The Shamokin Circus Riot of 1913

Early 20th century photo of Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus

When the circus comes to town, a good time is usually enjoyed by all. Unless that circus happens to come to Shamokin. Many coal region towns have a reputation for toughness, and Shamokin is no exception. Of course, as a Mount Carmel grad, I happen to think we're just a little bit tougher than our rivals in Shamokin (I could insert a wisecrack about the Coal Bucket here, but I won't). Nonetheless, the following story is pretty entertaining.

It comes from the June 14, 1913 edition of the Mount Carmel Item and, as you can tell by the reporter's opening sentence, it's plain to see that even back in 1913 there was no love lost between these two battling coal towns.

Shamokin Roughnecks Attack Circus Folks

Shamokin youths showed themselves in their true light again yesterday when they made things generally miserable for the members of the Hagenbeck-Wallace circus, which exhibited in that town yesterday, caused riots and endangered the lives of many people who attended the show. Shamokin is not likely to have another circus for some time to come and if they do it is not likely that they will get much patronage as it is dangerous to attend a circus in that town.

Almost as soon as the show arrived at Shamokin, the rough-necks of the town picked a fight with canvas men and started a riot that had to be stopped by the county sheriff. Last evening a young man by the name R. Shankweiler claimed he was hit on the head by a canvas man. His friends gathered together a crowd of toughs and bums, cut the tent ropes and side walls of the tent and threw stones into the tent while the performance was in progress, endangering the lives of performers and spectators, only a few of whom were from this town.

After the performance was over they got on the hill south of where the circus was located and threw stones and dynamite down on the tents. The performers left their dressing tents and ran to their cars while the canvas men were delayed several hours in getting down their big tent. One of the dynamite explosions wrecked a large wagon. The toughs also threatened to blow up the circus train but didn't have enough nerve to go near the car. 

Early this morning a riot ensued between the rough-necks and the canvas men and one negro was badly hurt. Henceforth circuses will give Shamokin a wide berth.


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