Clyde Beatty was a world-famous motion-picture actor, animal trainer and circus owner. According to newspaper archives, Beatty and his collection of 200 circus animals - including lions, tigers and elephants - were also frequent visitors to the Scenic City in the mid-20th century.
This Chattanooga News-Free Press photograph from 1963, courtesy of ChattanoogaHistory.com, shows the Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. Circus setting up for a one-day appearance at Warner Park here on Thursday, Oct. 3, 1963.
Billed as the "World's Largest Circus," the company claimed to travel with 600 people, including 150 performers. At the time of this 1963 visit, tickets were $1 for children and $1.90 for adults, and the talent on hand included Beatty himself, who "battled 20 lions and Bengal tigers," and high-wire performer Carla Wallenda, among others.
In the photo, two young girls are enthralled by an elephant in the distance, while comforting one another by holding hands. A scan of archives turned up no evidence that this particular photo appeared in the Chattanooga newspaper, but was nonetheless filed away by a photographer.
Articles related to Beatty's 1963 visit revealed that the circus mogul and showman was 58 years old at the time. He said he told a reporter he was reaching the end of his career after 40 years working around large cats. He died two years later after being diagnosed with cancer in 1964.
Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, ChattanoogaHistory.com is maintained to present historical images in the highest resolution available.If you have photo negatives, glass plate negatives or original nondigital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.
"For more than six years now, I've been looking for a man to break into the act," he said in 1963. "I want someone to take over so I can quit. So far no one has worked out."
The News-Free Press reported that "Beatty's performance lasts a little more than 15 minutes. After it's over, his uniform is soaked with perspiration and he lies down for at least 30 minutes, exhausted from the strain."
Betty appeared in nine feature films between 1933 and 1954, including "The Lost Jungle" in 1934 and "Ring of Fear" in 1954. The performer also appeared on the "The Ed Sullivan Show" on the CBS television network.
Even after Beatty died in 1965, the circus bearing his name continued to visit Chattanooga regularly for years, ending in 1984. Then, the last documented visit here for the Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. Circus was in 2003. By then, children's tickets were $11 each, and adult tickets were $16.