James L. Hutchinson - Circus Page

"Peanuts and Pink Lemonade"

James L. Hutchinson

James L. Hutchinson

The Barnum, Bailey And Hutchinson Show

from The Republican Examiner, Jerseyville, Illinois, September 7, 1881

This tremendous consolidation, conceded the most extensive, respectable and moral exhibition anywhere in the wide world, will give two performances here on Saturday, September 17, as per official announcement largely made in another part of this issue. So large is this great establishment that it performs only in the larger classed towns en route, and only pauses here because one of the proprietors, James L. Hutchinson, was born and reared here. His mother, sisters and a brother and many other relatives, greatly beloved by him, are still residents of this city and county.
Almost everybody remembers a little fair-haired boy, always bright and cheerful, who was daily seen on our streets only a few years ago. His family was poor, but frugal and honest. He was popular with everybody because of his manly ways, frank demeanor and industrious habits. He grew up to manhood used to the hardships of laborious life. He worked in the adjacent harvest fields at twenty-five cents per day; set type in the UNION office for Doublebower for which he received pied type for compensation and with which he published a little two column paper once a week himself. The circulation, like the material, was limited, but only goes to show what sort of stuff the then man-boy was made of. He also clerked in Vandervoort's store for, we understand, one hundred dollars a year. But this slow going business was too monotonous for the ambitious "Shorty" Hutchinson, as his friends still call him. After a year or two's experience as agent and side-show lecturer with smaller shows, he went, in 1870, with P.T. Barnum as Mr. B's book agent. From that moment his fortune was made. He has gone up, up, up, until today he is accredited with being worth a half a million dollars, besides he is the honored friend of Mr. Barnum and his valued associate in business, together with James A. Bailey.

The management has no hope that the receipts will cover the enormous expenses. It is only to let Hutchinson's friends and relatives see the largest show in the world that it stops here on its way from Chicago to St. Louis. Well may we felicitate ourselves on this opportunity to see what President Garfield and his cabinet, the United States senate in a body, the general of the Army and the foreign ministers in Washington have pronounced the "most extraordinary and perfect exhibition in the world."

Barnum presents a medal to James L. Hutchinson, 1871.

The Creation of the Barnum, Bailey & Hutchinson Show

Former Rival And Then Partner Of Barnum Dead

James L. Hutchinson, Veteran Circus Man Dies at Summer House in New York

from the Jerseyville Republican, Jerseyville, Illinois, April 10, 1902

New York, Sept. 4 - James L. Hutchinson, formerly a partner of Phineas T. Barnum and James Bailey in the circus business, and one of the veteran circus men of the country, died at his summer home on Shelter Island, Saturday morning.

Mr. Hutchinson was born sixty-four years ago at Jerseyville, Illinois. In those days P.T. Barnum had made a great reputation as a showman and young Hutchinson was attracted toward the circus in the early '70's. After getting a common school education he worked hard, saved his money and bought an interest in a small traveling circus. He prospered and bought controlling interest in the enterprise. He made it an active rival of Barnum's "Greatest Show on Earth" and Barnum though it advisable to buy him out and make him a partner in Barnum & Bailey.

Mr. Hutchinson retired from business about fifteen years ago with a considerable fortune. He built a house at Englewood, J.J. and established a summer home on Shelter Island. He was fond of golf and yachting and owned a house-boat, upon which he spent a good part of his summers.

He leaves two sons and two daughters; James L. Hutchinson Jr, and Guy Hutchinson, who was a famous quarterback on the Yale football team and was graduated in 1906; Mrs. Eugene Verdery of Augusta, Ga., and Miss Ruth Hutchinson. (From the Daily Democrat, Jerseyville, Illinois, Monday, September 5, 1910)

Vivenne, wife of James L. "Shorty" Hutchinson, died at her home in Morristown, New Jersey, April 1, 1902. Funeral was held from Collegiate Church Chapel, April 3, the Rev. Dr. Burrell officiating. She was a woman of high standing, and a worker in the church and charitable enterprises.



Worked in the harvest fields at twenty-five cents per day;
Set type in the UNION office for Doublebower for which he received pied type for compensation and with which he published a little two column paper once a week himself;
Clerked in Vandervoort's store for one hundred dollars a year.

At about 16 years of age, joined up with one of the two-ring circus shows that visited the area.

Late 1860s to early 1870s

A “Slug 10" on the Chicago Inter Ocean. Worked as a compositor in winter, working the circuses in the summers as the owner of the “priviledges,” which included selling peanuts and pink lemonade. He also had an interest in a number of “freaks,” which he loaned out to side shows and museums.

Before 1870, a year or two's experience as agent and side-show lecturer with smaller shows.

1871, with P.T. Barnum as Mr. B's book agent.

1876-1877, Van Amburg's

1878, Concessionaire on Howes Great London

1879-1880, Cooper & Bailey's London Circus and International Allied Shows Combined.

Barnum, Bailey & Hutchinson

1880 Bailey and Hutchinson form partnership with Barnum.

1881-1887, P.T. Barnum’s Greatest Show on Earth, The London Circus and International Allied Shows Combined.

1887 Hutchinson retires at the end of the season. Barnum, Hutchinson, Cole, Bailey and Cooper sign papers by which Bailey becomes sole partner with Barnum. Shortly afterward, the entire Bridgeport, Connecticut property of the Barnum & Bailey Circus was destroyed by fire. People referred to “Hutchinson’s luck, selling out for $650,000 before the show suffered this financial set-back.

1902 purchases home in Morristown, NJ, sells in 1906. Listed as worth $3,000,000.


The Republican Examiner, Jerseyville, Illinois, September 7, 1881

Richard E. Conover, The Affairs of James A. Bailey. New Revelations on the Career of the World’s Most Successful Showman. 1957. Richard E. Conover, Route 4, Xenia, Ohio.

George L. Chindahl. A History of the Circus in America. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printer, Ltd., 1959

Jersey County Democrat, Jerseyville, Illinois, November 17, 1887

New York Times, November 28, 1887, p. 5

Jacksonville Courier, February 1971.

John W. Rae and John W. Rae, Jr. Morristown’s Forgotten Past “The Gilded Age.” John W. Rae, Morristown, New Jersey, 1979


Hutchinson Genealogy Take a look! Information needed.

Great American Circuses

Email Judy - email address, a great grandniece of James L. Hutchinson.

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