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Circus elephant trainer Cheerfuk Gardner


Frank "Cheerful" Gardner

July 18 1885 - March 17 1952


Cheerful Gardner was regarded by his contemporaries as one of the best elephant trainers in the country. Many of the country's leading elephant handlers of the 20th century trained under Gardner's guidance.

Frank was born in Janesville, Wisconsin He was nicknamed "Cheerful" because deadpan expression.

He learned the trade as a young man under the direction of George "Deafy" Denman. Cheerful began his circus career on the Ringling Bros Circus in 1903 as a camel handler. The following year 1904 Cheerful work with the Carl Hagenbeck Animal Show at the Louisana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, where he perfomed his trade mark "head carry" for the first time. In 1905 and 1906 he was with the Carl Hagenbeck Circus

In 1907 he went to work for Ben Wallace when Mr. Wallace bought out the Carl Hagenbach exhibit and promptly started the legendary Hagenbeck and Wallace Circus.

He had the Herds over the years on Sun Bros. Circus in 1910 and Cole Bros. World Toured Circus in 1918.

By 1923 he had taken over the John Robinson Circus herd and then in 1925 for whatever reason, the John Robinson herd and the Hagenbeck-Wallace herds traded places. He had become a legendary herd boss and trainer known for his swinging pendulum head carry.

From 1925 to 1934 he held the entire Hagenbeck-Wallace herd in his control with as many as 29 elephants in 1934. He remained with the elephants under Ringling's ownership until 1943 and continued throughout the rest of his career on various shows.


Frank 'Cheerful' Gardner and Babe
Cheerful Gardner Head Carry
Click to enlarge
Head Carry
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