William H. Kennedy’s Wild West Show
For Wonderland’s first year, the large open section at the Southwest of the park was occupied by William H. Kennedy’s Wild West Show. Although not as famous as Buffalo Bill, Kennedy’s was a large show that featured not only Cowboys and and Indian Congress (mostly Cheyenne Indians from the Oklahoma Territory, when the Kennedy Brothers shows were based), but also chariot races. Kennedy’s wife Bess was part of the show, but in the first weeks she was injured when racing her horse and it tripped in a hole. She was replaced by Anna Schaffer, “Queen of the Cowgirls”
The area had a grandstand up against the outer wall of Wonderland that seated the patrons so they could watch the show, put on in an oval track.
Photo of the Indian Congress. Beyond the fence that ran around the show grounds, you cab see the tops of the Infant Incubator Building, the Wonderland Entrance/Administration building, and the shaft of the Whirl the Whirl ride. The gates into the grounds are obvious from their being higher than the rest of the fence.
Frederic Remington’s A Dash for the Timber, which Kennedy’s show copied.
Kennedy’s Wild West Show and Indian Congress only lasted the first season at Wonderland.
For the second season the show was replaced by Pony Rides, which took place in the oval track used by the Wild West Show. They had two dozen Shetland ponies and carts to ride in. A report from the spring of 1907 called the area the “Children’s Paradise”, but no later report of that name appears.
The Pony Carts at Wonderland (Notice the slope of the Shoot the Chutes and the top of the roof of the Carousel Building in the background)
They also put in a Miniature Railroad that ran around the perimeter of the section. Where the railroad passed under the grandstand, it became “Tunnel Number 23”
Miniature Railroad coming out of Tunnel 23
In this closeup from a photo taken from the tower of the Shoot the Chutes you can see the rails of the Miniature Railroad hugging the inside of the enclosure fence. Beyond the fence you can see the Whirl the Whirl, the Incubator building, and the Walnut Street Entrance.
The “Children’s Paradise” story also said that there would be a (mechanical) cow that the children could milk. If one was installed, it would probably have been similar to the ones now in Storyland in Glen, NH, or at Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge MA, or “Buttermilk” at the Heritage Farmstand Museum in Plano TX
(The above two images showing children milking the cow at Storyland, Glen, NH are from the TripAdvisor website)
“Buttermilk” the Mechanical cow in Plano, Texas.
For the 1908 season, the track was covered over with a wooden floor, and the Pony Rides were replaced by a Skating Rink. The Miniature Railroad, however, remained.
It’s not clear what they used the grounds for in 1909, although the Miniature Railroad was probably still there. They might have continued the Skating Rink.
The Captive Balloon
For the 1910 season the area was home to models of airplanes, and to the Captive Balloon, which would take two people aloft 900 feet for a dollar apiece. The balloon was made by noted aeronaut Leo Stevens, and was christened the “Wonderland”. At the end of the season, it was sold.
Leo Stevens in one of his balloons (not at Wonderland)