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Floyd King of The King Brothers Circus


Occasionally, history comes to focus on one man who has seen a great span of events or has been at the scene for more than one share of significant happenings in his field. Such a man is Floyd King.


When he was 18 he wrote a booklet of rules for showmen and signed it "by Floyd King, the old circus man." Somehow that typifies his whole career in one anecdote. It was 99 years ago that he first owned a circus of his own in 1912. Sometimes successful, sometimes not; sometimes a major character in the cast of circus history, sometimes not, Floyd King has seen an amazing phantasmagoria of circus seasons run their course. Years alone hand him that sort of a record, but he has experienced in those seasons what few other men can claim.


King was born in Hickman, Kentucky, in 1888, the son of a Methodist minister who was assigned to a different community each four years, slow trouping. One of the stops was at Memphis, and from there young Floyd went to Trinity College, which today is Duke University. The young student blew the Halls of Ivy for the Call of the Calliope at the end of the 1908-09 school terms. He left Liberal Arts to practice the fine art of the candy butcher. This was with Cherokee Ed's Wild West Show, a 10-car horse opera that came from William P. Hall's second hand circus shop to play along the new Virginian Railroad's tracks in Appalachian coal country. The education was rapid.


From there on King continued to make history in the circus industry as press writer, agent and circus show owner of some of the most successful shows in the country. King saw the two-car era come to a close, and he thrived with the small rail outfits of the twenties. King and his brother, Howard also made history in the Depression when most other railroad shows went under. He has owned famous wagons, famous elephants and famous titles. He has routed two shows at a time on occasions in the Twenties, Thirties and Sixties he routed three shows at a time. A Southern boy, King always has been partial to Coca Cola. He was renowned far and wide for carrying two suitcases - one with clothes and one with his own supply of Coke.


The Circus business is a small world. It continues to change but for as long as showmen put rope to stakes, Floyd King will always be regarded as one of the circus's historic personages.


Tom Parkinson, Bandwagon, Vol. 10, No. 3 (May-Jun), 1966