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100 Years Ago - Circus Brings Excitment And Murder During Scranton Visit

May 22, 2019

May 22, 1919 Circus brings excitement and murder to Scranton The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus arrived in Scranton yesterday afternoon with its usual pomp and circumstance. Once the “greatest show on Earth” was all set up at the circus ground off Providence Road, the performers and animals paraded through downtown Scranton to welcome young and old to the show this morning. It was reported that people were standing 12 deep along the route to see what awaited them under the big top. As the circus was welcoming its first guest to the big top this afternoon, the unthinkable happened. A circus employee killed a fellow employee in cold blood at the circus grounds. According to Scranton police, circus canvas man Jeff Pugh was fatally slashed by fellow canvas man James Motley shortly after 1 p.m. today. The police said Pugh was sitting on the tongue of a circus wagon along with fellow circus workers. Motley walked by and pulled the tongue causing the group to fall to the ground. Pugh shouted at Motley for his action. Motley responded by stabbing Pugh in the chest with a pocketknife. The blade reached deep enough into Pugh’s chest puncturing his heart. Motley than ran from the circus grounds. Circus Detective John Bryce immediately started the search for Motley with Scranton police and Lackawanna County detectives joining in the search. Scranton Patrolman Evan Jones found Motley hiding under a bridge near the Scranton Bolt and Nut Works on Poplar Street around 10 p.m. Motley is expected to be arraigned in police court on a charge of murder on May 23. Despite the murder the show went on with performances at 2 and 8 p.m. Shopping list Fancy New York State cheese for 33 cents per pound, a package of fancy crackers for 8 cents, a pound of fresh ginger snaps for 14 cents, 5 pounds of Carolina rice for 45 cents, a large package of Quaker Oats for 25 cents, a pound of butter was 65 cents and an extra large pumpkin custard for 10 cents. BRIAN FULTON, library manager, oversees The Times-Tribune’s expansive digital and paper archives and is an authority on local history. Contact Brian at bfulton@timesshamrock.com or 570-348-9140. From our archives A visit to Scranton by the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1938 also made headlines. This time the circus went on strike. Read about the strike and to see images of the strike visit our local history blog, Pages from the Past, http://timestribuneblogs.com/pages-from-the-past/labor-trouble-under-the-big-top/

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