesque clubs Minneapolis’ earlier years. While burlesque clubs were far from scandalous by today’s standards, they faced much of the same stigma as strip clubs experience today.

In the early 1900s, downtown Minneapolis was far from a bustling metropolis. Yet the variety of theaters in the Gateway District promised visitors plenty of opportunities for a good time. Theaters like the Alvin and the Gaetty held variety shows with comedians and headline acts performing alongside burlesque dancers, who were accompanied by musicians and chorus girls. “Candy butchers” sold treats to visitors in the lobbies, akin to the concession stands and bars of today’s theaters. These were places for all kinds of people; men and women, husbands and wives, and even parents and children. While some performances took place in dive bars, many were held in lavish theaters–real “class acts.”

This particular burlesque outfit, which was homemade by a woman who worked in one of these burlesque clubs, sports a lovely red heart sewn delicately across the breast, and a silky beaded ruffle of fabric across the lower piece. It’s not hard to imagine stockings being held up by the elastic straps along the side, the ruffles shaking, the performer wiggling her hips, and the audience watching and listening to lively music play. For a long time, burlesque performers fell out of fashion in Minneapolis in favor of go-go dancers and topless acts. Today, while it appears that strip clubs are more present than burlesque in Minneapolis, burlesque performances continue around the city and are respected by many as one of many forms of performance art.

We hope you happen upon heart-shaped treats of any kind this week, and that you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

2017-0124-408a-edited

Written by current HHM intern Caitlin Crowley.