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SANGER, JOHN (1816–1889), circus proprietor, born at Chew Magna, Somerset, in 1816, was eldest son of James Sanger who, having been seized by the press-gang, fought as a sailor at the battle of Trafalgar, and subsequently became a showman. After witnessing equestrian performances under Andrew Ducrow [q. v.] at Astley's, Sanger, with his brother George, began in 1845 a conjuring exhibition on a small scale at Onion Fair, Birmingham. Emboldened by success, the brothers then purchased and trained a white horse and a Shetland pony, and, having hired three or four performers, exhibited for the first time a circus entertainment at Lynn in Norfolk. This with unvarying success they took round the country. Their first appearance in London was made at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, of which they were during many years lessees, and they produced there many costly and elaborate spectacles, one of which, entitled ‘The Congress of Monarchs,’ is said to have been seen in one day by thirty-seven thousand spectators. The properties and paraphernalia of this were purchased in 1874 by the American showman, P. T. Barnum, for 33,000l. Having acquired the lease of Astley's Amphitheatre, the Sangers gave their entertainments there during the three winter months, travelling during the summer through the country with a large establishment, including, besides other animals, over two hundred horses, and exhibiting their entertainments in a huge tent. The first equestrian pantomime produced at Astley's was ‘Lady Godiva, or Harlequin St. George and the Dragon, and the Seven Champions,’ given on 26 Dec. 1871, Miss Amy Sheridan, a tall and shapely actress, playing Lady Godiva. After a time the brothers dissolved partnership, each taking his share, and gave separate entertainments. Sanger, known in his later days as Lord John Sanger, died at Ipswich while on tour on 22 Aug. 1889, in his seventy-fourth year, and was on 28 Aug. buried in Margate cemetery, where a costly white marble monument, part of which represents a mourning horse, was placed above his grave. His will, dated 4 March 1882, left his wife the right to carry on the business, and to use thereon part of his estate, which was valued at 40,747l. 17s. 10d. He had three sons: John, who continued the circus business; George Lord, and James; and one daughter, Lavinia (Mrs. Hoffman), an equestrian performer.

[Information supplied by a member of the family and by Mr. George C. Boase; Era Almanack, various years; Era newspaper, 24 Aug. 1889; Frost's Circus Life; Times, August 1889; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. ix. passim.]

J. K.