An 80-year-old piece of Fort Myer memorabilia, which originally sold for a quarter, has found its way inside the gates of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall this summer.
A near-mint condition, 16-page Society Circus program was recently located on an Internet auction site and purchased by Old Guard Museum curator Kirk Heflin. The front of the publication includes a sale price of 25 cents and the dates of the shows: April 1 and 2, 1932.
The Society Circus, which was founded by Gen. George Patton, was a collection of big-top type acts involving Fort Myer cavalry, which included trick riding, races and horse jumping. The shows took place every Friday and Saturday during the winter months at Conmy Hall.
The 12-inch by 9-inch show program, which features a sitting female ringleader, is in near pristine condition. At closer inspection, a memorabilia or military collector would note that the program was presumably kept away from direct sunlight and secured in a scrapbook for a half a century after the show. The lone noticeable blemishes on the booklet are located on the back where five pieces of tape held the program secure. Inside, photos of acts from the circus dominate the contents.
The rest of the booklet is in a nearly-untouched condition with no color fading and no yellowing. If the dates of the circus were not published on the cover, an observer may think that the program was issued this past winter.
“Knowing that the post doesn’t have a copy of this, it was good to be a part of bringing this to Fort Myer,” Heflin said.
Discovery of the Society Circus souvenir happened by accident. The program was located online by the staff of the joint base newspaper, the Pentagram, who alerted JBM-HH Historian Kim Holien of the find. Heflin was then notified, and he arranged for the purchase from a dealer in Colorado.
“The colors pop your eyes out,” said JBM-HH historian Kim Holien of the bold red and black print. “I’m thinking that somebody went to this show in ‘32, passed away, and [survivors] went through an attic or a basement and pulled this out. If there is this one program, there has to be a program for every show they put on.
“The show was basically put on to give the troops something to do during the winter months,” Holien added about the purpose of the show.
With the seating capacity of Conmy Hall ranging into the four figures, Holien speculated that 1,000 to 2,000 programs were printed for each event per week.
“You could fit 3,000 into Conmy Hall back then; remember, there was a third floor,” he said. “A lot of people who came were parts of Families because the Society Circus was cheap entertainment.”
According to Holien, an avid military collector, this is the first time he has seen a Society Circus program but others may be located at Patton historical sites and museums.