Narrating the correlation of elephants as related to their import, groupings, breeding and transfers,
along with other elephant related topics.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Ringling Bros. Blue Unit 1972

Veterinarian John Cunningham of Olney, Maryland, worked on the ringstock crew of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1972 prior to attending veterinary school. During his annual visit to the Kelly Miller Circus, he shared his collection of photographs taken during his employment with the show.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Blue Unit 1972
Courtesy of Dr. J. Cunningham

The late elephant historian Ray "Sabu" Moreau documents the 1972 Blue Unit's herd in a record compilation from 1968-1975.

- Ring 1 ( Icky, Lucy, Targa, India, Susan w/ Robert "Suny" Ridley, Donald "Dallas" Haris, John Stiegel, Sabu /Ray Moreau/ )
- Center Ring ( Siam, Rani, Jewel, Karnaudi, John w/ Axel Gautier, David Ramage, Mike Graf )
- Ring 3 ( Calcutta, Betty, Roma, Putzi, Cora w/ Roman Schmitt, Jack Crawford, Robert "Bob" Hutchison )

Three elephants not listed in the performance rings are included on the stable line - Marcella, Jenny and Karen. Elephant superintendent is Axel Gautier with assistants Robert "Suny" Ridley and Roman Schmitt.

In comparing the picture to Moreau's records, all the elephants in the photograph are wearing headpieces save two - the large female at far left ( presumed to be Marcella, aged in her 50s ) and the small female at far right ( Karen, acquired less than three years prior from Thailand via Henry Trefflich ). If so, it is interesting that Jenny wears a headpiece but does not perform in a ring. Perhaps this allows the presentation of three five-acts and she is brought in for the long mount or other display.

This herd remained consistently under Axel Gautier with the Blue Unit through the 1977 season until the herd was swapped in 1978 with that of Circus World, under the direction of Buckles Woodcock. An exception is Marcella, retired to Circus World a year earlier in early 1977.

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I eagerly anticipate associating with new individuals with an interest or history in elephants, elephant history and elephant record keeping. If you have further information regarding the animals or locations questioned in the article, please leave a comment or message me in an effort to complete their records for elephant historians.