Let's Go to the Circus:
Highlights from the Florence Stancliff Collection
Florence P. Stancliff (1906-1998) became a great fan of the circus around 1950, avidly watching the Shrine circuses and acts that came through Houston, Texas. This interest developed from her research for articles and features that appeared in the Shrine programs. Stancliff met many of the performers, some of whom wintered in southern Texas, received autographed photographs, and became part of the circus culture. One performer in particular she developed a relationship with was George Keller, whose act of trained big cats toured the country. This was a career change for Keller, who for many years taught art at the state teachers college in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Stancliff became Keller’s publicist in the early 1950s, writing articles and press releases, as well as a confidant, as shown in their correspondence.
The passion for circus life was demonstrated in the large collection of material Stancliff acquired over the years, which were displayed in a special room in her house: more than 300 books; circus newsletters; route cards that showed where circuses traveled to each week; circus programs, especially for the Arabia Shrine circus in Houston and Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey; post cards; photographs; and records of circus music. The items on George Keller include copies of the Disneyland News and originals maps of the theme park, documenting when Keller began performing there in November 1955, just four months after it opened. The entire collection was donated to the Bloomsburg University Archives by Stancliff’s son Fred as a complement to the existing material on George Keller.
This exhibit of the Florence Stancliff Circus Collection contains examples of all of the above items and can be found in the flat cases in front of the University Archives on the third floor of Andruss Library, and will be on display until November 15, 2019. In addition, a concise overview of George Keller’s life and career is in the wall cases to the right of the doors to the Archives.
The University Archives periodically creates online or 'virtual' exhibits to highlight the Archives' collections and the history of Bloomsburg University.
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