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Senator Vance and the Circus


While this story isn't really about Vance County, it is an interesting enough tale about the founder of the County that is quite amusing and I thought you might enjoy it.

New York Times
November 21, 1886
The Story They are Telling About the North Carolina Senator
Washington Letter to the Baltimore American

It is rarely that a circus and a United States Senator run up against each other, but such a thing occurred down in North Carolina a day or so before the election.  It happened that one of the small road circuses of the south struck Wilkesborough, Wilkes County, N. C., one day and found, to the horror of the manager, that the town had been billed for a Democratic mass meeting, with Senator Zebulon B. Vance as the great attraction.   The circus had had a hard Summer, and the proprietor thought when it reached its native heath, in North Carolina, it would strike it rich.  After thinking over the matter for a long time the proprietor concluded to go see Senator Vance and see if a combination of the two shows could not be made.  So he called on the Senator and found him - as everybody else has- good-natured, jolly, and pleasant.  The proprietor mentioned his fears to the Senator and said that he feared the opposition.  "Yes," replied Senator Vance candidly, "I am something of a circus myself especially as I give a free show, and I am afraid I will hurt your business."   "Then, don't you think it would be of great benefit to us both if you would address the crowd from the circus ring under my tent and on top of the lion's cage?"  Senator Vance thought for a little while, and then concluded that it would be a good joke, and so he consented. The proprietor of the circus concluded to cut the price of admission down to 25 cents, so every one could come.  Just before the show began and a great crowd had collected about the door Senator Vance made his way toward the entrance, but before he got there he was somewhat startled to see the clown mounted on a chair outside the door, and hear him exclaim: "Step this way, ladies and gentlemen! Here is the greatest show on the face of the globe! Not only is the show in itself a whole continent of wonders and an aggregation of talent never before collected together under one name, one roof, or on one stage, but it presents to-night an addition feature. Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, do not be afraid.  The lions are caged and the monkeys are harmless. As I remarked, we have an attraction to-night which eclipses all the wonders of heaven, and sinks into utter oblivion all the freaks of earth. This great feature, ladies and gentlemen, is a real, live United States Senator, who will address the crown from the top of the lion's cage!  Step right up, ladies and gentlemen!  Tickets only 25 cents! We have reduced the price one-half, so all can see and hear the great anti-civil service reform Senator, Zebulon B. Vance!  Step up! Step up! Step up, and don't be bashful!"   The Senator thought he had better go in before he heard any more, and he did.  The clown still continued to harangue and was the means of filling the tent.  After the regular show the lion's cage was drawn out into the ring.  A stepladder was placed beside it and three chairs were placed on top.  Then Senator Vance mounted this rostrum and delivered his speech. It was a great success.  The people were delighted.  When the Senator became prosy the lions in the cage below grew somewhat restive and claimed the attention of the audience - at least of the spot where the Senator spoke.  It is but just to add that the Eighth District, in which Wilkesborough is situated, went Democratic, and it is all said to be owing to Senator Vance and the circus.


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