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20th century, 'The Smallest Show On Earth', a collection of flea circus props and memorabilia from Professor Len Tomlin's Flea Circus at Belle Vue, comprising;
2 trapezes,
1 dueling pedestal,
2 bicycles,
1 windmill,
2 chariots,
1 lawnmower,
all of brass construct, also including a magnifying glass, a spool of copper harness wire, boxes of assorted flea circus props, and a collection of photographs and newspaper cuttings (qty.)

Provenance: Museum of Childhood Ribchester, Manchester.

Being immensely popular attractions at fairgrounds in both Germany and Britain from the middle of the 19th century, the flea circus at Belle Vue was one of the last of its kind. The origin of the flea circus, however, lies with watchmakers, as far back as the 16th century, who specialised in miniaturisation, and the harnessing of fleas to exercise the contraptions constructed. The Belle Vue circus was run by Professor Len Tomlin and his wife Evelyn, who would employ professional insect catchers in the cities to ensure they had a good supply of fleas, as the average lifespan of a flea is around ten days. They would also both roll up their sleeves and make sure the fleas could feed off them as they were trained and exhibited. However, with modern times came comforts such as increased hygiene facilities, central heating systems, and vacuum cleaners, and the common flea started becoming irradicated within the cities of Britain, eventually causing a shortage of performers.

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Estimated at £1,500 - £2,000


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Auction: Out of the Ordinary - Two Day Sale - Live Online, Tue, 13th Apr 2021


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All lots are, however, extensively illustrated and carry detailed condition reports - see 'Condition report' at the foot of each lot description.

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