Flea circus

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A flea circus refers to a circus sideshow attraction in which fleas are attached (or appear to be attached) to miniature carts and other items, and encouraged to perform circus acts within a small housing. Fresnel lenses were provided to help visitors to view the attraction.

Some actually utilize harnessed fleas whereas other "humbug" circuses use magical techniques to provide the show (some use both techniques).

The first records of flea performances were from watch makers who were demonstrating their metal working skills. Flea circuses were first advertised as early as 1833 in England, and were a main carnival attraction until 1930. Some flea circuses persisted in very small venues in the United States as late as the 1960s. The flea circus at Belle Vue amusement park, Manchester, England, was still operating in 1970. Today the flea circus has largely become a lost art form, with much information about them being anecdotal or steeped in lore.

Walt Noon is known for building and selling flea circuses. Sven Svenson has been building "cigar box" flea circus with his father since 2000. Chuck Caputo has been making unique flea circuses for many years.

References

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  • "Fleas:The Lethal Leapers". National Geographic 173 (5). May 1988.
  • Jay's Journal of Anomalies, ISBN 1-59372-000-9
  • Wild Tigers & Tame Fleas by William Ballantine, (1958)
  • Annals of the New York Stage by George C. Odel (Columbia University Press, New York, NY, 1928)
  • Bertolotto, L. (Unknown). The history of the flea: With notes and observations (2nd Edition ed.). London: Crozier.
  • Bertolotto, L. (1876). The history of the flea: With notes and observations (5th Edition ed.). New York: John Axford. OCLC 11028632.
  • The Compleat Flea by Brendan Lehan (London: John Murray, 1969)
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