Early Illinois Women

Linda Jeal, Circus Performer

Linda Jeal, Barnum Circus, 1879

Linda Jeal

The Queen of the Flaming Zone, as Linda Jeal was called at the height of her career in the 1880s, settled in Havana, Illinois late in her career. Born in England in 1852, Linda grew up in Australia, and emigrated to California in the late 1860s, where s he became apprenticed to her sister's husband, circus owner, George Ryland. Over the years she appeared in some of the most prestigious circuses in the Western Hemisphere, Australia and Europe, including P. T. Barnum's Circus, the Orrin Brothers' Circus, The Great London Circus, Cooper & Bailey's Great Allied Shows, the Barnum & London Circus, Gran Circo Pubillones, Circus Busch, the Carl Hagenbeck Circus, Gran Circo Estrella del Nordis, and Gran Circo Gardner. Linda is acknowledged to have been the mos t spectacular equestrienne of the 19th century, having performed the sensational feat of leaping on horseback through a flaming hoop in performance for several decades.

In 1930, Linda was quoted as stating that while she worked with the Barnum show "my costume was the subject of a controversy which would today be regarded as ridiculous." She had cut her hair short and worn tights with a jockey costume, but this was don e from necessity. On one occasion when riding through the hoop of fire her pony, Salamander, stumbled, and her hair and costume caught on fire.

Linda was on familiar terms with the extensive circus colony of Petersburg, Illinois by the 1890s, when she moved to Havana. In 1885 she had been married for a brief period to Natalio Lowande, the half-brother of Julia Shipp. Julia's husband, Ed, owned and maintained the training barn in Petersburg, Illinois, and in 1889 and 1891 Linda had toured South America with a circus owned by Frank Gardner, a former partner of Ed Shipp's half-brother, Harry Lamkin. Linda had gained experience managing practice quarters in the late 1870s when she and her first husband, William O'Dale Stevens, had run the West End Academy in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Ed Shipp engaged Linda to manage a barn and boarding house for performers at Havana, some 15 or 20 miles from Petersburg. She moved there with her adopted daughter, Dallie Julien, whom she trained to be one of the finest equestriennes of the early 20th century. Linda supervised and trained performers at the winter quarters in Havana until about 1917, when she retired from circus performance. At the time of her death in 1941she was living with Dallie at her home in Springfield, Illinois.

Major sources:
Shettel, James W.; The Queen of the Flaming Zone; The Circus Scrapbook; Oct. 1930
Linda Jeal; The Detroit News; Jan. 29, 1933
Draper, John Daniel; Linda Jeal and Her Equestrian Kin; Bandwagon; May-Jun. 1987
Lano, David; A Wandering Showman, I; Michigan University Press, 1957
Various issues of the New York Clipper and Billboard magazines 1870s-1940s.

Contributing Library:

Milner Library, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois

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