gallery ~ May Wirth


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May Wirth, 1894-1978
May Wirth was born May Zinga at Bundaberg, Queensland. She was the daughter of a Mauritian gymnast. In 1901 at the age of seven, she was given away for adoption to Marizles Wirth Martin a sister of the brothers who conducted Wirth Bros Circus. She became known as May Martin but would later take the name of 'Wirth' as her own. Trained in all of the circus arts, she excelled in acrobatic bareback riding. In 1912, she made her debut with Barnum & Bailey's Circus at Madison Square Garden, New York, billed as 'the world's greatest lady bareback rider'.

May Wirth 1894 - 1978



 

May Wirth, 1894-1978
May Wirth was a prestigious 'center ring' star of America's largest circuses between 1912 and 1927, after which she appeared mostly in vaudeville and county fairs until her retirement from active riding in 1937.

May Wirth with horses



 

May Wirth, 1894-1978
May Wirth, as she was billed with America's largest circus, Ringling Bros and Barnum Bailey's Combined Shows, in the 1920s. She typically wore a large bow in her hair when performing.

May Wirth Poster Ringling Bros and Barnum Baileys



 

May Wirth, 1894-1978
May Wirth, photographed in Chicago in 1917.

May Wirth 1917




 

Miss May Martin
The 12-year-old May Zinga, now known as May Martin the future May Wirth - in her contortion act.
Miss May Martin ~ May Wirth




 

Miss May Martin
The 12-year-old May Zinga, now known as May Martin the future May Wirth - in her contortion act - different pose.
Miss May Martin in a contortian pose




 

Miss May Martin
In Costume. The 12-year-old May Zinga, now known as May Martin the future May Wirth, the world's greatest lady bareback rider.
Miss May Martin




 

Miss May Martin
In performance costume - the 12-year-old May Zinga, now known as May Martin the future May Wirth, the world's greatest lady bareback rider.
Miss May Martin




 

Miss May Martin
Performance Pose. The 12-year-old May Zinga, now known as May Martin the future May Wirth, the world's greatest lady bareback rider.

Miss May Martin



 

May Wirth, 1894-1978
May Wirth, the world's greatest lady bareback rider, performing a 'back across', a back somersault from the rear of one horse onto the back of another, the two horses cantering in perfect gait with each other. This photograph was taken outside Barnum & Bailey's Circus in the United States in 1913.

May Wirth performing a back across



 

May Wirth, 1894-1978
May Wirth, as she was billed with America's largest circus, Ringling Bros and Barnum Bailey's Combined Shows, in the 1920s. She typically wore a large bow in her hair when performing.





May Wirth Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey performance Poster



 

May Wirth, 1894-1978 May Wirth at practise outside Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey's Combined shows, on the circus lot at Grant Park, Chicago, in 1926. She is performing a a handstand on the back of her horse as it canters around the ring.

May Wirth Chicago 1926



 

May Wirth, 1894-1978
Aged about 16 (1910), May Wirth photographed outside Wirth Bros Circus, Australia. Her stepmother, Mrs Marizles Wirth Martin stands at right in the colonial costume worn as ringmistress for May's act in the circus ring.
May Wirth at Wirth Bros Circus