The Billboard
Susie Lindsley
Cincinnati: 31 December 1921


By Susie Lindsley

  During my twenty years' experience as a trouper, all of which was spent with the so-called tall grass shows, my thoughts often drift back to three seasons of perfect enjoyment spent as a member of Jim Shipman's "Tom" Show, the truly Barnum of all pavilion dramatic enterprises, and it is with much pride that today I look over the list of people under the Shipman banner in the latter part of the '90s, and find so many who have really made names for themselves either in the show game or commercially.

  Jim Shipman was the king of managers; good-natured, generous to a fault, always willing to listen to the troubles of all and always willing to part with his last dollar to ease your burdens, but as a manager he literally failed to bring home the bacon. The opening of Jim Shipman's "Tom" Show in Syracuse was an auspicious occasion, and was visited by many outdoor showmen of much prominence. The big parade hit the street at noon and was a wonder with its big white band, colored band, colored jubilee singers, open dens of bloodhounds, donks, ponies, floats and handsomely costumed women in open vehicles. At the night performance there were more people turned away than could find room in the sixty top, with two forty-foot middle pieces. The patrons liked the show, they liked the concert and they showered the jubilant Shipman with most flattering encouragement, and he saw naught but success in his path. At the end of the first season the show was a winner, but the wintering of the seventy-odd head of stock was a thing Shipman had not given much thought, and it is said that the show opened its second season in debt. Nothing strange in this, I'll admit, but I'm just telling this to show how many times briars are discovered in the most beautiful bed of roses. The second season, like the first, opened in Syracuse and headed west thru the Empire State. Harry Tousey was general agent, and a young fellow named Stowell, who Shipman had induced to leave the Sig. Sautelle show, was in charge of the bill wagons. Business was good, but the routing of the show was bad, and the long jumps were telling on the stock. Tousey closed near Mt. Morris, and Stowell was made general agent, but in making this change the billing of the show was weakened but Stowell was one of the first agents to contract a solid town on duckets, that is, one of the first I had heard of. Unseasonable weather during early summer was the direct cause of bad business, and with our first bad business came discouragement to Shipman. He made many changes about the outfit, called Stowell in and made him his right-hand man on the show, and he spent much time away from the show. A tour of the mountain resorts of the Empire State made some money for the management, but in crossing into the State of Vermont the first bad routing of the caravan was shown. Business was immediately bad and grew worse week after week, until Brattleboro was reached, in which city the band played its last selection that season. From Brattleboro Shipman drifted to Winchester, N.H., and that winter season assembled a baggage wagon, a passenger wagon, cabin wagon and a pair of dogs and headed north with "Tom," playing halls and opera houses thru New Hampshire and into Maine, where the outfit became snow bound near Fryberg, at which point the members of the company departed for other employment or their homes. Shipman returned to Winchester, where later he became the proprietor of the Shipman House in that village, and where he died a few years ago, but not until he made his hotel famous among the tourists of the East.

  Going back to an assertation I made early in this story of the notables and near notables who trouped under the banner of Jim Shipman, I feel at liberty to mention the names of George Edes, who later was connected with the Shubert forces; Charles Ackerman, manager of the Kibble "Tom" show; Fletcher Smith, press agent for the Walter L. Main Circus; Frank H. Stowell, of the Frank H. Stowell "Tom" show; Jack Lynn, of the stock company bearing his name; Charles York, a manager of "Tom" shows for many years, now a successful owner of a chain of stores in Pennsylvania. Edsall and Winthrope, the Thorpe Sisters, Jim Greer, Tony Mason, Ed Espey, Maurice Goodalle, Henry Brown, Fred Smith, Bill Parker, George Mello and many more.