Harry Tudor

by Ian Trowell - National Fairground Archive

Photo: Harry Tudor

Sheffield Jungle manager Harry Tudor was the 'right-hand man' to many of Frank Bostock's operations, assigned to manage and promote them on the spot whilst Bostock sought out new ventures, secured new acts and animals, etc. Tudor worked with Bostock from 1901 to Bostock's death in 1912, encompassing the first visit to Sheffield across the winter of 1910, and keeping the flag flying for the pre-booked second engagement in Sheffield in the winter of 1912 after Bostock's sudden demise in the October of that year. Whilst an entrepreneur and showman in the vein of Bostock, Tudor never went on to achieve the notoriety and fame of his manager. Research through the World's Fair newspaper has unveiled two articles that give us some insight, notwithstanding the showman's bluff that infects Tudor, into the life and times of Harry Tudor.

The World's Fair of 20th April 1912 sees Bostock's operations in full flow, with Tudor a busy man and enjoying the cut and thrust of the big-time showman. He is described as a "Glasgow American showman" though his origins are traced back to Stoke-on-Trent as a theatrical agent. This line of work took him to Glasgow where he worked as a carriage builder and moved to billposting for a theatrical company - quickly gaining the requisite 'skills' in publicity work by attracting notoriety for billposting all over the Forth Road Bridge. From here Tudor moved to working on the Clyde steamships providing entertainments, before satisfying his wanderlust with trips to South Africa where he engaged in a variety of chores and adventures. On return to Scotland he managed the production of "Venice in Glasgow" and various other spectacular shows in the East End.

Over 20 years later, writing in the World's Fair newspaper of 21st January 1933, Harry Tudor gives an extract from an autobiography in preparation. It is not known as to whether Tudor's autobiography saw publication.

Tudor is driven to write to the World's Fair in response to a letter submitted by Harry Wilding regarding Bostock's glass-eyed lion, a publicity coup exacted by Bostock and Tudor in the days of their partnership. Addressing the unique qualities and specialist readership of the newspaper, Tudor goes on in length to look at the publicity methods developed by Bostock and taken up by Tudor himself.

The glass-eyed lion was nurtured back in 1903 during Bostock's first season in Coney Island, and early on in the Bostock-Tudor partnership. The full menagerie was in operation, with Tudor recalling 140 lions including the famous 27-group handled by Captain Bonavita. This group were known for their unruly behaviour and it is said that they engaged constantly in fighting and squabbling, to the point that Tudor often had to curtail the act. Bostock pronounced that the troupe would be sorted out once and for all by allowing the lions to "fight it out" in an enlarged 75 foot arena - obviously arranged before Bostock declared himself to have the interests of kindness and humaneness at heart. As a result of this gladiatorial exhibition one of the lions lost the sight of one eye. And, of course, publicity at the ready, Bostock engaged with a "young German New York occultist" to construct a glass eye. Following this bizarre appendage, the story is then directed around a cleaner who is said to have been reprimanded regularly by Tudor for shoddy work in clearing out the lions' cages. The cleaner's response, his excuse, was that he spent at least half an hour every morning trying to find the dislodged glass eye. From this point onwards Bostock marketed the glass-eyed lion as a unique attraction, garnering a mention in the New York Times.

Tudor's relationship with Bostock is then recalled. In 1901 Frank Bostock was in the UK visiting his brother E.H. Bostock, the proprietor of one of the travelling menageries, and asked Tudor to manage one of his American concerns. Tudor reveals that he had been a manager with the Glasgow-based fairground family Green Brothers alongside working on Caledonian cruise liners directing music shows - as mentioned in the earlier article.

His times with Bostock are not enhanced upon, presumably saved for the autobiography that possibly never was.

Forwarding to the opposite end of his career with Bostock, following Frank's death in 1912, Tudor talks of his interest in aviation, arranging various shows, mid-air battles and races. The outbreak of war saw Tudor return to the US to arrange the disposition of Bostock's animal collections, with non-performing animals going to Brooklyn Zoo and performing animals going to a film studio. This latter transaction allowed Tudor to gain a year's employment in the burgeoning film industry, and he followed this by working the post-war years developing and managing various amusement parks including the Playland venture at Rye in New York. His last claim to fame involved the marketing of frozen yoghurt.

Tudor certainly painted himself as grand a character as his manager Frank Bostock, though he seems in awe of the Jungle King who, in Tudor's word, often seemed to "out-Barnum Barnum himself". It seems evident that the management of the first Sheffield Jungle progressed without the presence of Bostock, and obviously by the second Jungle Bostock had passed away. Thus it must be assumed that the continuous onslaught of publicity and Edwardian era media stunts came from the active mind of Harry Tudor. However he never attained the legendary status of Bostock and some of his forebears such as Barnum, and increasingly becomes a forgotten figure in the history of early entertainment and showmanship.

Not much is revealed on Tudor's life and family though recently released census records from 1911 give us something more of an insight. Harry Tudor is reported as boarding at 54 Victoria Street with his wife Isobel. Harry is recorded as being from Staffordshire, confirming his link to the Bostock's origins, whilst his wife (14 years his junior) Isobel is listed as being from Glasgow. Also included is a daughter Isla born around 1903 in USA - showing the pattern of Tudor's movements to Glasgow and then America.

With the help of Harry's descendents we have been further researching the life and times of Harry Tudor. Click here to see this new information and for further links to World's Fair newspaper articles featuring Harry.