Michigan’s Very First Carnival Arrived in 1903
The first carnival to show up in the United States was brought here by Frank Bostock in 1894. From that point on, the floodgates opened. But what was the very first carnival to appear in Michigan?
Michigan's very first carnival was the Pilbeam Amusement Company carnival.
The Pilbeam Company was owned by Frank & Harry Pilbeam, who brought Michigan its first carnivals from 1903 thru 1938.
In answer to the Pilbeam's success, during the last half of the 20th Century, carnivals began popping up all throughout Michigan. The one that seemed to appear everywhere were the W.G. Wade carnivals, who took over the majority of carnivals in Michigan.
The Wade carnivals seemed to be everywhere: the Michigan State Fairgrounds, legion halls, parking lots, athletic fields...anywhere they were allowed to set up, they did.
The company was founded in Michigan by Lee Wade and his sons in 1912, under the name 'Imperial Shows'. Detroit was the first area to enjoy the carnivals, which years later changed its name to 'Joyland Midway Attractions'.
Lee's son Wallace G. Wade began his own carny business in 1916, calling it the W.G. Wade Shows. Soon, the Wade carnivals had spread out all through Michigan and became the major summertime amusement.
Lee died in 1946 at age 87. When W.G. passed away in 1956, his son, W.G. Jr., took over the business.
Thanks to the Wade shows, many other carnival companies came and went. Former Wade employees were known to start up their own companies after getting experience with Wade. Some of Michigan's other carnival shows include:
A. J. Carl Shows
Cavalcade of Amusements
J. J. Frederick Shows
James E. Strates Shows
King’s United Shows
Lee United Shows
Motor City Shows
Motor State Shows
Seahl’s Great Northern Shows
Skerbeck Bros Shows, Inc.
Wilber’s Wolverine Shows
World of Pleasure Shows
Zeidman & Pollie Shows
But the Wade shows are the ones that made their mark in our memories.
To see a gallery of 50 photos showing old Michigan carnivals, fairs and circuses going back to the 1890s, CLICK HERE!