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Circopedia was originally created with the support of the Big Apple Circus Ltd. and inspired and funded by the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation.

In The Spotlight

Hoppe and Horse.jpg


In the intricate chaos of post-WWII Germany, a number of minor German circus entrepreneurs (such as Emil Wacker, Kurt Collien, Willy Aureden, and Fritz Mey) rose from administrative positions they had held before the war, when the German itinerant circus was in its golden age, to a modicum of celebrity as new circus owners. Managing their way out of a difficult past, they ventured into various and sometimes interesting circus experiments with diverse fortunes. Among them, the opportunistic Oskar Hoppe proved to be particularly tenacious in his attempts to revive great names of the past by taking good advantage of the struggle of some old circus luminaries to stage a comeback.

Oskar Hoppe (1898-1969) was the youngest of a family of sixteen children. Although his father didn’t come from the circus world, his mother belonged to an old traveling family. Oskar went to work (and learn) in the Wille family’s circus, a small enterprise where he quickly showed an aptitude for, and interest in, the administrative part of show business. He married Kathe Kuhlen, a circus tight wireA tight, light metallic cable, placed between two platforms not very far from the ground, on which a wire dancer perform dance steps, and acrobatic exercises such as somersaults. (Also: Low Wire)-dancer, when he was quite young and, in the early 1920s, began to work as an administrative accountant for the circuses of Alfred Schneider and Willy Hagenbeck, and by 1935, for the new Circus Barlay of Harry Barlay and his wife Carola, née Althoff.

From Circus Barlay, he went on to manage Dominik Althoff’s circus. Dominik Althoff (1882-1974) had just given the direction of his enterprise to his children, Franz and Carola (who had quickly separated from Harry Barlay). While there, Oskar Hoppe, who had divorced his first wife, married Dominik’s daughter Helene (1907-1997). Then, in 1939, Helene and her bother Adolf (1913-1998) decided to go their own way and created the Circus Geschwister Althoff, the administration of which Oskar Hoppe, as usual, managed. But this association didn’t last long: By 1940, Helene and Adolf parted ways, Adolf going on tour with his own Circus Adolf Althoff, and Helene and Oskar with their new Helene Hoppe Circus. One may safely surmise that the meddling presence of his brother-in-law in the family combine didn’t thrill Adolf Althoff!... (more...)

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CIRCOPEDIA is a constantly evolving and expanding archive of the international circus. New videos, biographies, essays, and documents are added to the site on a weekly—and sometimes daily—basis. Keep visiting us: even if today you don't find what you're looking for, it may well be here tomorrow! And if you are a serious circus scholar and spot a factual or historical inaccuracy, do not hesitate to contact us: we will definitely consider your remarks and suggestions.

Dominique Jando
Founder and Curator