Crockett the Lion-Tamer

Crockett the Lion-Tamer

From an article entitled 'Fatal Occurrence at Astley's', dated 15 January 1861:

'At the inquest on a man killed by a lion at Astley's Amphitheatre, witness James Crockett who was known by the name of "The Lion Conqueror" stated that there were 4 lions performing at Astley's. They belonged to two young gentlemen named John and George Sanger. "I have exhibited them for the last three years, sometimes with one or more of them out of the cage. I feed them every night after the performance, and have always found them perfectly docile."'

He appears on the 1861 census, lodging in Manchester at the house of a 'victualler' by the name of Samuel Booth. Other lodgers that night included Davis Richards, an 'equestrian' from the United States, and George Knight, a 'circus manager and clown.' James was 28 years old and was born in London. He gave his profession as 'Lion Tamer.'

According to his entry in Boase's Modern English Biography, he was the son of Mr Crockett, a showman, by Miss Cross of Nottingham who was 6 feet 8 inches in height. Contrary to the 1861 census, Boase states that he was born in Prestyn, Radnorshire, and that his date of birth was 9 May 1835. The entry continues: 'cornet player in circus of Messrs. Sanger, lion tamer with them 1857; performed in chief capitals of Europe; returned to England 1863; went to United States 1864; travelled in western states with Howes and Cushing's European circus at a salary of £20 a week; fell down dead in the circus at Cincinatti 6 July 1865.'

The cause of death was heat prostration. He had taken part in a very long circus parade during a hot July, while wearing a tin helmet. When the time came for his act, he was found dead.

Photographed by Alfred Cailliez of Paris.


Code: 122287
© Paul Frecker 2022