|On this page we'll be featuring a variety of images relating to The Russell Brothers Circus from different eras in its
We have many images to share, and a wide range of themes and subjects to explore, so please check back frequently
to see what's new. Feel free to contact us with your comments and suggestions.
|Russell Brothers Animal All-Stars
|Hooray for the elephants! This delightful stock image depicts six elephants, two more than were actually featured in the
Russell show. You can view the genuine articles below.
|The Russell Bros. Elephant Herd circa 1936
From left to right: Rubber, Margaret, Sadie, Elsie
Of all the elephants to pass through the Russell ranks, it is arguable that the most celebrated specimen was Elsie, who
stands at the far right in the photo above. She made national headlines in the summer of 1939 by getting loose and
spending three days roaming inquisitively through rural Virginia!
There is no doubt, however, that the most beloved Russell elephant was Rubber, the impish charmer at the far left
above. Rubber was a born performer who also received national newspaper exposure for being one of the few circus
elephants allowed to perform her routine (which included playing the harmonica while dancing a jig!) unaccompanied by
a trainer or handler.
Keith Webb (please see our BOOK page) has fond memories of Rubber as a childhood playmate. "She would reach out
with her trunk and play with my shirt buttons while I was trying to sleep in the elephant trailer while the circus was moving
to the next town," he recalls. "It's a wonderful thing for a small boy to know that he's loved by an elephant."
The Russell Bros. Circus never had an official mascot, but for a time it did feature a legendary chimpanzee named
Topsy who served as both a star attraction and a rather unique goodwill ambassador. Russell publicity man Bill Antes
regularly dispatched newspaper columns "written" by Topsy that featured her musings on circus life and the inside
activity she witnessed around the back yard (that portion of the lot off limits to the general public).
Legend has it that she was captured in Africa and brought back stateside by Frank Buck, Mr. "Bring 'Em Back Alive"
himself (Buck was also a featured guest in a later edition of the Russell show).
Visitors to the Russell menagerie could observe Topsy cavorting in her own furnished set of miniature rooms, including
a fully appointed bathroom suite! On the road, she frequently travelled with the show's owners in their trailer, and at
winter quarters in Rolla, Mo., Topsy had her own room in their house.
Although Topsy rode a tricycle around the center ring and performed a variety of stunts, perhaps her most remarkable
feat occurred daily in the cook house, where she sidled into a seat amidst her fellow artists and consumed her meals
with a knife and fork! One of her favorite treats was pancakes.
To this day Keith Webb fondly reflects on Topsy, not as a circus act, but as a childhood playmate who was also his
|Walter Jennier and his "college-educated" sea lion Buddy were
mainstays and longtime favorites of the Russell Brothers Circus.
Buddy was a virtuoso on the musical horns, could walk a tight wire
and balance on one fin, and was even advertised as capable of
impersonating the leading celebrities of the day!
Look for more on Buddy and Walter Jennier in our next installment
of the Russell Brothers Circus Gallery.