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Two personal scrapbook-photograph albums belonging to Buckskin Ben Stalker, the owner of Buckskin Ben's Wild West Show
Cambridge, Indiana, 1930. Two albums (each approximately 9" x 11.5") containing 74 pages with over 150 newspaper clippings, 97 photographs and real-photo-postcards (RPPC), several business letters, and three promotional handbills. The inside cover of one album is annotated in green ink: "Property of / Buckskin Ben (Ben Stalker) / Per. Address. / Buckskin Ben's Famous / Wild West Show / Cambridge City. Ind. / Lloyd Jeffries / Publicity Director." Buckskin Ben's photographic business card is mounted below the inscription. The photographs and RPPC include images of Ben in costume and mufti, trick riding, bucking broncos, animal acts including a high-diving dog, rope tricks, trick shots and sharpshooting by the Stalker children, the human impalement knife-throwing act, the cast relaxing, and more.All of the items in one album have been glued in place. Much of the material in the second album has been attached using what appear to be mounting "dots" that are integral to the pages. The albums have some wear, but all pages are soundly attached. Some of the clippings have toned. The spine of one album has been repaired with black cloth tape; now-yellowed cello-tape (affecting two clippings) was used to help hold its front cover in place. This is a unique, personal collections of memories compiled over almost thirty years by the owner and star-performer of a very successful Wild West Show. Buckskin Ben's Wild West, which has been called "The Biggest Little Wild West Show on Earth," was the creation of Ben Stalker, who was born in what is now the state of Oklahoma and never knew his parents. Stalker claimed to have been raised in an isolated cabin by a Native American trapper known as Rocky Mountain Tom White until the age of 12 when, according to a later annotation in the one of the scrapbooks, he a became a temporary ward of the famous pioneer, Ezra Meeker. Eventually, Ben found work on a cattle drive and by the age of 15 had become a seasoned cowboy. He married in the mid-1880s and shortly after became inspired to start a Wild West show on his own. His new wife, Mary shared his vision, picked up a rifle for the first time, and practiced until she became a crack shot. Mary also agreed to participate in what would become their featured "Human Impalement Act," where she stood stock-still against a wooden backboard while Ben threw knives around her profile. Eventually, they raised five children, and all became full-fledged sharpshooters featured in the show along with a number of other cowboy performers who specialized in rough and trick riding, lasso throwing, rope tricks, and animal acts. Ben's shows were billed as "Refined, High Class" entertainment with "No gambling or immoral attractions connected to the company." Each show consisted of six to eight half-hour acts and began with a musical performance by the exceptionally popular Buckskin Ben Family Band in which every family member played an instrument. Although the show always remained rather small, it was very successful, and in 1905 appeared for 14 weeks at Coney Island. Ben frequently signed on for entire seasons to travel with larger circuses and carnivals performing throughout the East, Midwest, Canada, and Mexico. When not on tour, the Stalker family and there show resided in Cambridge, Indiana. The show, renamed Buckskin Ben's Wild West Dog and Pony Show, continued in operation until 1929 when Ben retired at the age of 86.
      [Bookseller: Read 'Em Again Books, ABAA]
Last Found On: 2016-11-28           Check availability:      IOBABooks    


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