The Casting Campbells, The Peerless Cronans or The Peerless Campbells?
Who and What Were They?

Roger P. Plaskett

In Burlington sits a rusting old metal structured small building that has a strange graphic still visible on its side. It reads

So how did this structure get here, how long has it been here and who were these “Casting Campbells”. These are some of the questions I had after I spotted the structure a number of months ago.

After some research I discovered some very interesting information about the troupe of aerialists and tumblers who dazzled the vaudeville world with their acts so many years ago.

In 1931 the Casting Campbells were in their 25th year of performing and were the best known and oldest acrobatic vaudeville acts in the country. Louis (Lew) Cronan was the founder and eventually the manager of this famous traveling troupe who thrilled audiences all over the country and around the world.

Lew was born and grew up in Waterbury. As a boy in the Brooklyn section of that town, Lew and his friends would play “circus” and they started hanging make-shift trapezes from the trees in their yards. After jumping from one trapeze to another they started to get a little more daring and were actually swinging into each others waiting arms much like they had seen in the occasional circus that would travel through the area. That is when the seed was really planted.

In 1906, he went to a matinee at the Poli’s theater and the act there was the Four Lukens, a casting act. (They were called casting acts because they would cast each other out into the air like a fishing line). Once he saw this act he recalled his childhood frolics in the trees and enticed three friends to join him in an adventure. The original members were all working in the brass city. There was George Gooding, Joe Quinn and Jimmy Hamilton. After they all put in hard days work at their jobs, they would go up to the Brooklyn Athletic club and, under the watchful eye of Abe Woods, a retired all around acrobat with 25 years with the Ringling Brothers Circus, they started to perfect their act based on what Lew had seen with the Lukens act. After a few months they felt they were ready to perform. Lew was the manager and it was up to him to book shows. They were originally called the “Flying Rubes” but it was soon changed to “The Casting Campbells”. (Louis’s professional name was “Lew Campbell”)Their first show was for the T.A.B. Society in Waterbury and it paid a total of $60 for two nights work. In the audience was Jim Clancey, the “booking agent” for the Poli and other area theaters. He asked Lew what it would take to get them to a theater for a week of shows. Lew responded with “about $500”. After some heavy negotiations they agreed on $80 for a week of shows at the Bijou Theater in New Haven.

Next Page