powerhouse museum archives guide to museum archives guide to the archives of the weatherly ... at...
Post on 26-May-2018
Embed Size (px)
P OW E R HOUS E M US EU M A R CH I V E S
GU I DE T O T H E A R CH I V E S OF T H E
WEATHERLY SISTERSPAU L W I L S ON 2009
CONTENTS Biographical Note 3 Series List 5 Series Descriptions and Item Lists 6
COLLECTED ARCHIVES BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE
The Weatherly sisters, Gaga and Toots, worked in circus, vaudeville, film and television as clowns,
contortionists, mimics, dancers, singers, songwriters and musicians. They both began performing on
stage at the age of two and continued as entertainers well into their 70s. They were fifth generation
show people. Their grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great grandparents were English circus
proprietors; their parents and their aunts were circus and vaudeville performers; one of their nieces was
the actress and variety performer Gloria Dawn.
The Weatherly Sisters' great grandparents on their maternal side, James and Pauline Newsome ne
Hinne, were English equestrian performers and circus entrepreneurs. James Newsome was born in
Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1824 and apprenticed at the age of 12 to William Batty of Astley's Circus. An
older brother, Timothy, also trained in the circus and by the 1860s was the most famous lion-tamer in
England. Pauline Hinne was from a French circus family but had been born in Berlin. She married
James Newsome in 1846. For the next few years they travelled extensively throughout Europe.
Newsome's Circus was established in 1856 and by the mid-1870s had become one of the most successful
circuses in provincial England. James Newsome was also a highly regarded horse-breaker. According to
Thomas Frost in his Circus Life and Circus Celebrities, the distinctive features of Newsome's Circus
were that he broke in his own horses and that his company played in purpose-built structures. His
circus toured the north of England and Scotland. The Newsome's six daughters - Adele, Emma, Marie,
Pauline, Virginie and Ella Bertha - all became noted circus equestrians. Emma married another circus
performer and equestrian William Fredericks who also used the name William Frederick Coleman and
who was known professionally as 'Professor Fredericks' or 'Mr Fredericks'. It appears that William
Fredericks was born in Germany c1845. Frost mentions in his book that "Fredericks" was a member of
Newsome's Circus by 1873. Later in his career 'Professor Fredericks' became well-known for his troupe
of performing animals which included monkeys, cats, rats, mice and birds. At one time he also managed
Fredericks' Star Circus. In 1887 Newsome's Circus suffered a disastrous fire that destroyed its
Edinburgh Circus. The company continued for another two years but closed in Sunderland in 1889.
Pauline Newsome died in 1904 and James Newsome in 1912.
The Fredericks family had ten children, including Gaga and Toots' mother Clothilde, who was known as
Pinky. Billed as the Rio Sisters but sometimes as the Rio Troupe or the Fredericks, Pinky and four of
her sisters toured through India, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand with Harmston's Circus
during the 1890s. Pinky like her siblings often used the surname Coleman and in Melbourne in 1898 as
Clothilde Coleman she married another Harmston's performer, Sydney Odling, who was generally
known as Charles E Weatherly. Charles Weatherly was a musician, acrobat, contortionist, animal
trainer and clown, often billed as 'Pippo the Clown'. According to family legend, he had been born to a
well-to-do family in Birmingham, England, had led an orchestra in Birmingham at the age of nine, and
had abandoned a university course and run away to join the circus. However none of this can be verified
from the records. On both his marriage and death certificates "Charles Weatherly" was named as
Sydney Charles Odling. Charles and Clothilde's three children were born while the family was
travelling with Harmston's Circus: Zilla in a hotel in Bangkok, Thailand (then Siam) in 1900; Zaida
(Gaga) in a hotel in Singapore in 1903; and Queenie (Toots) on a ship travelling between Sumatra and
Penang in 1905.
As a family, the Weatherlys (or Weatherleys as their name was sometimes spelt) performed with
circuses throughout the Indian sub-continent, the Far East, Australasia, and southern Africa or with
regimental theatres operated by the British Army on the Indian sub-continent and in Burma, Malaya,
Singapore, and southern Africa. They made a number of short trips to Australia to perform with
circuses including Wirth's and Barton's. For a short period around 1910 they left show business and
Charles Weatherly worked as a driver in Toowoomba, Queensland. At first the children sang songs on
stage, played musical instruments and performed impersonations, but around 1917 they introduced a
contortion act into their program.
From 1920 the Weatherly family was based in Australia and focussed on vaudeville. They travelled
widely as itinerant performers. They were usually billed as the "Five Musical Weatherlys" and their act
involved a mixture of music, singing, dancing, comedy, impersonations and contortion work. For a short
period the Weatherly children also billed themselves as the "Atlantic City Girls". During the 1920s
Charles Weatherly, Pinky Weatherly and Toots Weatherly appeared in a small number of Australian
silent films. The family also travelled with Fuller's Theatres on tours of Australia and New Zealand and
performed with other vaudeville companies. In addition they performed at boxing and wrestling
stadiums providing entertainment between bouts. In 1927 Zilla Weatherly married William Evans, a
ventriloquist, magician and paper tearer, who billed himself as "Billy Andross". Their daughter, Gloria
Dawn, was born in 1929. By the time Gloria Dawn was aged two, Zilla and Billy were travelling
independently of other members of the family.
In the early 1930s Charles, Pinky, Gaga and Toots Weatherly undertook a tour to Singapore, India,
Burma and Java. In India they experienced civil unrest associated with Gandhi's campaign against
British rule and Toots also contracted smallpox. It was this trip that convinced the family to settle
permanently in Australia. Nevertheless they continued to travel and Gaga and Toots undertook tours
with a number of tent shows including Sorlie's and Barton's.
At the outbreak of World War II the family was in Brisbane preparing to undertake a tour of India but
international developments forced them to abandon this plan. They decided to buy a bus and for the
next two years travelled throughout Queensland and the Northern Territory, performing along the way.
Later in the war they settled in Sydney. Gaga and Toots performed their last contortion act in 1945.
Charles Weatherly died in 1945 while Pinky Weatherly died in 1952.
At times when things were quiet in show business Toots Weatherly worked as a secretary. Gaga had a
long-standing engagement as a drummer in an all-girl band that played at Leichhardt Stadium. From
the early 1950s the sisters concentrated on a boxing bells act and later appeared on a number of
nationally-televised variety shows including "The Don Lane Show" and "The Mike Walsh Show". The
last time they played on television was in the early 1970s and after that they confined their
performances to nursing homes and hospitals. Toots died in September 1989; it is not known when Gaga
98/29/1 Weatherly Sisters Archive, Powerhouse Museum
Oral history interviews conducted with the Weatherly Sisters, Toots and Gaga, by Graham Shirley on 9
February 1983 (NFSA 376614) and 20 June 1983 (NFSA 375653), National Film and Sound Archive of
Fairground Heritage Trust http://www.fairground-heritage.org.uk/ [Accessed 17 December 2007]
Frost, Thomas. Circus Life and Circus Celebrities. London: Tinsley Brothers, 1875.
Hogan, Susan. "Dawn, Gloria (1929 - 1978)", http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A130659b.htm
[Accessed 21 November 2007]
Van Straten, Frank. Tivoli. South Melbourne: Lothian, 2003
COLLECTED ARCHIVES SERIES LIST
Reg. Number Series Title Date
98/29/1-1 Programs 1879 - 1938
98/29/1-2 Posters and advertising cards c 1887 - 1921
98/29/1-3 Photographs c 1895 - c 1927
98/29/1-4 Documents c 1890 - 1930
98/29/1-5 Press and magazine articles and clippings 1874 - 1930s
98/29/1-6 "Circus Life and Circus Celebrities" 1875
COLLECTED ARCHIVES SERIES DESCRIPTION
Registration Number: 98/29/1-1
Creators: Weatherly Sisters
Series Title: Programs
Date Range: 1879 - 1938
Physical Characteristics: Loose paper programs, programs pasted onto sheets of paper, silk
programs sewn onto pages of a scrapbook or onto sheets of paper.
Description: Programs, Weatherly Sisters, Strathfield, New South Wales,
Australia, 1879 - 1938
Programs detailing performances by Toots and Gaga Weatherly and
their immediate and extended family in a number of circuses
including Newsome's Circus, Fredericks' Circus, and Harmston's
Circus, and on the vaudeville circuit with companies such as
Fuller's, the Tivoli, and Sorlie's. A scrapbook containing c