Could a long-ago circus accident in Griffin, Georgia be connected to the founding of Zoo Atlanta?

rope walkerFor the tightrope walker, it was nearly a tragedy. While performing his act for Hall’s Circus on Friday, March 15th, 1889, his rope came loose. Maybe I’ve read too many mysteries—watched too many movies—but this story stirs my imagination. I could understand if he lost his balance or a sudden gust of wind came up, but not “his rope came loose”. How did that happen? Making sure your rope is securely fastened would have been covered in rope-walking 101.

Did the rope-rigger not tie the knot tight enough? Did the performer himself forget to check it? Was he impaired by drink, or was it sabotage? Perhaps a jealous lover tried to do him in. According to the brief story in the newspaper, he fell “headforemost through the top of the canvas” and “escaped with only a few light bruises”.

To make matters worse, the accident may have been the final performance of the Hall & Bingley Circus. It occurred in Griffin Georgia, about forty miles south of Atlanta. Four days later, on Tuesday, March 19th, the Hall and Bingley Circus was stranded in Atlanta—bankrupt.

I wonder if the accident and the bankruptcy were related—a symptom, perhaps, of mismanagement. Or was it a reflection of the quality of the circus? Whatever the explanation, Hall & Bingley’s misfortune was about to turn into a permanent attraction for the City of Atlanta.


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