A clown ran for public office – and no, that’s not the beginning of a joke.
On Sept. 15, 1864, America’s most famous circus clown, Dan Rice, accepted the Democratic nomination for the Pennsylvania State Senate.
And it was just his first foray into politics: Even while continuing his career as a clown, a state convention later considered him as a candidate for Congress, and, in 1867, he made a brief but legitimate run for president.
While the idea of a clown running for office sounds like a gimmick, in the 1860s it was taken seriously — because circus itself was taken seriously, as adult fare.
Long before it was relegated to children’s entertainment, early circus in this country combined what appealed to grown-up tastes: sex, violence, political commentary and, in a horse-based culture, top-notch horsemanship.
George Washington attended the first circus in 1793 in Philadelphia not for family-friendly amusement — a notion that didn’t emerge until the 1880s — but as a horseman keen to see animals and humans working together at a peak level.
Sex and violence enhanced the appeal. Like later burlesque comedians, talking clowns told dirty jokes in a titillating whirl of the scantily clad: Circus acrobats and riders showed more skin — or flesh-colored fabric that seemed to be skin — than could be seen anywhere else in public life.
This facsimile of the Gutenberg Bible is one of several pieces of “The Art of the Printed Book Through the Centuries” exhibit at the Garnett Library on the Missouri State University-West Plains campus.
The exhibit, which features pieces from the collection at The St. Louis Mercantile Library, was brought to campus through The Missouri Center for the Book with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. (Missouri State-West Plains Photo)
A juvenile yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) pecks at a ginkgo tree at BBG. Photo by Steven Severinghaus.
by Joe Giunta.
What do the wolf, the beaver, and the yellow-bellied sapsucker have in common? Each is a keystone species, that is, a species that by its actions may affect a whole community. In many cases, other species greatly depend upon their actions for food, shelter, and habitat.
As a predator, the wolf keeps certain animal populations, like deer, from becoming overabundant and destructive to the surrounding habitat. The beaver creates habitat for songbirds, ducks, and muskrats by building dams.
The yellow-bellied sapsucker provides not only habitat but also food for other species.
This medium-sized woodpecker is what’s known as a primary cavity-nesting bird. It makes—by drilling into a somewhat decayed tree—a cavity where it can build a nest and raise young.
The next year, secondary cavity-nesting birds like swallows, chickadees, and bluebirds can then move in to nest there and raise their own young.
The yellow-bellied sapsucker is also a great provider of food. It drills many “wells” in living trees that bleed throughout the year. The sap attracts insects, and the sapsucker feeds on those as well as the sap itself.
Other small birds like warblers and hummingbirds, as well as butterflies and bats, also come to these sap wells to feed.
Sapsucker wells have been found in over a hundred species of trees, but the sapsucker seems to prefer trees that bleed more than others, such as red maple and birch.