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RG1667.AM:  Walter Savidge Amusement Co. (Wayne, Neb.)

Records, photographs:  1899-1970; mostly 1910-1931

Wayne, Wayne County, Neb.:  Traveling dramatic company and carnival

Size:  1.5 cu. ft.


Walter T. Savidge was born in Deloit, Nebraska in 1886. As a child in Humphrey, Nebraska, he tried to imitate the stunts of the aerialists he saw at the circus (walking a tightrope between the family barn and a shed, for example). When he was 16, Walter left home to perform tricks at fairs and picnics, and by the age of 20 [ca. 1906], he had formed the Savidge Brothers Amusement Company with his brother, Arthur, who performed under the stage name of Elwin Strong. In 1911 he married Mabel Griffith, whom he had met while he was performing at the fair in Wayne, Nebraska a few years previously.

Sometime between the 1914 and 1915 seasons, management disagreements with his brother led Walter to start his own company, the Walter Savidge Amusement Co., using $500.00 as capital. The show grew from a single boxcar load to a 20 car private pullman train carrying 125 employees, concession stands, tents and equipment. The Company traveled a circuit of Nebraska and Midwest towns with the Savidge Players, who performed popular dramatic productions from New York and Chicago in a specially made tent theater, as the main attraction. Outside the big tent were rides, sideshows, and animals. Walter and Mabel Savidge traveled the circuit for 35 seasons, until the Company began to feel the effects of competition from movies and radio. In 1941 they sold the show and retired to Wayne. Walter T. Savidge died in Wayne, Nebraska on September 20, 1949.


The records of the Walter Savidge Amusement Company have been arranged into four Series: 1) Ledgers, 1910-1920; 2) Printed matter; 3) Miscellaneous; and 4) Photographs.

Series 1: Ledgers, 1910-1920, consists of employee salary records. Employees received wages, and a bonus if they stayed with the show for the entire season. End of season entries include the signature of the employee, signifying that they had received full payment. Some records have notes regarding work performed: “band,” “canvas,” “snakes,” etc. Several ledgers contained loose bills, receipts, and a few items of business correspondence which have been placed in envelopes at the beginning of each volume.

Series 2: Printed matter, 1899-1970, contains four “mail and route lists” for the company, Mabel’s piano lesson book, and articles about the company. Series 3 contains miscellaneous items, including the obituary of Walter Savidge. The photographs of Series 4 have been transferred to the photo collections.


Series 1 – Ledgers, 1910-1920

Box 1


  1. 1910

  2. 1911-12

  3. 1912

  4. 1913

  5. 1914

  6. 1915 [& envelope]

  7. 1915-1916 [& envelope]

Box 2


  1. 1916 [& envelope]

  2. 1918 [& envelope]

  3. 1920

Series 2 – Printed matter

Box 2

Folder 1

Route and Mail Lists, 1927-1929, 1931

“A Graded Course of Studies and Pieces for the Piano-Forte,” 1899


Series 3 – Miscellaneous

Box 2


  1. Miscellaneous

Series 4 – Photographs (transferred to photo collection: RG1667.PH)

Group 1:  Midway Shows & Acts

Group 2:  Bands & Musicians

Group 3:  Rides & Midway

Group 4:  Guernsey Dam area

Group 5:  Storm Damage

Group 6:  Groups and individuals

Group 7:  Women

Group 8:  Custer State Park



Carnivals — Nebraska

Savidge, Walter T., 1886-1949

Walter Savidge Amusement Co. (Wayne, Neb.)


07-19-2007   TMM/tmm