Tony the Atomic Clown, and his Prince Sisters Miniature Circus, declassified

Juli Kearns Art-Paintings, Hanford Declassified Leave a Comment


Tony Prince, the Atomic Clown, declassified
2006
Based on a photo from the “Hanford Historical Photo Declassification Project”.
© copyright Jk

Read the introduction to the Remixing the Hanford Declassified Project paintings

An employee at Hanford, Tony Prince, the Atomic Clown, came from a carnival family. His father was a clown with Ringling Brothers. His mother was an aerial artist and bareback rider with Barnum and Bailey. Tony began performing as a clown at the age of six and traveled with, among others, the Ringling Brothers, Clyde Beatty, Cole Brothers and the Frank J. Walters circus for underprivileged children.

Tony created his own circus, The Prince Sisters’ Miniature Circus, built on a scale of one inch per foot and having 22 performing acts, putting it together over a span of 23 years.

Coming across the images of the miniature circus in the archive, I became curious and started looking for information on Tony Prince. I found only two items on Google for him. One was an EBay auction of August 2005 in which 8 of the wagons from Tony’s miniature circus, the only known remnants of it, were being sold for a starting bid of $495. Another mention was found through a Richland high school alumnus message board, through which I made a contact who was able to supply me with a bit of information on him. The individual had apprenticed with Tony Prince when he was a child and was able to supply some articles and a few interesting recollections but didn’t know what had happened to Tony, but he knew he had sisters in Arizona. The sale of the items from the miniature circus was connected with an estate out of Sedona, perhaps connected with one of those sisters or family of them? It would be interesting to know who became the owner of this bit of Hanford/Richland’s history.

1952 TONY THE CLOWN AND HIS CIRCUS - INTERIOR OLD CHRISTIAN ADVENT CHUYRCH BUILDING - 505 GOETHALS AVENUE
DDRS Record Details for Record Accession Number
“N1D0040777”
Accession Number N1D0040777
Document Number 2986-2-NEG-F
Alternate Document Number 2986-2-NEG
Title Description TONY THE CLOWN AND HIS CIRCUS – INTERIOR OLD CHRISTIAN ADVENT CHUYRCH BUILDING – 505 GOETHALS AVENUE
Number of Pages 1
Key Word(s)
Author(s)
Company(s)
Document Date 09-Jan-1952
Public Availability Date 14-Feb-2002

Below are some pics of Tony Prince’s “Prince Sisters Miniature Circus”. These pictures are dated Jan 9 1952 and were taken in the old Christian Advent church building at 505 Goethals Avenue. The last picture shows Tony Prince 26 Sept 1950.

Several boys work with one of the tents.

Tony the Atomic Clown and his Miniature Circus 1952
DDRS Record Details for Record Accession Number
“N1D0041219”
Accession Number N1D0041219
Document Number 3083-1-NEG-F
Alternate Document Number 3083-1-NEG
Title Description MINATURE CIRCUS – DISPLAYED IN OLD CHRISTIAN ADVENT CHURCH BUILDING, 505 GEOTHALS AVENUE
Number of Pages 1
Key Word(s)
Author(s)
Company(s)
Document Date 14-Mar-1952
Public Availability Date 14-Feb-2002

About 7 elephant figurines are under the left tent. The dates 1836-1936 are on one of the what appear to be chuck wagons. An eagle seems to be between the two dates.

Tony the Atomic Clown and his Miniature Circus, 1952
DDRS Record Details for Record Accession Number
“N1D0041218”
Accession Number N1D0041218
Document Number 3083-1-NEG-E
Alternate Document Number 3083-1-NEG
Title Description MINATURE CIRCUS – DISPLAYED IN OLD CHRISTIAN ADVENT CHURCH BUILDING, 505 GEOTHALS AVENUE
Number of Pages 1
Key Word(s)
Author(s)
Company(s)
Document Date 14-Mar-1952

Public Availability Date 14-Feb-2002

Boys are shown with the main tent.

Tony the Atomic Clown and his Miniature Circus 1952
DDRS Record Details for Record Accession Number
“N1D0041214”
Accession Number N1D0041214
Document Number 3083-1-NEG-A
Alternate Document Number 3083-1-NEG
Title Description MINATURE CIRCUS – DISPLAYED IN OLD CHRISTIAN ADVENT CHURCH BUILDING, 505 GEOTHALS AVENUE
Number of Pages 1
Key Word(s)
Author(s)
Company(s)
Document Date 14-Mar-1952
Public Availability Date 14-Feb-2002

Tony the Atomic Clown's Miniature Circus, 1952
DDRS Record Details for Record Accession Number
“N1D0040772”
Accession Number N1D0040772
Document Number 2986-2-NEG-A
Alternate Document Number 2986-2-NEG
Title Description TONY THE CLOWN AND HIS CIRCUS – INTERIOR OLD CHRISTIAN ADVENT CHUYRCH BUILDING – 505 GOETHALS AVENUE
Number of Pages 1
Key Word(s)
Author(s)
Company(s)
Document Date 09-Jan-1952
Public Availability Date 14-Feb-2002

A wagon with perhaps tigers, a wagon with Bengal Tiger, a wagon with a buffalo, a wagon with the largest hippo in captivity, About 4 zebras roam free, a donkey and perhaps 2 llamas, several buffalo figurines also roaming free.

Tony the Atomic Clown and his Miniature Circus 1952
DDRS Record Details for Record Accession Number
“N1D0041221”
Accession Number N1D0041221
Document Number 3083-1-NEG-H
Alternate Document Number 3083-1-NEG
Title Description MINATURE CIRCUS – DISPLAYED IN OLD CHRISTIAN ADVENT CHURCH BUILDING, 505 GEOTHALS AVENUE
Number of Pages 1
Key Word(s)
Author(s)
Company(s)
Document Date 14-Mar-1952
Public Availability Date 14-Feb-2002

Two girls with P.S.C. dining room and kitchen tent.

Tony the Atomic Clown and his Miniature Circus, 1952
DDRS Record Details for Record Accession Number
“N1D0041217”
Accession Number N1D0041217
Document Number 3083-1-NEG-D
Alternate Document Number 3083-1-NEG
Title Description MINATURE CIRCUS – DISPLAYED IN OLD CHRISTIAN ADVENT CHURCH BUILDING, 505 GEOTHALS AVENUE
Number of Pages 1
Key Word(s)
Author(s)
Company(s)
Document Date 14-Mar-1952
Public Availability Date 14-Feb-2002

The power wagon is shown with a “Keep Out” sign. Behind it is a small tent with what appear to be ice cream cones at the top or perhaps the backs of the oriental head figurines seen elsewhere.

Tony the Atomic Clown and his Miniature Circus, 1952
DDRS Record Details for Record Accession Number
“N1D0041220”
Accession Number N1D0041220
Document Number 3083-1-NEG-G
Alternate Document Number 3083-1-NEG
Title Description MINATURE CIRCUS – DISPLAYED IN OLD CHRISTIAN ADVENT CHURCH BUILDING, 505 GEOTHALS AVENUE
Number of Pages 1
Key Word(s)
Author(s)
Company(s)
Document Date 14-Mar-1952
Public Availability Date 14-Feb-2002

A girl sets up sideshow figurines with lights off.

Tony the Atomic Clown and His Miniature Circus
DDRS Record Details for Record Accession Number
“N1D0041216”
Accession Number N1D0041216
Document Number 3083-1-NEG-C
Alternate Document Number 3083-1-NEG
Title Description MINATURE CIRCUS – DISPLAYED IN OLD CHRISTIAN ADVENT CHURCH BUILDING, 505 GEOTHALS AVENUE
Number of Pages 1
Key Word(s)
Author(s)
Company(s)
Document Date 14-Mar-1952
Public Availability Date 14-Feb-2002

A girl sets up sideshow figurines with the lights on. Observed are an eagle figurine, two totem pole type figurines, headhunter figurine on a seat, cowboy figurine with white hat, little woman figurine, an Ucle Sam type figurine, fat woman figurine, boy figurine (may be Goggle Eyed character), and several other figurines.

Tony the Atomic Clown and his Miniature Circus, 1952
DDRS Record Details for Record Accession Number
“N1D0041215”
Accession Number N1D0041215
Document Number 3083-1-NEG-B
Alternate Document Number 3083-1-NEG
Title Description MINATURE CIRCUS – DISPLAYED IN OLD CHRISTIAN ADVENT CHURCH BUILDING, 505 GEOTHALS AVENUE
Number of Pages 1
Key Word(s)
Author(s)
Company(s)
Document Date 14-Mar-1952
Public Availability Date 14-Feb-2002

Tony Prince overlooking his circus. Oriental head figurines are on the left above a painted canvas of the Prince Sisters Miniature Circus Side Show with depictions of Goman? Goggle Eyed Dan or Dad? Donald Duck, King Kong, World’s Fattest lady, Headhunter, and the World’s Tallest Man. Figurines of these characters stand out front. There are about 30 spectator figurines.

Tony the Atomic Clown's Miniature Circus, 1952
DDRS Record Details for Record Accession Number
“N1D0040773”
Accession Number N1D0040773
Document Number 2986-2-NEG-B
Alternate Document Number 2986-2-NEG
Title Description TONY THE CLOWN AND HIS CIRCUS – INTERIOR OLD CHRISTIAN ADVENT CHUYRCH BUILDING – 505 GOETHALS AVENUE
Number of Pages 1
Key Word(s)
Author(s)
Company(s)
Document Date 09-Jan-1952
Public Availability Date 14-Feb-2002

There are at least 110 spectator figurines shown. At least 4 clown figurines. What appears to be a gorilla figurine. A clown figurine on a trapeze. An elephant figurine walking on platforms with perhaps a trainer.

Tony Prince lounges with a newspaper, a giant in Lilliput.

Tony the Atomic Clown's Miniature Circus, 1952
DDRS Record Details for Record Accession Number
“N1D0040774”
Accession Number N1D0040774
Document Number 2986-2-NEG-C
Alternate Document Number 2986-2-NEG
Title Description TONY THE CLOWN AND HIS CIRCUS – INTERIOR OLD CHRISTIAN ADVENT CHUYRCH BUILDING – 505 GOETHALS AVENUE
Number of Pages 1
Key Word(s)
Author(s)
Company(s)
Document Date 09-Jan-1952
Public Availability Date 14-Feb-2002

Tony Prince at work.

1950 TONY PRINCE AT WORK AND AS A CLOWN
DDRS Record Details for Record Accession Number
“N1D0054265”
Accession Number N1D0054265
Document Number 1355-50-NEG-B
Alternate Document Number 1355-50-NEG
Title Description TONY PRINCE AT WORK AND AS A CLOWN
Number of Pages 1
Key Word(s) CLOWN,HANFORD SITE PERSONNEL,RECREATION,TONY PRINCE
Author(s)
Company(s)
Document Date 26-Sep-1950
Public Availability Date 14-Jun-2002

The below article was sent to me by Burt Pierard, who apprenticed with Tony Prince and was ten years of age, in 1952, when he became the youngest registered clown in The Circus Clown Club of America. Below is also a fun picture of Burt Pierard in his clown costume. He’s the one seated on the slide.

CLOWNS TONY PRINCE & BURTON PIERARD COLUMBIA PLAY FIELD 1953
DDRS Record Details for Record Accession Number
“N1D0026366”
Accession Number N1D0026366
Document Number 7408-1-NEG-A
Alternate Document Number 7408-1-NEG
Title Description CLOWNS TONY PRINCE & BURTON PIERARD COLUMBIA PLAY FIELD
Number of Pages 1
Key Word(s)
Author(s)
Company(s)
Document Date 26-Sep-1953
Public Availability Date 14-Feb-2002

Tony, the Atomic Clown, Is a Richland Favorite

By Mina P. Miller

There’s the tantalizing smell of hot, buttery popcorn…the piping of an off-key steam calliope…and a grin on a sad-faced clown. These things about “circus” to fans of the big-topped show of shows.

The heart of the circus will always beat in unison with the heart of Tony, the Atomic Clown, of Richland, Wash. Tony Prince has left the circus to work for General Electric at Hanford Works, where the nuclear fuel, plutonium, is made. But clowning is in his blood and he continues to charm the little children and bring a chuckle to the grownups.

“When I get grumpy, and tired of working, I know that it’s time to get out my baggy pants and false nose,” Tony says, “because when others laugh, I smile inside.”

Tony, who believes clowns are born that way, was born that way himself. His father was a clown with Ringling Brothers circus, and his mother was an aerial artist and bareback rider with Barnum and Bailey circus. Tony, himself, put on his first grease paint–a clown’s trade-mark–when he was barely 6 years old. At 8, he performed in his first independent act.

He took a flyer at becoming an aerial artist but gave it up abruptly at the age of 12, after he fell through the net following a midair collision. At that moment Tony banished all thought of becoming the man on the flying trapeze and began to devote all of his time to clowning.

During his training years with the circus, Tony worked with such famous clowns as Charlie Bell, head of Lester-Bell-Griffith trio; Sam Bennett, and Albert Gaston, the oldest known clown; Artie Adair, and George Hannaford of the famous Hannaford family. He trained with the Riding Rooneys, the Flying Fishers (until he fell through the net) and the famous Slats Beason, world’s most renowned slack-wire and tight-wire artist, with Ringing Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus.

Tony traveled with Ringling Brothers, Clyde Beatty, Cole Brothers, just to name a few. But big names in Tony’s career take a back seat when he recalls the days with the Frank J. Walters circus for underprivileged children.

They traveled throughout Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas, part of the time sponsored by the Coca-Cola company. They performed at hospitals and children’s homes and raised funds for PTAs and other groups to be used for underprivileged children. The clowns were their funniest and most lovable, Tony says, for the boys and girls whose beds and wheelchairs were rolled from ambulances into the grandstands for afternoon performances.

Elsie the Cow was one of Tony’s favorite traveling companions at one time. Elsie had a $7000 bedroom suite including a beautiful mahogany bed with the springs removed to make room for her hay, and a chest of drawers to hold her hats and leis.

The circus is so much a part of Tony’s life that he has created his own circus. Built on a scale of one inch per foot, the circus has 22 performing acts. Betty Boop flies on her high trapeze, Mickey Mouse and his family have an aerial act, Donald Duck, Popeye and Olive Oil all have their place in Tony’s big show. The bear that keeps time, the white elephant and the shaggy camel are all featured in his menagerie tent.

The circus is complete with colorful wagons, tents and trappings. No detail is left out. There are cook tents with tiny stoves that heat, power wagons providing electricity for the show, and the utility wagons that hold circus equipment, such as tent poles, portable bleachers, etc.

This very circus enjoyed a two-week stand in Richland a year ago. Tony trained members of Richland’s “Triple Teen” club, who set up the entire circus and conducted two shows each day. They acted as barkers, guides and ticket agents for the show that raised money for their activities.

Wherever there are children, you’ll find Tony. He contributes generously of his time and talent thwn funds are being raised to help the kids.

P. T. Barnum once said, “You cannot have a circus unless you have an elephant and clowns.” In Richland you can’t have a parade or a show for the kids unless you have Tony. Because kids never give the stamp of approval until Tony and his “Brassy Band” march by.

Burton Pierard, who will attend Chief Joseph junior high in Richland next year, has known Tony since he was a wide-eyed 3-year-old. Many times, Burton’s father, who also works for G. E., would be master of ceremonies in the same shows with Tony. Burton tagged along and soon he and Tony became well acquainted.

The friendship that got its start back in 1944 now has grown to a full-fledged partnership. Tony has trained Burton as a clown in his own right with membership in the Circus Clown’s Club of America.

Burton was 10 when he first received his card, the youngest registered clown in the international club.

Tony, the circus performer, no longer plays under the big top, but Tony, the Atomic Clown, still reigns with his red wig and his size 42 shoes. Not only can he find time to charm the kids, but he can find time to teach others to make the world laugh, so that they too can “smile inside.”

THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW September 20, 1953.

Source: News article scanned by Burt Pierard

I’ve located another article printed in the Tri-City Herald, March 23, 1952:

Miniature Circus Amuses Thousands; Opens at Richland

by Hill Williams

Twenty-three years ago the daughter of a circus clown asked her father if she could play with some circus toys he had been collecting.

While the clown, named Tony A. Prince, watched his daughter play, he got an idea. Why not build a miniature circus for his daughters to play with?

From that start in 1929, the Prince Sisters miniature circus became the first of its kind in the world. It has amused thousands of orphans and crippled children and raised thousands of dollars for charity.

Today Tony Prince is a retired clown working for General Electric at Hanford works. The daughter who asked to play with the toys is now dead. But the Prince Sisters miniature circus is still making the rounds raising money for worthy causes and teaching youths the rudiments of circus life.

The “biggest little show in the world” will open in Richland’s Legion Hall Sunday at 1 p.m. and will continue shows for the whole week. Tony, who is known in Richland as the “Atomic Clown,” will assist in presentation of the show in full costume.

The circus is being co-sponsored by the Richland Triple Teen Club and the Richland Post 71 of the American Legion. Proceeds from the show will go toward the Club’s youth work. Members of the Triple Teen Club are being trained by Tony to put on the show.

Tony emphasizes the show’s educational values. He says it teaches youths who operate the show not only how a circus runs but also gives spectators more of an insight.

But let’s go on a specially-conducted preview of the show escorted by Tony and his Triple Teen Club helpers.

The show has been set up in an old church building on Goethals Drive while Tony trained his “roustabouts.” As you walk in, Tony sees you and shouts “Let’s have it quiet. Kill lights one and two.” The overhead lights go out and the show starts.

Leola Hayes, Club member, begins by explaining that “we’re a little early for the show so let’s look around.” She explains some auxiliary features of the show. Baggage wagons built on an exact scale of one inch to one foot after the famous Ringing Brothers Circus, a dining tent complete with food on the table and tiny figures eating, a cook wagon that actually burns wood and can make about a thimble full of coffee at a time, wardrobe and dressing wagons.

Then around behind the “big top,” another club member shows the sanitation truck complete with tiny shovels, rakes and tools, and and a dressing tent with a wash hung out on the line.

Bob Arnold, show electrician, shows the power wagon which houses switches controlling lights in the show, explains the safety factor of the main line being looped around a wagon wheel as a safety factor and demonstrates the lighting effects, and Jerry Mikkelson, circus carpenter, shows the work of a carpenter with a big show.

A talk pointing out the highlights of the big main entrance, the menagerie and the main tent wind up the preliminaries and the big show starts.

All equipment of the show is exactly to scale even down to the animals which include small carved miniatures of polar and brown bear, elk, deer, camels, lions, leopards, Bengal tiger family, Texas white buffalo, hippopotamus made of wood with “real” teeth, reptiles made of lead, armored rhinoceros (which is in a wagon made by a crippled boy in Florida), elephants, giraffe, kangaroo, zebras, pygmy burros, bison and many others.

Twenty-five windup toys are included in the main show. A fuzzy bear swings back and forth and does tricks on a rope high above the main ring, a clown walks on his hands across the arena, a seal balances a ball on his nose as he crawls along, King Kong swaggers across the stage, a waltzing pig does his act, a white elephant waves his ears and picks up a small boy, and sea lions, donkeys, monkeys and others go through their acts.

One side of the two large tents roll up so spectators can watch the act. The tents are built to a scale of one-half inch to one yard. The “big top” is 14 feet long and 32 inches high. The menagerie tent is slightly smaller. The tents are supported by tiny ropes secured to even tinier stakes just like the real thing.

When it came time to move from the church to Legion Hall Tony supervised the Club in knocking down the circus and packing it away in the wagons for the move. The show is set up in fireproof sawdust, with all safety precautions observed in real circuses carried out.

The show arrived in Richland Jan. 9 and the Club started unpacking. They have been training in setting it up and running the show ever since. Tony hasn’t just shown them how–he’s explained why each thing is done.

Members of the club working on the show include Leola Hayes, Nancy Knapp, Bob Arnold, Linda Pardee, Jerry Mikkelson, Mary Lawrence, Dick Novotny, Frank Kurz, Jim Templeman, Jon Veigel, David and Gene Barfuss. Mr. and Mrs. Chic Powell are Club directors.

The club will even provide “guards” to take care of the crowd during the performance.

Shows will begin Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Legion Hall with another show the same day at 5 p.m. From Monday through Friday the two-hour show will be given at 7 p.m. and on Saturday the last two shows will be matinees at 1 and 5 o’clock.

Another old article from 1952 gives Tony as having worked on the circus miniatures for 23 years but the miniatures were made by a number of different circus people. Happy Gunderson is credited, in the article, as making a hippo. The music was from recordings of an old Ringing Brothers Circus band, sent by Merril Evans, the bandmaster, to Tony.

“The Department of Energy, Richland Operations Office (RL) has aggressively implemented the commitments made by the Federal Government to openness in Government which was stated as a ‘Fundamental principle that an informed citizenry is essential to the democratic process and that the more the American people know about their Government, the better they will be governed. Openness in government is essential to accountability . . .’ RL is committed to responsible openness. The Hanford Declassification Project (HDP) was initiated by RL to declassify to the maximum possible extent all previously classified Hanford operations information (documents and photographs). There are over 77,000 declassified photographs of early Hanford (1943 – 1960) available… \These World War II and Cold War era photographs depict early Hanford construction and the employees/families who lived and build/operated the site.”

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