These images come from a small album in our collection dated 1895–1897, which begins with some very unusual Orlando scenes. You’ve likely encountered the saying “dog and pony show” to describe a presentation that involved too much pomp and circumstance for what it was, but did you know this idiom grew out of actual dog-and-pony shows?
These traveling bands of trained animal entertainment began popping up in the 1880s, and the most renowned name quickly became Henry B. Gentry. Beginning with animals he trained on the family farm in Indiana, by 1886, along with his brothers, “Gentry’s Equine and Canine Paradox” was on the move in a little railcar. By 1910 the “Gentry Brothers Famous Shows” had become a full-blown circus, and the largest dog-and-pony show on the road.
This photograph album starts with the “Gentry’s Dog and Pony Show” visiting downtown Orlando. As you can see from the spectacle in front of Orange County’s 1892 courthouse, the show also included a team of elephants.
Another image reveals an ornate carriage full of white poodles and other dogs passing in front of the Mahlon Gore real estate office on Orange Avenue, currently home to the Dapper Duck. Besides having a real estate office, Mahlon Gore was also Orlando’s 13th mayor, a pioneering Central Florida newspaper editor and publisher, and has an avenue – Gore Avenue – named for him.
The captions helped us to discover that this album belonged to Eva Gore, Mahlon’s only child. Two years before this album’s creation, 24-year-old Eva married Benjamin Bartlett. At 29, Ben had become sick during their courtship and tragically died of consumption only 12 hours after their marriage.
This album is a beautiful glimpse into a new chapter in Eva’s life, culminating in her second marriage, which was to Owen Robinson in 1897. When Owen came to Orlando in 1876, he was just 9 years old, but his musical talent quickly made its mark. He was involved in many of Orlando’s earliest bands. His older brother Samuel Robinson was Orlando’s famous surveyor who marked our first streets and laid out Greenwood Cemetery.
Eva’s fluid script and often witty descriptions are joined by Owen’s heavy hand and matter-of-fact captions halfway into the album. Through the pages you can follow them on a camping trip to DeLeon Springs, perhaps their honeymoon, and then back to the large family home on Gore Avenue that they shared for a while with Eva’s parents. Just one album in our collection can help us to uncover many stories. Photos of their dogs, garden, and everyday life together paint a very happy picture of the couple.
Whitney Broadaway is the Collections Manager of the Orange County Regional History Center.