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(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - Ken Maynard on the original Tarzan with the Cole Bros. Circus in Texas, November, 1940.
Many of the western film performers desired or required extra work to supplement their modest film income in order to finance their family and lifestyles. Some, like Reb Russell, Lee Powell and Tom Tyler, simply hired on to an existing big top. Others, such as Buck Jones, Tom Mix, Tim McCoy and Ken Maynard, decided to bring out their own traveling circus and/or wild west type show (and in all cases, these shows were financial disappointments/disasters).

This section will include tidbits, photos and posters from that long ago period when silver screen cowboys rode the sawdust trail under the bigtop.

Special thanks to Fred D. Pfening, Jr., an expert on the circus, the editor of Bandwagon, and the man behind the Circus Historical Society, for providing much of this material. Without his help, this section would not have been possible.



Lee Powell was the star of the 1938 LONE RANGER serial as well as the lead in THE FIGHTING DEVIL DOGS chapterplay. After being cut loose from Republic after a salary dispute, Powell worked with the Barnett Bros. and Wallace Bros. circuses to pick up some cash --- and he and the circuses billed him as "Lee Powell, The Original Lone Ranger of Talking Picture Fame"

However, the Lone Ranger's owners went to court to halt Powell from using the Lone Ranger name/likeness and capitalizing on their property. After several years of legal wrangling, Powell (and the Wallace Bros. Circus) won the right to continue using the Lone Ranger reference for Powell. You can read the (lengthy) decision in LONE RANGER, INC. v. COX which was issued on June 26, 1941. It appears that Powell and Wallace Bros. won the suit because Powell wasn't calling himself The Lone Ranger. Instead, he and Wallace Bros. used "Lee Powell, The Original Lone Ranger of Talking Picture Fame", et al. And Federal Judge Wyche found that billing was true. The full lawsuit ruling is at: http://www.leagle.com/xmlResult.aspx?page=5&xmldoc=194152639FSupp487_1384.xml&docbase=CSLWAR1-1950-1985&SizeDisp=7

In November, 1998, I got a nice e-mail from cowboy and serial fan Stan Segal. He writes in part: "When I was about 7 years of age I saw Lee Powell in a circus.  He rode a horse and was wearing a mask. I was with a group of other kids. I had already seen the Lone Ranger serials in the movies several years before ...". Stan thinks the year of this circus performance was either 1940 or 41. In some follow-up e-mails, I asked Stan about the horse that Powell was riding, and he thought it was white. Stan also recalls that Powell's 'uniform' seemed different than the outfit he wore in the LR serial. Thx for that great info Stan!

(Courtesy of Fred D. Pfening, Jr.)


Below are 3 photos of Lee Powell with the Wallace Bros. Circus, circa 1942. Note the Wallace Bros. name on the trailer #29 in the background.


(Courtesy of Fred D. Pfening, Jr.)



(Courtesy of Fred D. Pfening, Jr.)



(Courtesy of Fred D. Pfening, Jr.)



Lafayette H. 'Reb' Russell made about a dozen low-budget quickies for Willis Kent in the mid 1930s and then opted to leave Tinseltown.

However, Reb and his white steed Rebel continued their cowboy adventures by performing with several big tops in the mid to late 1930s.



(Courtesy of Fred D. Pfening, Jr.)

(Courtesy of Fred D. Pfening, Jr.)

Above, Reb with the Russell Bros Circus (no relation to Reb).



(Courtesy of Fred D. Pfening, Jr.)



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