Elks Carnival 1911: What you see is NOT what you get

Elks Carnival planners may have been starched collar businessmen and civil civil servants by day, but they became all carney in pursuit of the financial rewards of a fundraiser. The recipe for success: a cup of chicanery and a pint of fast-talking wishful thinking. Flavor to taste with exaggeration and decorate with hyperbole. Serving suggestion: hold tongue firmly in cheek while winking broadly to crowd.

 

The Carnival had 20 booths or attractions. Although many were as straightforward as the Ice Cream booth, most made up for reality with hype and imagination. Customers knew they were being tricked or ‘stung’, but enjoyed seeing how good (or how silly) the illusion was.

 

Ye Gypsies fortune tellers relied on “winsomeness” to put over their tale in which a good fortune was sure to be predicted. No one was fooled. The customers would have recognized Miss Myrtle Schuman and her friends despite a culturally off-target costume of “dainty Turkish bloomers …[face] veiled in chiffon” and darkened with theatrical blacking. The supposed Gypsies worked in “a tropic bower of fishtail ferns and banana trees under a canopy of maile and purple bougainvillea.”

 

Six Lilliputians, reportedly captured on Gulliver’s travels, worked under the guidance and protection of Elk Lorrin Andrews (ER 1914-15). They knew “pleasing tricks,” but limited English. Paying admission, the ‘mark’ found young performers “who defied child labor laws and amused 3 audiences every 10 minutes with rapid-fire songs, dances, and stories.”

 

The Electric Fountain & Mystical Mermaid caused much speculation. Was this a “real mermaiden sporting in her native element illuminated by myriads of colored electric lights, going through the graceful evolutions of arranging her hair”? An ad calling the Mermaid “One of the greatest creations of present day,” may answer the question. Best guess on how it was done: changing glass lantern slide images were projected onto sprayed water (the screen) while colored lights enhanced the illusion. Reports complain how short the display was – easier to fool the viewer. At least the water was real.

 

Before language sensitivity, a staple of all sideshows was the “freak show.” The 1911 Carnival’s Museum of Freaks was “a trap for the unwary feet” with “cheerful liars” enticing entry. This was not one of Barnum’s high class displays. Viewers saw fake snakes and a 3-legged dog. The “Wild Man” is the one human inhabitant recorded. He was housed in a “special Harveyized[1] steel cage” and reported to make strange noises and jump about – if a paying customer entered. In various reports he is noted as from both Borneo and Australia, geography was an unimportant detail of his sales potential. Surely he was a cousin of the 1880s Wild Man of Borneo seen in San Francisco’s Barbary Coast sideshow, an illusion created by slathering goop then mixing in horsehair.

 

The Wild Man’s antics disturbed the real, live Baby Elk. Customers at first believed they were ‘stung’ again. On entering the booth, they saw Lodge 616’s newest member, Baby Elk Mr. Spitzer. Things picked up though, for behind the curtain there apparently was a real, live baby elk, the 4 footed kind.

 

The Hold Up Court or Haul of Injustice was very popular. Elk marshals ‘arrested’ almost any man of means, brought him before the First Circus Caught, and ‘fined’ him to obtain his release. Those without funds readily to hand to bail themselves out were condemned to serve out their time. Politicians were reported especially popular prey and a crowd pleasing favorite to fine.

 

C. F. Chillingworth (attorney-legislator) and A. M. Brown (Deputy City Attorney) were Court “Persecutors.” Chillingworth, recently losing a vote for Senate president, surely delighted in persecuting politicians in the Hold Up Court. “Lord of the Exchequer” J. L. Horner, a real life real Circuit Court stenographer, counted money.

 

Hold-Up Court ‘judges’ were a powerful and prestigious group, not all Elks: Chief Justice was Elk E. A. Douthitt, attorney and PER (1909-10). Assoc. Justices: L. M. Whitehouse, a contractor, was the only non-lawyer; J. L. Coke (law partner with Douthitt), E. C. Peters, and G. A. Davis were attorneys whose names pop up today in electronic searches of key case law. Notably Davis (& PER F. M. Brooks) participated in Territory of Hawaii v. Mankichi, a pivotal case on the reach of US Constitutional rights. Immediately after annexation, did U. S. constitutional protections follow the flag? OR Did Republic of Hawaii rules of law and rights govern for years until the Organic Act established constitutionally based laws and procedures?

 

Shriners visiting Honolulu from the mainland patronized the Elks’ carnival “with utmost liberality.” Brothers were frequently seen at the Stein Booth where Mrs. J. M. Riggs and Princess Kawananakoa sold votes for most popular Elk and Shriner. Widow of Prince David, Abigail W. Campbell Kawananakoa was a Patroness of the Carnival. The Princess, a most unlikely beer mug marketer, was described as “stunning in a deep red gown.” The popularity contest winners received a commemorative stein. One Elk lost the lead when captured and brought to the Hold-Up Court. By the time he extricated himself, he’d dropped in votes.

 

On night two of Carnival, remembering their something for everyone strategy, Elks opened the dance floor to all with their 50¢ admission. As merrymakers swayed to Sonny Cunha and his band, the Elks Treasurer hoped dancers first had visited the Flowers & Confetti booth and would cool off at the Lemonade Booth before leaving.

 

Anita Manning, Lodge Historian

 

NEXT: Hula: Controversy or Market Hype?

 

References:

Thanks to D. Brown, Bishop Museum, for advice on how to make a Mermaid Mystical, and Michael Weight for advice on Mankichi.

 

Advertiser 1911 Feb 19, 20

Evening Bulletin 1911 Feb 18, 22

Hawaiian Star 1911 Feb 18, 23

Men of Hawaii, 1917, Hon Star-Bulletin Printing

Territory of Hawaii v. Mankichi, 190 U.S. 197 (1903)

The Story of Oofty Goofty: http://www.sideshowworld.com/atsOG.html

 

[1] The process increased toughness. It was developed by U.S. Harvey Steel Co. 1890-91, and is now called “case hardened”.