Bio: Skerbeck, Frank Jr. (6 Jan 1847)

contact: Jim


---Source: Historical Sketches of Dorchester, Wisconsin (1873-1973)


                                SKERBECK CIRCUS FAMILY

Picture taken approximately 1891. Small girl in front is Clara (Lapp).

Back Row, L. to R.: Antone, Gustave, Frank Jr., (father) Joseph and Antoinette.

Skerbeck Circus Family History

The Skerbeck Circus originated in Europe in 1857, with Frank, Sr. trading his linen factory in Aussig, Bohemia for a small traveling circus. His entire family were performers. One of his children, Frank Jr., born Jan. 6, 1847 came to Dorchester in 1881 with his family settling in the virgin timberland on the farm owned presently by Donald Fierke in the Township of Deer Creek. Nine of the 16 children in his family lived to adulthood. Among these were Joseph born Jan. 6,1874 in Austria (died Nov. 21, 1954P Antoinette, Anna Gustav, Antone, Clara, Amanda, Pearl and Frank III. All of the children were trained to perform. Joe was a singing clown, had high wire act, trapeze and tumbling acts Antoinette (died Jan. 21, 1949) was a contortionist. At one time Mrs. Frank Skerbeck had a snake-charming act.

The first few summers after the Skerbecks arrived in Wisconsin, were spent on their farm, building a home and a barn large enough to serve as practice quarters for the circus he planned to start. Their place was called the Old Blue Farm, all buildings painted blue, the color traditionally used in painting bleachers. To this day putting up the seats is called setting up the blues, an idiom show people credit to Frank Skerbeck Jr. During winter months the family went on tour playing halls, schools and opera houses in Wisconsin, Chicago and Minneapolis. Frank as an acrobat, sword-swallower and trapeze artist and the children as acrobats, gymnasts, contortionist and trapeze acts had their first tenting season in 1884. There is a tradition in the Skerbeck family that Frank encouraged Al Ringling to take out a show under canvas, and that Frank sold Al his first circus tent, and also opened in 1884.

In partnership with Eph Williams for a period of years, Frank organized his circus in 1885, opening at Medford, Wisconsin on July 21, 1885 with 10 wagons, a 12 piece band, and the Williams trained animals.



1969 Route Card for the Skerbeck Amusement Co., Inc.

Provided by Jim Jantsch




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