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Friday, January 19, 2018

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Witte Museum Presents Texas Performers Under the Big Top
Witte Museum

August, 2012

Step right up and see for yourself the Witte’s own Texas Performers Under the Big Top exhibit, on display from September 1, 2012 through January 13, 2013. Drawing from the world-renowned Hertzberg Circus Collection, which makes up the country’s oldest public collection of circus historical artifacts, the exhibition showcases top performers in Wild West shows and circuses started Texas.

From San Antonio’s Esquivel Brothers and Buffalo Bill to El Paso’s Jack Earl the Giant, circus troupes have flocked to the Lone Star State since before the Civil War and continue to come today. Additionally, some top performers and circuses such as the Daily Brothers Circus and the Christy Brothers Circus, spent the off-season in Texas.Texas Performers Under the Big Top goes behind the circus tent to offer an exciting and interactive experience that all ages will enjoy. Discover authentic circus garb and props like Jack Earle’s Cowboy Hat, Alfredo Codona’s leotard as well as artifacts used by sideshow performers, trapeze artists and tight ropers! Other eye-popping additions include Daisy and Violet Hilton, the San Antonio Siamese Twins; a chair covered with teeth and claw marks used by famed animal trainer Clyde Beatty and clown shows of the world famous Emmett Kelly.

The Witte Museum proudly houses the historic Hertzberg Circus Collection, an acquisition that dates back nearly a decade, though the collection itself can be traced to the early 20th century. San Antonio lawyer, civic leader and State Senator Harry Hertzberg was an avid circus fan and a prolific collector and amassed a collection of approximately 20,000 circus posters, photographs, costumes, archives and artifacts.

Hertzberg left his circus collection to the City of San Antonio upon his death in 1940.  In 1942 the San Antonio Public Library opened the Hertzberg Circus Room on the second floor of the public library.  When a new library opened in 1968, the Hertzberg Collection took over the old building and became known as the Hertzberg Circus Collection and Museum.  While the museum was in operation, the collection doubled to more than 40,000 items. In 2001 the collection was transferred to the Witte Museum in 2003.


Texas Performers Under the Big Top is generously supported by the Marcia and Otto Koehler Foundation and Natalie, Gladys Dalkowitz Charitable Trust, Great Events and Rentals and the City of San Antonio Office of Cultural Affairs.


Texas performers Under the Big Top is included with museum general admission. For more information call 210.357.1910 or visit


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