Retlaw & Alton

acrobats / 1880s


- William Williams Hersh in solo clown-acrobat costume (c1890) and in his early circus days (c1870s) -

(William Williams Hersh / b. Oct 8, 1856 Milford, Ohio / d. Nov 18, 1921 Cincinnati, Ohio*)

William Williams Hersh was a gymnast and clown in a vaudeville act called "Retlaw and Alton".


"Alton", out of his costume (c1890s).

- publicity photo signed as "Will H. Alton" -

*Hersh information and photos from Hersh family ancestry site.

New York Clipper, November 6, 1886, p. 539.
European Circus: "Carroll & Rose were managers when it stranded at Lexington, Missouri in September 1882. Retlaw & Alton have recently recovered their salary from it."

St. Paul daily globe. › July 10, 1887
The All-Feature (Tent) Show
"Retlaw and Alton, the horizontal bar performers"

New York Times: March 1890
- listing at Tony Pastor's for April 7th.

Pittsburg Dispatch; April 20, 1890

1891: Sutton’s Circus opened its season at Ottumwa, Ia. April 27, 28 to a crowded canvas. George Edgerton manages the ring and the Edgerton Sisters (trapeze performers) are the features. The others are: Stowe Brothers, Retlaw and Alton, Kennedy (human bridge) and Epwell’s educated horses. Frank Hubin presides over the annex. He also makes the announcements in the circus. Roster of the annex: Prof. Tostell, illusionist; Capt. McIntosh (tattooed man) and his tattooed dog, Hi Ki (Zulu Warrior) and Mme. Zelha (mind reader). New York Clipper, May 9, 1891, p. 150.

1891: Notes from Dick's Circus. We are now in our ninth week, and have had a prosperous season, but the roads have been something terrible. Our first blow down of the season occurred at Ogden, Ia. Everything went down just as the afternoon show was about to take place, but we hustled and gave a performance to big business. Everybody is well, and the spectre in white walks weekly. Our performers: Retlaw and Alton, Stone Bros., Cunningham and Moncayo, Prof. J. W. Kennedy, Lula Moncayo and Prof. Meyer's school of educated horses. Our sideshow is run by Senator Frank B. Hubin, with the following people: Capt. McIntosh (tattooed man), Mlle. Jento (snake charmer), Sig. Lewisden(?) (strong man), Jubilee singers and Prof. Hubin's Punch and magic. New York Clipper, July 11, 1891, p. 296.

1891: Notes from Dick's Circus. Business has been satisfactory since our opening. The company includes Retlaw and Alton . . . the Moncayos, Stone Bros., Ed. Cunningham and Kennedy. Prof. Blocker leads the band of eight pieces, while Frank B. Hubin manages the sideshow, which includes Capt. McIntosh . . . Jenta and Prof. Hubin's Punch and Judy. New York Clipper, July 18, 1891, p. 312.

1891: Notes from Dick's Model Circus. We are now in our seventeenth week, and business has been good ever since we opened. Everybody has received his money every week. We are now in Illinois. Prof. W. W. Jones, the balloonist, joined us lately, and has already made twenty ascensions. We have the following performers: Retlaw and Alton, Eddie Cunningham, the Three Moncayos, Little Maudie Sutton, Al. White, the Two Stone Bros. and John Meyers' school of educated horses. Our sideshow is run by Senator Frank B. Hubin, with the following people: Mille Jenna (snake enchantress), Midget Pony . . . and Prof. Hubins (Punch and magic). Will H. Retlaw is principal clown, and is always well received. His wife (Annie Girard), has been visiting the show. New York Clipper, August 29, 1891, p. 416.

Tony Pastor's 14th Street Theatre / NYC / Vaudeville Program / November 18, 1889

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