Biography of Famous American Clown Dan Rice Part 2
About the famous American clown Dan Rice, history and biography of the man who dabbled in a number of fields.
FOOTNOTE PEOPLE IN U.S. HISTORY
DAN RICE (1823-1900). American clown.
Now Dan decided to organize a show of his own. He formed a partnership with C. L. Kise, who owned an educated pig, Lord Byron, which they took on tour. Lord Byron was advertised as being able to predict the future, play cards, and read from a book of fate. Dan rendered "songs of sentiment and pathos" and performed "inimitable feats of strength."
After several successful months, Lord Byron died, and Dan went to work for P. T. Barnum in New York, performing as a strong man first in Barnum's American Museum and later on a tour of Europe.
Back in the U. S., Dan heard about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. He became an agent for Smith, but because of public antagonism toward the Mormons, he quit this job and joined another circus.
In 1844 Dan Rice made his first appearance as a circus clown, in Galena, III., and he so loved the work that it became his vocation for the rest of his life. For the next 30 years he not only worked as a clown for other circus owners but also bought a number of wagon and riverboat circuses of his own. At the height of his popularity, he earned $1,000 a week.
For some time Dan wintered his own circus in Girard, Pa., and in 1853 he decided to make his permanent home there. When the Civil War ended, Dan financed the building of what was probably the nation's first monument to the Union forces. The memorial, designed by Chicago sculptor Leonard Volk, was dedicated Nov. 1, 1865, in Girard's public square.
Dan became deeply interested in politics, and because many people agreed with his frequently expressed political ideas, they urged him to run for public office. By 1868 Dan was convinced that he could actually win the presidency. He plunged into an energetic campaign, and several newspaper editors found his ideas so sensible that they supported him--rather than Ulysses S. Grant--for the Republican nomination. Inevitably his opponents ridiculed him as a "professional clown," and within a few weeks the campaign that had taken off like a skyrocket had completely fizzled out.
In the years that immediately followed, Dan became a heavy drinker. He lost his beautiful home and along with it his fortune. After most of his friends had deserted him, he suddenly reformed and became a successful temperance lecturer, although it was alleged by some that the water pitcher on his speaker's platform usually held gin.
But the lure of the circus was greater than the rewards from temperance talks, and Dan returned to the sawdust trail. It was soon evident that he would never again make it to the top, so in 1885 he left the show he was with and went to live with relatives in Long Branch, N.J.
There in 1900, at the age of 77, the great American clown who had wanted to be president of the U.S. died.
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