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Wirth Circus in Australia

Wirth Circus
Wirths Circus elephants lined up at Wallangarra, 1928
Wirths Circus elephants lined up at Wallangarra, 1928
First elephant1899
Closed down1963

Wirths Circus, one of Australias most well-known family circuses, toured the country extensively in the 1920s and embarked on world tours to England, South Africa and South-East Asia.

John Wirth (1834-1880), a musician from Bavaria, and his English wife Sarah, née Phillips, had the sons John, Harry, Philip Peter Jacob (1864-1937) and George (1867-1941). The sons joined Ashtons Circus in 1879-1881 (when Ashtons was touring Australia), and soon had their own circus.

1893: the Wirths decided to tour South Africa.
1899: Wirths first elephant Gunah Sah arrived.
1907: the Wirths leased the Olympia building in Melbourne (now the site of the Victorian Arts Centre); by then, elephants had been added to the circus menagerie.
1916: Wirths Hippodrome opened in Sydney in April. (In 1927 it became the Capitol Theatre)

Ocean View at 370 Alison Road, Sydney, was built in 1916 by Phillip Wirth, a prominent member of the Wirth circus dynasty. Because of the cramped conditions associated with circus life, the Australian Heritage Database states, "he was determined that his house would be of a grand nature, providing his family with all the creature comforts and conveniences that life on the road had deprived them of."
Perched on a ridge with panoramic coastal views, the two-storey home has an ensuite in each bedroom - one of the earliest houses in Sydney known to have such mod cons. There was even a private zoo on the original 3693 square-metre block. When the circus was in town, residents would witness a parade of animals moving between the eastern suburbs and the city.

Don Covington at Buckles blog, May 08, 2009

1925: The circus had at least 12 elephants. (see photo above) Wirth's Circus Elephants taken in 1925 Eileen Wirth With Trainer Harry Mooney far right.

1928: The circus had at least 8 elephants. (see photo above)
1930: George Wirth retired.

1932: claiming to have 9 elephants on poster.

Six big Wirths Circus elephants with their attendants cross the Bridge, 1932.

Elephants loading the train, Sydney, ca. 1932

1935: The cicus had an unsuccessful tour to Java.
1937: Philip Wirth died at his Coogee home on 29 August 1937. Australias most outstanding circus continued to be run by Philips family and was the only one permitted to travel in Australia during World War II, albeit on a reduced scale and with its itinerary limited by petrol rationing. Wirths Circus flourished after the war.
1956-1959: 6 elephants: Rill, Eily, Jessie, Dolly, Lena, Jessie, Jodee. (Ratcliffe)
1959: Eily was hit by a train in Australia in 1959. (Ratcliffe)
1960-1961: Wirths came to New Zealand with 5 elephants in 1960/61. (Ratcliffe)
1963: The circus declined with the advent of television, and in 1963 disbanded.
Dolly was put down due to old age.

The remaining 4 elephants: Rill, Jessie, Lena, Jessie, and Jodee were sold to Ashtons circus. (Ratcliffe) Guestbook Recent changes-updates Glossary - Encyclopedia Frequently asked questions Elephant Facts & Trivia Evolution Extinct:Proboscidea Species Anatomy Diseases People Care Footcare Training Breeding Database Location database Shiva Organizations Literature F Posters Website Webrings Contact Selected links News