In a May 2017 Numismatic Nuggets column I selected a scarce circus token offered in a Stack's Bowers sale. Here's the lot description. -Editor
Risley & McCollum's Hippodrome Token
New York--New York. (Circa 1850s) Risley & McCollum's Hippodrome. Miller-NY 663 (type). Gilt brass. 33 mm. MS-63 (NGC).
TROISIEME reverse. 80% or more of the original gilding survives, with wisps of olive-green on the high points and a dusting of blue on the reverse. A classic early American
circus token, described as "extremely rare" by Satterlee in 1862.
Provenance: Ex F.C.C. Boyd; our (Stack's Bowers) sale of the John J. Ford, Jr. Collection, Part XXIII, lot 22516. Lot tag and paper envelope with attribution notation
Margaret Kirby found the item on the web; below is an excerpt from the note she submitted to me. Thank you! -Editor
I am researching circus in the mid-nineteenth century and I am thrilled to find your coins picturing Thomas McCollum at the Hippodrome.
I think that the coin commemorates a circus co-run briefly by McCollum and Risley in 1852 in England.
Thomas McCollum (1928-1872) was an American two horse rider and was admired by some of the most famous riders of his day, including James “Yankee” Robinson.
He is first mentioned in American circus bills in 1837 and was taught by a rider called Matthew Buckley, but also in the same company was John Robinson, famous for producing
exceptional student riders, including James. He had his own company called Stone and McCollum’s Great Western Circus between 1846 and 1850. He was 18 when this partnership began.
The first year they traveled along the Mississippi Rivers in the James Raymond paddle steamer performing in towns along the banks- they were probably the first circus to travel
this way. Subsequently they traveled overland.
Thomas McCollum went to England, in early 1851 with Rufus Welch, Richard Risley and Eaton Stone. They opened at the Drury Lane Theatre that had been converted to an
amphitheatre for equestrian performance for the American and French Equestrian Company. This company included members of the famous French Loisset family, from Circque Olympique
in Paris. The quality of the performances was highly praised and the troupe caused somewhat of a sensation.
At the end of 1851 the troupe went to Ireland and then parted company. The Loisset’s went on the perform at Astely’s amphitheatre and McCollum seems to have freelanced a bit.
In December 1851 and January 1852 he performed with Pablo Fanque’s circus in Edinburgh, but then he performed with Welshe’s show in Leeds and briefly with the Franconi circus at
the Cremorne gardens and also back in Manchester with Pablo Fanque. It is possible that he was sampling the companies on offer as he contemplated his future as he let it be known
that he was eager to try his fortune in Europe.
The New Roman Hippodrome where Risley and McCollum performed was in Bingley Hall in Birmingham in December 1851...
Here are excerpts from descriptions of the performances:
"a double company of American and French artistes, with an extensive stud of 100 horses, ponies, ostriches, monkeys &c&c will appear"
"Mr E. Stone, the distinguished Indian Horseman of the Comanches, whose daring feats without saddle or bridle have created, where ever he has appeared, a most wonderful
McCollum seems to have left England for the continent shortly after the Hippodrome time and was gone until 1855 when his legitimate son Thomas McCollum was born in London.
Later he claimed to have performed in every major city in Europe. His son Eugene Gaertner was born in Paris also in 1855. From 1857-1860 he seem mostly to have been based in
England and later in 1860 he left England with a company and his friends Hiram Franklin, George Buckley and Leon for South Africa. In May 1861 in was in Mauritius when during a
cyclone his circus tent was destroyed. He went from there into Asia, in particular, India and remained touring a company throughout until 1865 when he returned to England. He went
into partnership with William Charmen and took out a fifty five year lease on the Holborn Royal Amphitheatre. Thomas McCollum died in 1872 of small pox and was buried in
The token is wonderful- and the one of McCollum is the only image of him that I have been able to find.
I hope you find this interesting. If you would like to pass this information to the owner of these coins I would be very happy. If they would like to contact me directly I
would also be happy. As far as I know, no other researcher has ever tried to follow McCollum’s career before me. My interest in him arises from the subject of my research, a
theatrical entrepreneur called John Washington Smith who managed for McCollum and Stone in America and was also involved in touring companies throughout Asia between 1861 and
Did any of our readers purchase this piece? It sold for $446.50. According to this research it's not an early American circus token, but one for an American performing in
I wondered, are any of our U.K. readers familiar with this piece? Have any appeared on the market there? And is that actually McCollum pictured on the token? Or is the rider
Mr. Stone? Well, Margaret had some answers for me - her response is below. -Editor
Here are some other tokens that I also found on a web-site recently:
Tickets and Passes of London from the David Young Collection
TICKETS and PASSES, Circuses, Risley & McCollum’s Hippodrome, brass, man standing on two horses galloping right, risley & mccollum’s hippodrome around, rev. troisieme,
ostrich pulling cart above, elephant and castle below, edge grained, 32mm, 9.60g (W 971); Louis Soullier, brass, by H. Smith, horsewoman cantering left, hippodrome et cirque
soullier around, rev. troisieme, star and crescent crest above and below, 33mm, 8.38g (W 977) . About fine, scarce; first pierced for suspension £60-80
Provenance: First W.J. Noble Collection, Part II, Noble Numismatics Pty Auction 61B (Melbourne), 3-4 August 1999, lot 752 (part), bt L. McCarthy November 2002; second bt
Richard Risley Carlisle, aka Richard Risley (1814-74), showman and entrepreneur from Salem, NJ, in partnership with Thomas McCollum and their combined French and American
equestrian troupe, performed in a circus at Drury Lane in 1851, which is when these tickets were issued. Louis Soullier (1813-88), proprietor of his self-styled Cirque Orientale,
toured England in 1852, performing in London and Manchester, before taking his troupe to China, where they debuted in 1854 as that country’s first-ever circus
To read the complete Dix Noonan Webb lot description, see
There are some other tokens that depict McCollum as well. Madame Soullier is interesting as she joined the company in early 1852 as well. I am currently trying to follow up on
the claim that Louis Soullier took his equestrian company to China in 1854. It is likley that Madadme Soullier was formerly Laura de Bach, the widow of Chritoph de Bach who
founded Circus Gymnasticus in Austria- one of the first permanent Circus buildings in Europe in 1808 (Dominique Jando, Circopedia).
In relation to your material, the image is certainly of Thomas McCollum. He was famous for his two horse "jockey" act. Eaton Stone was famous as a bareback rider; he
was abducted by Comanche Indians at one point in his life and he performed a famous Comanche Indian act as well.
"Professor" Richard Risley is also a very interesting character. His story is well recounted by Frederick Schodt in his book "Professor Risley and the Imperial
Japanese Troupe; How an American Acrobat Introduced Circus to Japan" published by Stone Bridge Press, Berkeley California. The "he" of "he had his own
company" is obviously McCollum- but it doesn't read clearly.
To read the complete lot description, see:
New York--New York. (Circa 1850s) Risley & McCollum's Hippodrome. Miller-NY 663 (type). Gilt brass.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NUMISMATIC NUGGETS: MAY 21, 2017 : Risley & McCollum's Hippodrome Token
Wayne Homren, Editor
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