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The busy life of a travelling circus family (1859-1892)

Orrin George Orrin and wife Zillah Stead were born in England, and married there in 1845, when he gave his occupation as « equestrian » — a sign that he had already embarked in the circus business. Their three sons were born in the United States, joining the family troupe at any early age. The business they founded was to outlast them all, surviving in Mexico until well into the 20th century.

New York Clipper, 1 October 1859

Every evening this week, in addition to the usual unequalled Programme, there will be a superb display of
by the very celebrated artists,
T H E  O R R I N  F A M I L Y ,
Late from South America.
This troupe consists of Father and three Sons,
Of European celebrity.
The performances of this gifted family are peculiar to themselves,
and their feats are entirely unlike anything of the kind
ever witnessed in the world.
All their achievements are made with the greatest ease, and their
Tricks performed with rapidity and precision.
Their graceful and classic Groupings, Attitudes, and Evolutions, are exhibited almost without an effort, and their whole Performance has been characterised as the Ne Plus Ultra of Gymnastic excellencies, enlivened by the
Admission will remain as usual, only 13 cents.

New York Clipper, 29 October 1859

Prof. G. F. Orrin and his three talented children leave New York in the steamship De Soto, for Havana, on the 27th inst. The Orrin family form a most excellent troupe of gymnasts, and their recent performances in this city were witnessed with pleasure and interest by thousands of our citizens. We wish them a safe trip and a successful tour in Cuba.

New York Clipper, 11 February 1860

Connor and Lopez' Circus still travelling in the interior. They were in Santa Espiritu a few days ago, when I received a letter from Prof. Orrin, who reported the company "all well," and doing pretty good business... Yours truly, Tom Lenton, Clown and Gymnast, Chirini's Circus, Havana.

New York Clipper, 2 June 1860

THE CELEBRATED Orrin FAMILY, now performing through the Island of Cuba, will return to New York about the 20th of May. All communications, addressed to the CLIPPER office, will receive attention. G. F. Orrin

New York Clipper, 23 June 1860

CANTERBURY HALL, LATE MOZART HALL.— This beautiful Temple of Amusement has been fitted up in the most gorgeous and artistic style, and will be thrown open on THURSDAY, JUNE 21st, with one of the most talented Companies in the United States, comprising beautiful and fascinating Danseuses, accomplished and talented lady Vocalists, Comic Singers, Acrobatic Performers, Ethiopian Comedians, and Pantomimists. We notice among the names the following talented professionals:—

Miss Annie Bordwell, Miss Dickenson, Mr. George Orrin and his three talented sons, ...

New York Clipper, 15 September 1860

... Professor Orrin's three little sons do the "Treble Trapeze," ...

New York Clipper, 29 September 1860

Professor George F. Orrin, acrobat and gymnast, arrived in this city on the 21st inst., after an absence of two months, on a trip to Europe.

New York Clipper, 25 May 1861

[Olympic Music Hall, late Newark Theatre, Newark, N. J.] ... G. F. Orrin, Stage Manager ...

New York Clipper, 13 July 1861

Another trapeze accident occurred last week. The many accidents occurring can only be attributed to the new and dangerous feats which have recently been introduced among the acrobats and gymnasts. The affair alluded to took place in Newark, at the Olympic Music Hall, on the evening of the 3d of July. The well known Orrin family are performing there, and on the the night in question, two of the boys, George and a younger one, were on the double trapeze; George on the upper bar, and the other on the lower. George was doing the "drop act," that is balancing himself on his back, on the bar, gradually edging along, so that, when the proper moment arrives, he relinquishes his back hold, and swings by the knee joint, the hands not being used at all. He had got through successfully, and was swinging by the knee joints, and the next phase of the act was about being done. This consists in loosing the knee hold, and in dropping over and catching by the ankles to the side ropes. Unfortunately, the left ankle missed its hold, and George came tumbling from a height of twenty feet, head foremost. He had presence of mind to clutch at the lower bar in his descent, and this turned him over, a regular somersault, broke his fall, and landed him on his back. He was picked up insensible, and carried off the stage. The little one, who was on the lower bar at the time, concluded his part of the feat, and retired. Restoratives were applied to George, and he was brought to sufficiently to enable him to appear with his brother, and make his obeisance to the spectators, who cheered him loudly. But for catching at the lower bar, he would have struck upon his head, and perhaps broken his neck. It was a miraculous escape.

New York Clipper, 24 August 1861

Amongst the new attractions at the Broadway Music Hall is the engagement of the celebrated Orrin Family, who will appear in their Classical Gymnastic Drawing Room Feats.

New York Clipper, 28 November 1863

John Wilson reopened his circus In San Francisco, Oct. 22d, adjoining the International Hotel. The pavilion is arranged with cushioned seats, arm chairs, and lighted with gas. The manager announces this as the farewell engagement of Sig. Sebastian and the Orrin Family.

New York Clipper, 19 December 1863

Wilson's Circus Company in San Francisco continued, at last account, to draw very large audiences beneath their pavilion. Master Orrin was doing the Zampillaerostation act, and Harry Cordona was throwing (it is said) a double somersault. At Orrin and Sebastlan's benefit, on the 10th of November, hundreds were unable to obtain standing room.

New York Clipper, 23 January 1864

G. F. Orrin and Sebastian, with their families, were to leave San Francisco on the 17th inst., for South America, through which country they propose making a professional tour. Mr Orrin has written us a short note, advising artists visiting California to make no engagements until they arrive there, as they can do much better in that way. He says there is plenty of law there, but no justice for artists.

New York Clipper, 23 April 1864

G. F. Orrin and sons, with Sebastian, the celebrated equestrian, arrived at Valparaiso on the 11th of February, after a passage of fifty-three days from San Francisco. In a letter dated Valparaiso, March 17th, Mr. Orrin says : — FRIEND QUEEN—We opened at the Jardín de Recreo , a sort of remorne [?] Garden, on the 21st ult., to an immense house, and performed here eleven nights, finishing on the 14th inst., with a good business. We leave to-day for Santiago, one hundred miles by railway. Our company will give the first performance allowed there since the dreadful burning of the Cathedral. Will write you from Santiago. Was awakened at a quarter before six this morning, by the shock of an earthquake. Had a God-send here, having been able to purchase four copies of the CLIPPER, the first I have seen since I left San Francisco.

New York Clipper, 17 December 1864

THE CELEBRATED ORRIN FAMILY, who left San Francisco last winter for a long tour, were at last accounts in Panama. We are in receipt of a letter from Mr. G. F. Orrin, dated Panama, Nov. 15th, from which we take the following: "While in Valparaiso, the Willis and Aymar Circus Company arrived from the interior, but like sensible people, soon left after seeing our performances, for parts unknown. From there we went to Santiago, the capital of Chile, 100 miles per railroad, opened under canvas on the 26th of March, and did a fine business until the 12th of May, although we had a great deal to contend against; two earthquakes and the election time, threats of rebellion every day—had to call the military out on several occasions. One night 150 persons rushed into our circus and knocked down the sentinels. I stopped the performance , and was on the point of having them put out, but was persuaded by the American Consul and some favorite friends to go on with the show, as the mob were of the government party, and that things should be all right. However, things passed off quite lively that night. Then the news of the Spanish taking possession of the Chincha Islands excited the public mind, indignation meetings and threats to kill all the foreigners. Several attempts were made to pull down the Spanish Consul's flag, but all ended in "gas." Then the Biselet famlly, French gymnasts, consisting of seven in number, made their appearance. They are the same party who played an engagement with Spalding and Rogers' whilst in Rio Janeiro. They desired to engage with us, but wanted all the profits, so we did not settle matters. I believe they did play with the Aymar party after that. We found a great many friends among the English and American residents and received several handsome presents. One, a fine "Cholenian" horse, was given to my son Edward by his particular friend, Joseph Hill. The only opposition we had in the show business was a Mona Eduardo, a prestidigitator, who performed several nights in the theatre, but did not hurt us, although a clever performer. My eldest son, George, made a great hit here in his great act of the Zampillaerostation, concluding with the double somerset. Sebastian was called out nightly. In fact, the whole performance was a great success. Left Santiago on the14th of May, for Valparaiso; shipped on the English steamer Peru for Caldera, two days' voyage. Here we took the cars for Copiapó. It is a very fine place, fine theatre, and plenty of money; business splendid and performed until the 24th of June. This place is celebrated for its terrific earthquakes. We had three during our stay --one of them a "croaker," which took place on the 17th, during dinner time, about five o'clock P. M. A great rush was made to the streets, and on all the people kneeling. It was so severe that it caused the church bells to ring. I went to see the ruins of the last February earthquake . It was a dreadful sight to see, but it is so common here that the inhabitants are inclined to bet on the time that they will feel the shocks, and a good sign of it is that all the dogs in the city are in the streets howling a few minutes before it takes place. We were all glad to leave here, though it is one of the best little show towns in the country. From there we returned to Caldera, in time for the great feast of San Pedro--all sorts of amusements—boat racing, performing in sacks, etc. This brought us to the glorious fourth of July, which we all celebrated on the American ship John O. Baker, Capt. Miller, and on board the English ship Corricater, Capt. Talbot, which lay side by side, near the wharf. By this time our favorite steamer Peru had made her trip to Panama and back, and we then sailed on her that night, at nine o'clock, for Arica, in Peru, a three days' voyage. Arrived on the morning of the 7th, had some trouble in getting horses and canvas ashore in lighters. Opened on the 10th, business brisk. Left here on the morning of the 15th for "Tague," [Tacna?, Ed.] 40 miles by cars. Opened on the 17th and performed till the 28th. Business only middling, the people being very poor, and the excitement of the Chincha Islands had caused "stagnation" to all kinds of business. Gave another performance at "Arica" on our return. Left the next morning for "Arequipa," thirty leagues. We travelled the whole distance on mules across the Pampas and over the mountains. Here we met with some wonderful sights. Saw over 500 dead animals on the road. The poor things travel the whole journey without a drop of water, because the mule drivers are too mean to pay for it. It is true that water is very dear as one has to pay 1s. and even 4s. a bucket. We all watered our horses to keep them alive, and when the poor things fall down, the load is taken from their back and left there to die. We travelled over the "Pampas" thirteen leagues, the first day through the burning sands. Arrived quite exhausted at a "tambo", which is called a Roadslde Tavern. No houses within five leagues. Water has to be brought eight leagues over to this place. Left the "tambo" at 2 o'clock in the morning to avoid travelling in the sun. Laid over in the heat of the day, and arrived in Arequipa at 8 o'clock that night. Here we were quite up in the world, this place being about 18,000 feet above the level of the sea [true height is 7,661 feet, Ed.]; and close to the burning volcano of Mount Chlmborazo [height 20,564 feet, Ed.]. Here we did not play under canvas, but made a ring in the parquet of the theatre, which is a very old building. No roof to it, we had to put a canvas on the top whenever there was a performance. We opened to a $1100 house; and did splendid business far twelve performances. Left this place, and arrived at Islay the next evening. Here we met the steamer "Peru" once more, and off we went for Callao. Arrived there on the 10th of September, and found everything all right, and "nix" of a blockade. Opened there on the 15th under canvas, and performed on the 17th (Sunday afternoon) at the Plaza de Torres, the 18th being the anniversary of the independence of Chile, a sort of 4th of July which is kept in this country. Also performed at night under canvas, at well as Tuesday, the 19th. Opened in Lima, at the Plaza de Acho, on Sunday afternoon, the 24th, to a crowded house. Had to close the gates before the beginning of the performance, there being over 12,000 people present. This was the great "climax" upon which we travelled with sealed papers, on account of many parties trying to lead us before we reached the capital; notwithstanding which, we fooled them all. Ahead of us was a party of three brothers, styled the "Brothers of the Air:" then there were the Willis and Aymar party; also the Biselet Family, who had sent their agent ahead; and also Tom Linton's party, just arrived from England, thirteen in number, who were playing in Valparaiso, but hearing we had the lead of them towards Lima, changed their views and sailed for Australia. We performed every Sunday in the Plaza de Acho in Lima, and Tuesday and Thursday under canvas in Callao, distance about twelve miles by cars. Sailed In haste, onboard of the steamer "Peru," on the 28th of October, for Payta, on our way to Guayaquil. Upon arriving at Payta, nothing but bad news. The President of Guayaquil killed, and the city in a state of rebellion. The Keller Troupe were performing at the theatre, but had stopped on account of the riots, and Mr. Keller having got Into a difficulty through one of the ladies of the troupe, who had been insulted by a native and during the quarrel drew a pistol on Keller, who in self-defence shot the man; he expired that night. Keller was arrested and put in prison, but the foreigners have demanded his release, and have given notice that they will apply to the American squadron, now laying there, to bombard the town. You have it just as it was told to me by a passenger just arrived from Guayaquil. Hearing all this "good news," we thought best to direct our course to this place, and arrived here on the morning of the 4th, in their "bake-house" city. Quito unsafe to walk without an umbrella, nevertheless we opened here on the 7th to an immense audience, and give our sixth performance to-night. Palcos all sold before 8 o'clock this morning. I expect to sail from Aspinwall on the 21st for Kingston in Jamaica. Hoping that this will find you in good health, as it leaves me and family, I remain yours truly, G. F. Orrin.

New York Clipper, 7 January 1865

ORRIN & SEBASTIAN'S CIRCUS left Kingston, for St. Thomas, on Christmas day. They gave fifteen performances at Kingston, the business at first being immense, but not so latterly, owing to the races then going on, which races, by the bye, were a sort of monkey races, the jockeys being all young gentlemen from Africa. George W. Orrin, Jr., had appeared in the great Zampillaerostation act. The local papers speak highly of the performance, pronouncing it most wonderful and successful, drawing down deafening applause, and eliciting a call for the daring performer after the termination of the act. Letters for the Orrin & Sebastian Circus Company will reach them if addressed to St. Thomas, D. W.

New York Clipper, 28 January 1865

ALL LETTERS for ORRIN & SEBASTIAN'S CIRCUS to be addressed at SANTIAGO DE CUBA for the next four weeks, as we do not expect to be in St.Thomas before the end of February.

New York Clipper, 8 April 1865


New York Clipper, 3 June 1865


New York Clipper, 31 March 1866

T. J. B., Toledo , Ohio . —1 . The last we heard from Orrin and Sebastian's Circus was at Caracas, Venezuela. The party separate in May. A letter sent to them care of Italian Consul at Caracas will reach them.

New York Clipper, 5 May 1866

ORRIN & SEBASTIAN'S CALIFORNIA CIRCUS. This firm dissolved Partnership at Maracaibo, South America, on the 26th of March, 1866, by mutual consent. ORRIN & SEBASTIAN. The above firm, in future, will be known as ORRIN & SONS' CALIFORNIA CIRCUS

New York Clipper, 22 June 1867

AMUSEMENTS IN KINGSTON, JAMAICA. W. I.— "We have been for o long time stale, flat and monotonous; but," says our correspondent, "Americanus," "to make good the old proverb it never rains but it pours, in dropped upon us, by different arrivals, three caterers for the public amusement—Mr. Watty Wallack, the monologlst; the Luande Equestrian and Gymnastic Troupe, and the Orrin Circus Company. The first named came from St. Thomas, the next from Port au Prince, and the last from Panama. Messrs. De Cordova, McDougall & Co., who are here all in all in theatrical matters, had the agency of the three conflicting interests—conflicting because in a small place like this one entertainment is quite enough at a time—but, like good generals, they arranged a combination of the two circus companies and so made it pay on all sides ......

The Orrin family are old favorites here. George and Ned have come out in new lines of business; they were always, and are still, very good in vaulting and acrobatic exercises, but the former is now, en verité, a mirth-provoking clown, and the latter a daring bareback rider. This company has Johnston and Frank Lee with them, both very great at leaping and somersaulting, and Kate Ormond, a most charming creature and very graceful equestrienne ......

At the opening night of the circus there was nearly a thousand dollars taken for admissions, and the subsequent receipts could not have averaged less than three hundred dollars per night. The Orrin troupe leaves this day, May 24, for St. Thomas. The Luande company remains in the city for some time longer, and Mr. Wallack starts immediately on a tour round the island."

New York Clipper, 25 April 1868

Lorenza Maya, who arrived in this city last week, states that just before leaving Havana he saw a letter, received by a gentleman in that city from St. Thomas, stating that all of Orrin's Circus Company had been lost at sea only a few hours sail from St. Thomas. As we have received no intelligence regarding such catastrophe we give it merely as a rumor.

New York Clipper, 22 August 1868

ORRIN'S CIRCUS ALL SAFE.—It is gratifying to know that the rumor of the loss at sea of Orrin's Circus Company is untrue. We are in receipt of a letter from the company dated Medellin, New Granada, June 11th, which is two months after the date when they were reported lost. The party left Bogota for Medellin on April 16th, and on arriving at the river found the steamer occupied with troops, which caused a detention of eleven days, which delay, no doubt, gave rise to the rumor that all had perished at sea. They were to leave Medellin on June 14th for a trip up the coast. Frank Lee, E. W. Orrin, G. F. Orrin, Sig. F. Tourniaire, Juan Radolfo, El Niño Carlitos, El Niño Willy, Sig. T. Oaks and Catalina Ormond are in the company, and were all well at last advices.

New York Clipper, 12 September 1868

G. F. Orrin's Circus was at Panama at last advices, Aug. 28th, and had given two performances to big business. Letters will reach Mr. Orrin at that point.

New York Clipper, 31 October 1868

MR . GEORGE W. ORRIN had a narrow escape while performing on the trapeze with his brother Edward, in Panama, on October 1st. Everything went on well until he came to the feat of hanging by a strap around the nape of the neck from the top beam; as he adjusted the strap around the neck and allowed his full weight to bear upon it, the strap gave way and he was precipitated to the ground, a distance of thirty feet. A wild cry went up from the spectators, every one supposing him killed, but he picked himself up, got on the trapeze again, and finished the act. The party were to have left for Central America on the 10th inst., but letters sent to Panama will reach them.

New York Clipper, 5 June 1869

G. F. ORRIN'S CIRCUS reached Panama on May 5th, from Costa Rica, and finding business very dull in Panama, concluded to ship direct for California, and was to sail for "Frisco" on May 10th, with all the company. In a letter to us, dated May 9th, Mr . Orrin says: —"Courtney's company from Mexico, with the Nelson Brothers, Arreck, and other gymnasts, were here about three weeks ago, and gave five performances in the theatre, with, I am told, good success. The public speak very highly of their performance, more particularly of Arreck's feats on the single trapeze, and the act by the Nelsons, with the three violins. They left here for Callao and Lima. It seems as though they were chasing up Chiarini's company, who, I see by the papers, was expected in Valparaiso about the middle of last month. The reports from Callao was that the company had been very unfortunate, and had lost three of the company by yellow fever, and Chiarini had lost two of his best horses. I give it to you just as I heard it from several parties, but none could tell the names of the members of the company that had died. As all accounts were not alike, I will not mention names in case it may not be true."

New York Clipper, 10 July 1869

PACIFIC RAILROAD CIRCUS.— The following letter from G. F. Orrin, of the above circus, may not be uninteresting to the general reader, as well as the circus profession:—

SALT LAKE CITY, June 22d, 1869.

FRANK QUEEN.—DEAR SIR.—I arrived In San Francisco on the 30th ult., from Panama, and, getting the White Pine fever, started off for that country immediately, leaving Frisco on the 2d inst.; so you will see I did not lose much time. We travel on the great Pacific Railroad, and have performed at the following places:—Rocklin, June 3d; Truckee, 4th; Wadsworth, 5th; Wlnnamucca, 7th : Carlin, 9th and 10th; Elko, 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th. These are all new towns, sprung up since the commencement of the railroad. They all have a strange appearance—mostly canvas houses or tents, very few wooden ones. All these places have a certain number of Chinese located on the outskirts, living in small huts, and some of them in houses built on the old bodies of cars. It is a curious sight to see and hear them talk. In Carlln, Wells, Fargo & Co's Express Office is in a canvas house, with a drinking shop in the front part. The agent told me they were only waiting until the wooden building was finished. Everybody seems busy putting up new houses. These places spring up like mushrooms. Good hotels at each place where the cars stop, and living very good; meals one dollar in coin. From Elko, in stages, it is fifteen hours to White Pine, to which place we postponed going, hearing that the Dan Castello show was on the way to Salt Lake City, where we intended going. Ws took cars for Ogden, 280 miles, and then staged it 40 more, which brought us here on the 17th inst. Had a good time on the way, having a special train and a good natured conductor, who stopped the train and gave us time to bathe in the much talked about Salt Lake, which was quite close to the track, and a rare treat to us all. Upon arriving here we found the city full of circus bills and big pictorials of both companies, and the Rawson troupe playing at the theatre, with Hartz underlined. Visited there the night we arrived; house rather poor, but I believe the company has been doing well—expect the excitement of the circus bills hurt them considerably. We opened on the 18th inst. ( the other show to open), performing for one week, on the 28th. We give our fifth and last performance to-night—business first rate—and leave tomorrow for the White Pines, making four stands on the way, and open In Hamilton on the glorious Fourth of July, where I will post you of our success. This is a nice place, very clean and healthy. I went to the tabernacle on Sunday, and heard a fine sermon preached by Elder John Taylor, but was greatly disappointed in not hearing President Brigham Young, who was out in the country. I inclose you his photograph, with a few views of different parts of the city. Indians are to be seen walking about the city at all times, many of them speaking fine English. We had some of them in our canvass last night, so we performed the Indian act, just to please them, and when the dog ran in to catch the coon, you ought to have heard them scream and laugh.

At Promontory I cut you a piece of the last tier of the great railroad meeting, which I inclose. We stopped there two hours to change cars, &c. Yours truly, Geo. F. Orrin,

Great Pacific Railroad Circus, Orrln and Miller, proprietors.

[Photograph and wood received. Thank you.—ED. CLIP.]

New York Clipper, 9 September 1871

G. F. ORRIN AND SONS left Valparaiso June 30th, for Montevideo, where they expected to arrive about July 15th. They left Bell's circus playing in Valparaiso to bad business.

New York Clipper, 23 January 1875

THE ORRIN BROTHERS and Mlle. Lucia of G. L. Fox's "Humpty Dumpty Troupe" are thus noticed by The Washington Gazette of Jan. 17; Humpty Dumpty at Ford's Opera-house during the past week attracted immense audiences. The calisthenical exposition by the Orrin Brothers and Mlle. Lucia was indeed a model of grace and skill, and was rapturously applauded ...... An act entitled "Los Dos Payos," by the talented Orrin Brothers, was certainly the most miraculous and entertaining acrobatic performance it has ever been our good fortune to look upon. The "badinage" of the grotesque Brothers was well-timed and happily received by the audience. The Orrins are evidently both of them beaux esprits, and the best in their line of business living. They are immensely enjoyed amid acclamations of the wildest delight, and so repeatedly recalled in their acts as to almost exhaust the funny fellows. How they managed to do all they did continues to bother our mental capacity yet.

New York Clipper, 3 May 1884

THE ORRIN BROTHERS will close their show in the City of Mexico about the beginning of May, and will open there again about Dec. 1. After much trouble and expense they have secured the same site for next season. It is where they have been for the past four Winters, and is said to be a fine location in the centre of the city. At our latest advices, April 8, everybody connected with the show is reported in good health, and the managers are apparently well satisfied with the success of their season. Mrs. Orrin, the mother of the Orrin Brothers, is still lying ill from paralysis.

New York Clipper, 31 May 1884


GEORGE FREDERICK ORRIN, whose sudden death on May 15, in the city of Mexico, after but a few hours illness, was chronicled in a telegram in our last issue, was prominent in the profession in years long past as performer, proprietor and manager. He was born in County Chester, Eng., Dec. 6, 1815. In early life he entered many businesses, but was never satisfied until he became one of the profession, after which he soon formed a partnership with Thomas Nunn, Felix Walker and William Stewart (all are now dead), adopting for himself the name of George Honey. The party styled themselves "The Acrobat Family," and after playing at Astiey's Royal Amphitheatre, London, with Balty and with others in the old country, they came to America. This was in 1845. They opened at Niblo's Garden, this city, giving their acrobatics between the acts, and made a positive hit. Later on they traveled with Rockwell's Company, Howe's and Maybe's Circus, and with all the principal shows of that period. In 1851 the troupe visited Havana, Cuba, and Mexico. After their return to the United States the party soon dissolved, Mr. Orrln continuing with his own family, discarding the assumed name of Honey and appearing as Prof. G. F. Orrln and Sons. For several seasons he traveled with Spauldlng & Rogers, Dan Rice, Harry Buckley and others; once forming a theatrical concert company with Nelson Kneass (author of "Ben Bolt"), and at another time associating himself with Webber, whose family concertlzed on ox-horns. With Yankee Robinson, in Indianapolis, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was produced, in opposition to the Marsh Family, when Mr. Orrin, at different times during the season assumed the roles of Topsy, Uncle Tom and St. Clalr, his son George playing Eva. These ventures carried him through the years intervening from 1852 to 1867, when he formed a partnership with G . Chiarlni and Edgar Jones, with the object of taking a circus through the West indies. The tour was quite successful, and came to a close at Kingston Jamaica, in June, 1859, Chiarini going to Havana and Mr. Orrln taking his family to New York via New Orleans and the Mississippi River. During the Fall he played an engagement at Barnum's old Museum, corner of Ann street and Broadway, giving an entertainment with his sons between the acts of a piece called "Rosina Meadows". After this, engagements were fulfilled at Fox & Curran's Canterbury Hall, under the Lafarge House (now the Grand Central), also at 444 Broadway, run by Robert Butler, and at 585 Broadway, under the same management. In the year 1860 he visited his family in England for the first time in sixteen years. Returning, he filled engagements in Cuba during the Winter of '60 and '61. In the Fall of the latter year he went to California, under contract to John Wilson, the circus-manager of the Pacific. He stayed in California nearly two years, traveling all over that State and Oregon, as well as British Columbia. In 1863 he formed a partnership with Sebastian, the equestrian, and shipped a circus to Valparaiso, Chile. The route brought them up the West coast of South America to Panama. After visiting Santiago, Copiapó, Callao and Lima, they crossed to Colon, and took in the West Indies and Venezuela, dissolving partnership at Maracaibo in 1865. After this Mr. Orrln continued alone, naming the concern Orrin's California Circus. He revisited the West indies and Venezuela, going also to New Granada, making the trip to the capital, Bogota, on mules. After a very successful season in that city he brought the company down the Magdalena River to Barranquilla, Santa Martha and Cartagena. He now recrossed the Isthmus of Panama, and visited all the Central American Republics, after which the show was shipped to San Francisco, California. In 1869 he played engagements with Dan Casteiio and George Ryiand, and through the Winter ran the circus at City Gardens and Hayes' Park. In the Spring of '70 he formed a partnership with the Gregory Family, starting a tent-show on the road. This venture proved a failure. In the Fall he started for South America, under engagement to Courtney & Sanford, joining this show at Callao, Peru. From here all went to Mollendo and Arequipa, the company being contracted to show gratis during the feast given by the Government to inaugurate the Meiggs Railroad. The party went up to the city in the first passenger train that passed over the line. Courtney & Sanford broke up in a few months after this at Santiago, and Mr. Orrin formed a small party and traveled through the southern part of Chile. In '71 he visited Buenos Ayres and Montevideo with the Nelson Bros.; later on he joined Chiarini's Circus at Rio Janeiro. The meanderings of that troupe brought him up the east coast to Havana. Here he left Chiarini, and after traveling through the interior of Cuba took a small party to Mexico. For the past five or six years he had been with his sons, assisting in the management of their many enterprises. Last Summer he went on a pleasure trip to England and France. His son Edward was the last person to whom he spoke, and his final words were: "Yes, Ned ; it is all right." The remains were interred on the following day in the English Cemetery, the funeral being attended by many friends and members of the Orrin Bros.' Company.

With due respect, the circus was closed, and the season brought to an abrupt termination.


DEATH OF MRS. G. F. ORRIN.—On May 24 a telegram was sent by the Orrin Bros. from the City of Mexico, announcing the death of their mother, aged fifty-six years. She had been sick for several months. In their double bereavement the Orrins will have the sympathy of their host of friends.

New York Clipper, 14 June 1884

MRS.ORRIN'S DEATH —Mail advices from Orrin Bros. inform us that their mother's death occurred early on the morning of May 24 in her room at the Bazar Hotel, City of Mexico. Mrs. Zllla T. Orrin was born in Sheffield, Eng., April 3, 1828. The funeral services occurred May 26 at the Catholic Sagrario, adjoining the Cathedral, and the remains were interred in the English Cemetery. Mrs. Orrin suffered a paralytic-stroke on Dec. 8, 1883, from the effects of which she never recovered, having been confined to her bed from that time to the hour of her death. She was unconscious at the time of her husband's death, which preceded hers by nine days, and she passed away in ignorance of the demise of her life-partner. The blow Is a sad one to the sons, who do not now expect to be in this city before July.

New York Clipper, 7 March 1891

THE ORRIN BROTHERS' new theatre and circus building in the City of Mexico was opened Feb. 22. The Inauguration was a big success, and the best representative people of all classes were to be found in the seats. There was a very lively appreciation given the big bill and the excellent company, and that the show is good enough for any metropolitan city is easily demonstrated by a perusal of a list of the performers, including the Japanese Troupe of eight people, Frank Melville and wife, Wm. Gorman and wife, Edward Nelson and wife, Maginley and wife, Da Coma and wife, Jordan and wife, Richard Bell and family, Bannack and family, Joseph Wilton, Albert Nelson, William Edwards, George Nash, G. L. Wood and ponies, C. Fredericks, T. H. Crowther, Clyde Phillips, the Gilfort Brothers and the Three Melvelles. The new building is of iron, and is so arranged that it is suitable for any kind of entertainment—opera, drama, circus, etc. The Orrins intend to keep it open all the year. They have just entered, Feb. 2, on their eleventh year of amusement catering to the Mexican public, and their popularity and success show how well they have succeeded. Richard Bell, the popular clown, has been with them nine years. C. W. Fish, after an engagement of fifteen months, left Feb. 17 for New York. Everybody with the show is reported well.

New York Clipper, 24 September 1892


George Washington Orrin, the senior member of the well known firm of the Orrin Brothers, died at London, Eng., at the First Avenue Hotel, Holborn, on Sept 9, of heart disease, from which he had been a sufferer for some years. His wife and child were with him at the last, and his friend, Benito Nichols, who had just arrived in London, gave him every attention. Upon receipt of the news by cable, the Orrin Bros.' building in the City of Mexico and the circus In the interior were draped in mourning, and all performances were suspended. The remains will arrive this week on the steamer City of Paris. George Orrin was the first son of George F. and Zilla T.Orrin (both of English birth), and was born in New York, Feb. 7. 1846. He entered the circus ring about 1850 with Dan Rice, traveling with his father all over the United States, and visiting Mexico and Cuba as early at 1854, being a member at different times of the companies known as Spaulding & Rogers', Dan Rice's, Harry Buckley's, Levi J. North's, the Floating Palaces on the Mississippi, etc. In 1857 the family formed a partnership with the Kneass Family in what was then termed a room show. The father, Nelson Kneass, was the author and composer of that celebrated ballad, "Ben Bolt." George Orrin had, at different times, performed nearly all the acts in the circus business. He rode sufficiently for scene acts, two horses, etc., he played clown successfully through the West Indies, and made quite a hit as Eva in "Uncle Tom's Cabin" with Yankee Robinson about 1856. In 1857 they made a tour of the West Indies,the father being in partnership with G. Chiarini, performing in New York upon their return at Barnum's Museum in the Fall of 1859, and in ? at the variety theatres at 444 Broadway and 58? Broadway, and at the Canterbury Hall. They then went to California in 1861 with John Wilson. In 1863 Orrin & Sebastian (the equestrian, now dead) organised a company and started from San Francisco to Valparaiso, Chile. For two or three years they toured the South and Central American Republics and the West Indies. In 1865 Sebastian sold out to Mr. Orrin, and the show continued as Orrln's California Circus. The first trip from Maracaibo, Venezuela, to Bogota, overland, and on pack mules, occupied seven months. In 1868 the show was shipped to San Francisco, and in 1870 a partnership was formed with the Gregorys for touring that state and Oregon. The show came to grief at Stockton, the Gregorys going to Australia and the Orrin family left for South America to join Courtney & Sanford. This gigantic company was disbanded in Valparaiso, the family then forming a company with Sam and John of the original Nelson Brothers, Charlie Laiscelle and the Rosalln Sisters for a tour of Southern Chile which was only partially successful, and the Orrlns soon started for Buenos Ayres, through the straits of Magellan. Upon the Atlantic side, Chiarini's Circus was met with and the family became members of the company until they arrived at Havana in 1872. Here part of the family left, but George, Edward and his wife continued until the company arrived at Chicago. Hearing the show was going to California and the East Indies, they left and joined Charles W. Noyes until the Fall, when the brothers went to Cuba. Upon their return they were engaged by George Tyler for G. L. Fox's "Humpty Dumpty" Troupe, and traveled with this company for nearly two years without losing a week. In December of 1875 a trip was made to the South of France to benefit the health of Orrin's wife. They returned In March, 1876, the object of the voyage failing completely. The invalid barely reached home in Philadelphia, dying on May 30. The next month George and Edward engaged with J. H. Haverly for a trip to California of six weeks, remaining until the Fall. In the spring of 1877 they took the "Universal Combination" (a fine variety and pantomime company) to Havana. This venture met with success, and the next Fall saw various enterprises of the Orrin Bros. on that sunny isle. They continued operations in that field until 1889. They built a temporary circus during the Summer at Coney Island, near the Brighton Beach Hotel, but it was a financlal failure. In 1881 the first company was taken to Mexico. Here they were so well received that 1892 finds them established there permanently. They have a theatre-circus in the City of Mexico which has cost eighty thousand dollars and they also travel through interior towns every year with a circus company. The firm name of the Orrin Brothers—George and Edward—is known from one end of the Mexican Republic to the other, and our Mexican contemporary, The Two Republics, speaks of the Orrlns' years of unexampled generosity as having endeared them to the American colony in that capital. George Orrin was a man of sterling qualities, strictly upright in his business dealings, warmhearted, loyal to his friends, and one who despised trickery and humbug. Those who knew him well can truthfully offer to his memory a tribute of affectionate esteem.

Source: "The New York Clipper", Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection
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Last updated: 13-VII-2016