The People of Wonderland

Here are pictures of some of the people involved in Wonderland — the owners, investors, creators, entrepreneurs, and performers

John Joseph Higgins, the Initiator of Wonderland — He purchased the land that Wonderland would be built on and conceived of having an amusement park there. He was also the Wonderland Company Treasurer and, after the first year, its General Manager

Floyd Chaddock Thompson, the General Managerwho assembled the contractors who constructed the park, lined up the rides and performers, and persuaded the investors to fund the park, then superintended everything to see that it got done on time.

Harold S. Parker, the Massachusetts Highway manager and Railroad investor who was selected as President of the Wonderland Company

Thomas J. Barroll, the Park’s Managing Director. After 1908 he was the Treasurer

Horace S. Meese, the Wonderland Company Secretary

James Walker, Jr., the Assistant Treasurer. His wife became a superstar and divorced him

Eugene L. Perry, the Excursion Agent. After the first year, he became the Assistant General Manager. (His signature is on the Wonderland Ticket on the Home page)

John Lavalle, the Architect of Wonderland

The Contractors — Henry B. Aldrich and Edward L. Shea

Attilio Pusterla — Park Decorator and the designer and inventor of The Descent into the Hell Gate

D.J. Buckley, the Electrical Engineer

Louis S. Poole, the orchestra leader in the Ballroom for the 1906 season

Harry E. Munroe, the Ballroom’s Dancing Master, who got everyone dancing, and taught you how if you didn’t know

Thomas O’Connor, who tool over as Orchestra Leader, conducting the Waverly prchestra, for the 1907 season

D.S. McDonald, who ran the Wonderland Restaurant for the first two seasons

Charles E. Davidson, who took over the Wonderland Restaurant in 1908

William C. Manning and James J. Armstrong, who organized and managed the Fire and Flames Show. Armstrong was the biggest talent agent in New York. Manning had been a performer himself for many years, and performers trusted and appreciated him because he’d been in the business.

Manning, in fact, had been a one-legged wrestler and acrobat who had lost his leg when the horse he was riding fell on it and crushed it. He started as a wrestler, taking on and defeating all comers, then became an acrobat, eventually teaming up with another one-legged acrobat to perform stunts no team of two-legged men could do.

Manning in his days as a performer:

Manning went on to produce the “Darktown” attraction, then went to England to set up another Fire and Flames show, then returning to Revere Beach to produce shows on the Boulevard.


1906 season

Acrobats Frank and Bob with Tip the dog

Dr. Jesse C.Z. Green “The Human Electra”

Mademoiselle Loubet’s Loop the Loop in an automobile

1907 Season

Frank Todd, the Ringmaster at the Arcus Ring

The Holman Brothers, acrobats (the newspaper didn’t spell their name correctly)

Hindoo Sam

Stubblefield Trio — acrobats and trapeze artists

Bert Letter — Escape Artist. He escaped from handcuffs underwater at the Under the Sea attraction

Mademoiselle de Loro — Physical Culture Girl and Contortionist

Walter Wentworth

One of the least noticeable performers, yet one of the most interesting. Walter Wentworth was a clown at Wonderland, and also seemed to be a performer in the Fire and Flames show. One of his acts was getting on stage with Miss DeLoro and trying to perform the contortions she was doing, but failing hilariously

But the failure was all an act — Wentworth had been a contortionist for decades. His most famous act was called Packanatomicalization. It consisted of him folding himself up into box measuring 23″ x 19″ x 16″, and then packing in six dozen soda water bottles with him. If you don’t believe it, there are pictures:

Here’s a postcard showing him folding himself up:

I think this is another image of him

Wentworth did just about everything — clown, actor, contortionist, acrobat, ventriloquist, magician, and snake handler

He was born in 1835, while James Madison was still alive and Andrew Jackson was president. He was performing by the time he was 29 and kept performing for the rest of his life (although he “retired” three times). He lied about his age, saying that he was 82 in 1907, when he was actually 72.

He was the head of a talented clan, and often performed with family members. (I have a suspicion that Mlle. De Loro was somehow related. His son, Harry Wentworth, was also a contortionist and a clown, and also an equestrian performer, and he also appeared at Wonderland in 1907. Here he is when appearing as a clown (which he did not do at Wonderland)

Here’s Harry with his wife Rose, without makeup

Rose Wentworth was possibly the most famous of the group.

She appeared at Wonderland as an equestrienne (with Harry and another rider). I suspect this picture shows her dancing at Wonderland with the dancing master at the Ballroom, Mr. Munroe

She, too, was multi-talented — equestrienne, ballerina, acrobat, contortionist, chariot driver. Her big act, when she and Harry had been with the Barnum and Bailey circus, was performing somersaults on a galloping horse:

After the Wentworths appeared at Wonderland, they went across Broad Sound to perform at Bass Point in Nahant.

Their story after Wonderland continues here.

The Mysterious Mr. Raffles

1908 Season

Oscar Babcock — Bicyclist Loop-the-Loop

1909 Season

Ernest Bengk’s “Golden Graces” — “Living Statue” act

1910 Season

Gertie le Clair

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