The Mighty Haag Railroad Shows Once Made Stops in Johnson City

A circus visited Johnson City on Wednesday, June 16, 1909 carrying the name, The Mighty Haag Railroad Shows. It came by rail for a two-show, one-day only event. Ernest Haag formed his entertainment business in 1895 as the Mighty Haag Shows, then renamed it The Mighty Haag Railroad Shows from 1909 until 1915 when it became The Mighty Haag Circus. It wintered first in Shreveport, Louisiana and later in Marianna, Florida.

Until the depression days, Haag’s shows was said to be as popular in the smaller towns of America as Lydia Pinkham's medicine. The owner offered clean family entertainment – no dancing girls, no gambling and no practical jokes. Haag was a modest man with a unique vocabulary that was not listed in any dictionary. He never laughed at his jokes.

In the spring of 1909, Ernest Haag put his show on rails using the very best railroad equipment that could be obtained. He purchased elaborate hand carved tableau wagons, cages and chariots with the traditional sunburst wheels and massive elegant bandwagons. These were all in place when the railroad show pulled out of Shreveport in the early spring of 1909 for the long summer tour.

Mr. Haag’s frequently offered the youngsters attending the afternoon performance a free ride on the ponies at the conclusion of the performance, emphasizing that careful attendants always supervised the rides.

The show featured the only orchestrainia in the country. This unidentified device was originally brought to this country by the German Government to feature in the German exhibit at the Jamestown Exposition, but it arrived too late for opening of the event and was never used. Mr. Haag made several attempts to acquire it, but the owner would not sell it. However, he was fortunate enough to lease it for one season, after which it returned to Wittenberg, Germany. 

The Mighty Haag Railroad Shows had the only elephant in existence that was capable of performing a complete somersault without the aid of man or machine. The elephant doing this unique trick was named “Major” and the only thing the trainer needed to do was say to the animal, “Major over.”

The shows were reported to have the most unique trained animal acts ever produced, composed of bears, ponies and blue-faced monkeys. The latter displayed remarkable acts of intelligence.

The Haag shows once possessed the youngest living baby camel in captivity, having been born in the winter quarters at Shreveport prior to the shows departing there for a new season. The youngster was described as being the finest specimen of Siberian camel that could be found in America.

To substantiate the idea that whatever is novel, thrilling, bewildering, educating and interesting was important to his circus, Mr. Haag secured at enormous expense the celebrated king of the air, Mons, Di’Fauhlam and his world famous aeroplane “Meteor.” The entertainer had all of France at his feet since his successful flights with the “Meteor.” He became the only undisputed equal of the celebrated Wright Brothers. The Frenchman performed his act at The Mighty Haag Shows.

Mr. Haag’s show did not participant in the entertainment show trust. Several inducements were made to encourage Mr. Haag to join it, but he vehemently refused all offers and continued to offer the public the same high-class shows that he had in the past. He became so successful that he enlarged the operation of every department in the show and even switched to his own special trains of cars. He further increased his street pageantry from one to two miles with abundant music, pretty ladies, fine horses, funny clowns and massive open cages of animals. All of this was done at no cost to spectators who showed up on the streets.

The Haag circus closed its doors in 1938 after an impressive 43-year run, this was three years after the death of Mr. Haag, the man who made it all happen.