Cayetano Mariotini: The 19th-Century Circus & Cayetano’s Tour

This week I am trying to focus on the importance of the circus in the 19th century.  During the 19th century European circuses and American circus began to diverge.  The circuses in Europe, continued on in much of the same manner as before, using a single ring.  The towns were relatively closer together in Europe, which allowed traveling shows to use horse drawn carriages as they made their way around the country. European tent shows were compact as the audiences, who would come from surrounding villages, tended to be small.  In the United States, however, conditions were very different.  The distances between communities were much longer.   The new railways allowed  for the traveling shows to cover greater distances more efficiently – and  the great train shows were born. Also, as the shows tended to be tied to the railway lines, they drew crowds from larger areas.  To accommodate the larger numbers, circus owners added extra rings with bigger and bigger tents – or “tops”. The small circus show became an event with a large cast of performers, more extravagant animals, production numbers, and side shows. From this point forward the United States led the way and European shows, though still tending towards a single ring, began to follow with their own more extravagant productions. With the increased cost of production came an increased awareness for the need to publicize the show more effectively. An advance crew would arrive well ahead of the show to post advertisements for the upcoming event.

Cayetano Mariotini (a.k.a Gaetano Mariotini) immigrated from Cuba to New York in 1809.  I have found him referenced by both names in various publications.  I have also found that he may have immigrated to Cuba from Italy.  He ran a circus with Jean Baptiste Casmiere Breschard and Victor Pepin. The circus traveled around the eastern seaboard. Their circus moved on west to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1814. Breschard and Pepin soon went back east, while “Mr. Cayetano” operated his own circus in what was then the West (Ohio and Kentucky).  Cayetano performed as a clown, an acrobat, and a horse rider.  On June 25, 1812, he was the first to exhibit an elephant (named “Old Bet”) in the United States.  Cayetano worked his way south along the Mississippi River, performing in Natchez, Mississippi, from October 1815 through February 1816.  From Natchez, his company went to New Orleans.

Below is a broadside from Cayetano’s circus when it appeared in Montreal, Canada in 1812. I am still trying to find this image in higher resolution in order to read the full  text.

http://www.friendsoflibraryandarchivescanada.ca/en/acquisitions_summary.php

Louisiana Woman – A Daughter’s Death

Source:  Illustrated Guide and Sketch Book to New Orleans (New York, 1884).

Caroline had four children, her oldest daughter was Laura and her next was Clara and she had two sons, David and Edwin. Her children all grew and married and were very close to her.

Laura was married in their home on Napoleon Avenue in New Orleans. She married Louis J. Bright and would have three children. Caroline and her family would spend summers alternately in Myrtle Grove and the North, or the Virginia Springs.

She writes of her insight as a mother very beautifully. She says, “It takes love and wisdom and proper environment to bring both to their best; but sometimes evil hereditary and vicious social institutions prove stronger than all of these combined forces of the home. The nation can never know the power and beauty of the mother until it evolves a true protective tenderness for the child, and encompasses it with safest conditions for its development.”

She goes on to say when her daughters won friends it was gratifying to her. She was proud when her daughter visited her on her reception day: “I should be happy to claim a half-hour of my mother’s society if she were not related to me.” Caroline was very content with her two happily married daughters settled near to her.

Tragedy would come. On September 1, 1878, while in the North for the summer, she received a telegram saying, “Laura died at 12 o’clock.” Caroline had pled with her to leave New Orleans with her for the summer. As Laura and her husband were very devoted to each other, they did not like to be apart. Unfortunately, she fell victim to the yellow fever epidemic which ravished New Orleans.

The last thing Laura wrote her mother was, “Fear not for me, dearest mother,”was on her last postal card. “My trust is in God.” Her husband Louis was frantic. He had the added pain of knowing it might have been different had she not stayed that summer. He said “I shall never grow accustomed to the hard fact that her bright and heavenly presence must be forever wanting in her own home, and shall never again grace mine. She died saying, ‘Jesus is with me!’ ” There was no one too old or too poor, or too uninteresting to receive Laura’s attention.  She was ever active in charities and a useful director of St. Ann’s Asylum (picture above) located at 1823 Prytania Street, New Orleans.  It still stands today.

There could be no greater loss of a mother than to lose a child.   It was after Laura’s death her husband encouraged her to do something for women, to help turn her grief into action.   Early in the year 1897 a State Constitutional Convention assembled in New Orleans.  The Board of Control of St. Ann’s Asylum, an institution for the relief of destitute women and children, was given $1000 by a German inmate on her deathbed.  Mrs. Elizabeth L. Saxon was going to speak as well.   Mrs. Saxon encouraged Caroline to appear and speak of the women’s grievances.  Mrs. Saxon told her, “Instead of grieving yourself to death for your daughter who is gone, rise up out of the ashes and do something for the other women who are left!’

It is through this event she began to spend her future days fighting for Women’s Suffrage.  Ultimately, her crusade continued the rest of her life.  She was president of the New Orleans, and state of Louisiana chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.  In 1892, she organized the first women’s suffrage association in Louisiana and helped form a State Woman Suffrage Association with her as president.

Sources: Caroline Merrick. Old Times in Dixieland, (New York: The Grafton Press, 1901) and Samantha LaDart, Caroline Merrick and Women’s Rights in Louisiana.

The Battle of Liberty Place: Previous Interpretations

In regards to both my microhistory and my master’s thesis, I think I have found some encouraging signs in regards to my topic. I could certainly be wrong, but in all of my research on the Battle of Liberty Place, I have found only one book that is entirely based on the battle and it is The Battle of Liberty Place by Stuart Omer Landry published in 1955. I did find a doctoral dissertation by Jacob Wagner published in 2004 that talks about the monument that was dedicated to those who fought at the battle and how the battle has been remembered in public memory. Wagner’s dissertation does touch on some topics I would have liked to have brought up, but after skimming Wagner’s work it seems that he chose to focus on public memory in the twentieth century whereas I am more interested in the battle itself and its immediate repercussions. One of the reasons I initially became interested in the Battle of Liberty Place is how such an important conflict has been forgotten in today’s society. Stuart Omer Landry complains in his introduction that people have already forgotten the conflict by the mid 1950’s.

I have also found another excellent resource in Joe Gray Taylor’s book Louisiana Reconstructed. After reading a bit of Taylor’s book, I learned that the conflict began when the metropolitan police stopped a shipment of guns from landing in New Orleans. The guns were for the White League and the police were trying to prevent the league from arming. This act was the last straw for the White League, and on September 14, 1874 tensions came to a boiling point and the Battle of Liberty Place broke out.