The Historical Society holds its first presentation since ’19 – The Shenandoah Sentinel
SHENANDOAH – The Historical Society of the Greater Shenandoah Area held its first presentation since 2019 on Tuesday evening.
About 30 people came to the company’s headquarters in downtown Main and Cherry Streets.
Andy Ulicny, historian, spoke of one of the earliest forms of entertainment in the Anthracite region: the circus.
One specific question he decided to answer was whether or not Harry Houdini had lived in Shenandoah at some point.
Ulicny mentioned how many of the biggest names in entertainment at the turn of the 20th century came through Shenandoah, including PT Barnum’s “Greatest Show on Earth”, as well as Jackie Gleason for a beer promotion.
“We often forget how big Shenandoah was,” Ulicny said.
Houdini did the same, Ulicny said, and he believes he lived in Shenandoah for at most a year, early in his career.
Ulicny said Shenandoahans played a role in the early days of Houdini’s career.
He cites Houdini’s early involvement with Borough native George Lowery, a circus performer at the time. Lowery had been with the Welsh Brothers Circus in 1896, and Houdini joined him two years later.
At that time, circuses were “fair weather” shows, performed during the hottest months of the year.
Houdini, he says, “spent the winter in Shenandoah, perfected the act,” before becoming the headliner of the Welsh Bros. Tour. and become a celebrity by traveling the world.
Lowery then formed his own traveling circus, which traveled to eastern Pennsylvania.
The two circuses performed in Shenandoah at various venues, including the old Columbia Park at the southeast end of town. The park, located southeast of the Bicentennial Park, was buried by coal excavation around 1940.
Other sites included the Veterans Memorial Stadium, Bicentennial Park, and vacant lots at the east end.
Lowery’s Circus lasted about 20 years, Ulicny said.
In addition, the historical society is making progress in improving and restructuring its museum.
The new religion hall is almost complete. Renovation work on this room, formerly a storage room, has been underway for a year.
The company is also preparing for its basket auction in a few weeks, on June 25, 26 and 27.
Every day is shopping, Ulicny said, and tickets will be withdrawn at the end of the weekend.
The auction will be held at their headquarters from June 3-7, June 12-5, 26 and June 12-3 27.