Circus Williams, located at 116 Aachener Strasse, in Cologne, in Germany, was founded in 1946. Circus Williams closed down in 1968.
1941: Harry Williams (1902-1951) and Carola Althoff (1903-1987), daughter to Dominik Althoff married. Together they had the children Jeanette and Alfons Williams. (Carola Althoff was married before to Reinhold Kwasnik, artist name: Harry Barlay, and together they founded (Circus Barley. In her first marriage Carola had the son Holdy Barley.)
1946: The circus Williams was founded by Carola and Harry Williams, with help from Dominik Althoff. But Harry Williams british citizenship was also a help for the pair to fund a circus right after the ending of WWII.
1946: Circus Williams hired fifteen-year-old Gerd Siemoneit to work as an animal keeper, he became later one of europes most famous animal trainers, and owner of Circus Barum. Heinz Geier, who would later become the Director and owner of Circus Busch-Roland, started as an animal keeper with Circus Williams.
1947: Carola also adopted Gunther Gebel, abandoned by his mother when he was 12 years old. Gunter was born 12. September 1934 in Schweidnitz, Silesia, as son to scenic carpenter Max Gebel and theater seamstress Elfried Gebel. Max Gebel joined the Wehrmacht and after the world did not stay with Elfried anymore. During two weeks in 1947, Elfried worked as seamstress at Circus Williams, but she left Gunther in the care of the Williamses as an apprentice with a five-year contract. Gunther learned abouth horses from Harry Williams, and about large carnivor training from Charly Baumann and Gerd Siemoneit.
1950-12-22: During christmas engagement for Tom Arnold at the Harringay Arena in London, Harry Williams had an accident, he was violently ejected from his chariot.
1951-01-10: Harry Williams died of his injuries.
1951: Carola Williams leased her circus to Harry Barley, and sent Gunther to her brother, Franz Althoff, from whom Gunther learned how to train elephants.
1952: Carola took charge of her circus again, together with her brother Adolf Althoff, and she gave more resonsibilities to her adopted son Gunther Gebel-Williams, while her own children was not traveling with the circus due to their education. Gunther improved his elephant training from Adolf Althoff.
1956: Adolf Althoff left the circus, and 22 years old Gunther now took over the elephants from him. He also developed further with horses, being schooled by Carolaâ€™s father, Dominik Althoff (1883-1974).
1956: Gunther Gebel-Williams at Circus Williams 1956 in Erlangen in Germany
1960: Alfons died in a car accident in Belgium.
Circus Williams in Berlin, 1960
1961: Carolas daughter Jeanette married Gunther Gebel, who changed his name to Gunther Gebel-Williams.
Circus Willams elephants and Gunther Gebel-Williams
1961: The circus had 11 elephants, showed in the ring by Gunther.
1962: Gunther trained an act with the african elephant Kongo and his trusted tiger Bengali.
1967: Jeanette Williams and Gunther Gebel-Williams divorced, and Gunther married Sigrid Neubauer (born 8 September 1943), a former model from Berlin, who had the daughter Tina (born 16 November 1962 in Berlin) from an earlier marriage.
1968: Carola Williams rented out the circus to Ringling Brothers Barnum and Baileys in USA, and the entire circus went over the Atlantic ocean with the Swedish containership "Atlantic Saga", with 17 elephants, 9 tigers and 25 horses. This became the Ringling Red Unit, and Circus Williams did not exist anymore.