In the last post I reported about the death record of Adolph Spurgat from the Essen Archives:
Adolf Spurgat was unmarried. [On his] …Essen registration card [he is listed] as a professional artist initially registered [and later] disabled. On the Death display [it lists] unskilled construction laborers. It has been suggested that he committed suicide….
There was more information on the civil death records than there was on the ITS record. The significance of some of this information is the subject of the next post….
The words “professional artist” jumped out at me.
I wrote to Ben Hutop:
I am surprised that there would be a professional artist in the Spurgat family! Could this be some kind of a mistranslation? Any other German words that would look similar to this and mean something else?
No mistake in translation, but the same word can also mean something else. I only thought later on this as this profession is not so common nowadays. Normally, the German translation for art/artist is Kunst/Künstler…, but sometimes also artist is used, because it sounds more fancy. But art is a broad area, where does it begin and where does it end?
But in your case ‘artist’ probably has the meaning of ‘performer’, so somebody who usually worked in a circus and did acrobatics or was a juggler, animal trainer, rope dancer etc. Maybe he had an accident and because of this he was disabled later in his life. Would make sense, right?
Ben had no idea of the significance of what he had just written:
In 1995 I had conducted research at the Circus World Museum Archives in Baraboo, Wisconsin, on the Spurgats who performed with Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Combined Circus in the United States from 1934 to 1938. Besides the numerous circus advertisements, programs, and route books, I located the Employment Record of Leo Julius Spurgat containing his birth date in Germany as 11/29/00 and identical information for “Hilga” Ella Spurgat as 5/5/99 in Denmark. In 1997 I searched for more memorabilia about them in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where collector Burns Kattenberg had donated his one of a kind collection about body contortionists. Two photographs, some advertisements, and several articles were from the Burns M. Kattenberg Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard Theater Collection. For my 2010 publication The Three Spurgats from Wylkowiszki I selected a only few advertisements and a hand-written letter from Leo because the relationship had not been determined.
I had also written:
Although there were members of the Spurgat family in the United States who believed they were related to these Spurgats, the author has not been able to verify this relationship.
With the information from Ben about Adolph Spurgat having been a kunstler, an artiste, a performer, I immediately thought of Leo Julius Spurgat as a circus performer! I was able to match the birth date from the Circus World Museum in Wisconsin of Leo Julius Spurgat “11/26/00” with that from the Essen, Germany, Archives to Ligon Julius Spurgat’s birth date as “the twenty-sixth of November of the year thousand nine hundred.” Adolph was the older brother of Ligon/Leo.
Twenty years later I was able to prove that the stories about two Spurgat families who tried to see them when the circus came to their towns in Michigan and New Jersey, were justifiable not just because they were people with the same last name, but because they were part of the family.
Benjamin Hutop had no knowledge about the “Circus Spurgats” prior to writing this response.
Finally, no evidence has been discovered to indicate that Adolf Spurgat was a member of the world-famous Spurgat body contortionists before he became disabled.