Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sentimental Sunday: Sam, Anna, and the Circus Elephants

From Bridgeport History Center, photo of the circus's winter headquarters in Connecticut
With the news that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is shutting down, I thought about my maternal great-uncle Sam Schwartz (1883-1954) and his bride, Anna Gelbman Schwartz (1886-1940), walking past the elephants in downtown Bridgeport, CT, circa 1909.

Anna's Gelbman family lived at 71 Wordin Avenue for many years, not far from the newly-wed Schwartz couple and a short walk from the field in central Bridgeport where P.T. Barnum housed his circus (see photo above). Today, the area around the former Gelbman house is a highway.

Sam and Anna married on October 24, 1909, in her local synagogue on Cherry Street in Bridgeport (no longer there). After their marriage, they lived at 95 Clinton Ave. in Bridgeport before moving to New York City. They would have seen P.T. Barnum's elephants as they crossed downtown Bridgeport, as usual.

Just a week before he married Anna, Sam had become a naturalized U.S. citizen. (Sam was born in Ungvar, Hungary, while Anna was born in New York City). In fact, Sam and Anna applied for their marriage license on the very day he became a citizen. Anna was born in January, 1886--this month would have been her 131st birthday.

Thanks to my honorary cousin Art (he's related to Anna's family) for partnering with me on this research!


  1. Coincidentally Marion, when I heard the news about Ringling Bros closing, I too recollected my genealogy findings – my granda’s cousin became a juggler with Ringling Bros. and even featured in their movie ‘The greatest Show on Earth’.

  2. Dara, what an interesting life your cousin must have led! Do you have photos in "full juggling mode"?

  3. What a timely post. I've never been a big circus fan, but the circus was fascinating to me several years ago when I read Water for Elephants and visited the Ringling Circus Museum in Florida. That was a hard but adventurous life for those who lived it.

    Marian, I think it was so special, so perfect that they married on the day he became a citizen.

  4. I've never been to the Ringling Circus Museum. Sounds like I should plan to visit next time I go south! Thanks, Wendy, for the idea.

  5. How interesting! And, I'll have to read Dara's post, too.