Albertville family starred in pre-Civil War tour of Great Southern Circus (Odd Travels)
This advertising packet from the 1858 season of Orton and Older’s Great Southern Circus., which featured James Thomas Madderra of Albertville as ringmaster and his children as bareback and stunt riders, was recently auctioned by stampauctionnetwork.com for $1,050.
(Contributed by stampauctionnetwork.com)from: al.com/huntsville-times
By Kelly Kazek
February 14, 2013
ALBERTVILLE, Alabama – May 1, 1859, began like most other days in most other summers for 20-year old James Johnston, who led a sheltered life on a Sand Mountain farm and was yearning for something he couldn’t define and didn’t yet know existed.
A depiction of a bareback-riding act on an 1874 poster for an unknown circus. (Contributed by Library of Congress)
While on his way into Albertville on an errand for his mother that day, James heard a trill of musical laughter that would change his life. He entered a clearing to see a man with a whip, turning in a circle as he guided a pair of horses. Atop the horses was the most astounding sight James had ever seen: A girl standing with one foot on the back of each horse, balancing as she rode.
By the time the girl did a backflip to dismount from the horses, James was starry eyed. He was in love with 17-year-old Miranda “Randi” Madderra, who had recently moved to Albertville with her family, led by her father James Thomas “J.T”. Madderra, who was ringmaster of Orton & Older’s Great Southern Circus.
James had never been outside of North Alabama. He’d never seen a circus. But he was about to join one.
So begins a tale of love and the circus in the months leading up to the Civil War. This true family saga, chronicled in the 2010 book “The Great Southern Circus” by Florida author Nick West, tells of the tour that lasted from spring of 1859 until its run was ended by the start of the Civil War.
Several Madderra descendants still live in North Alabama, said Rickey Wallace of Eva, who is J.T. Madderra’s great-great-great grandson.