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Jess Adkins

Feb. 22,1886 - June 25, 1940

Jess Adkins
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Jess Adkins was born on February 22,1886 in Van Buren, Grant county Indiana to parents William A. and Elizabeth Grice Adkins. The family moved to near-by Warren, IN., where Jess attended school, he later graduated from Huntington Business College at Huntington, IN.

After graduation from college, Adkins began working with the Ringling Brothers Circus as an accountant. He rose quickly through the Ringling organization and after several years was superintendent of the show.

After Ringling Adkins managed the Gentry Bros Circus, which wintered in in Bloomington, IN. After Gentry he managed the Howe's Great London Shows. Jess was then hired by Ben Wallace to manage the Hagenbeck Wallace Circus.

After the Hagenbeck Wallace Circus was purchased by Jerry Mugivan and Bert Bowers (American Circus Corporation) Adkins stayed with the new corporation and helped the growing circus empire of Mugivan and Bowers which included Hagenbeck Wallace, John Robinson and the Sells Floto circuses.

In 1929 the American Circus Corporation was purchased by John Nicholas Ringling for 1.9 million dollars. Jess stayed on with the Ringlings to manage their numerous shows.

Adkins had managed many successful circuses but had yet to own one.

In 1935 Adkins teamed up with friend Zack Terrell to form the Cole Bros Circus, a title that is still in use today. Terrell was a successful circus manager in his own right. He had managed the Sells-Floto Circus for the American Circus Corp. 1921 - 1932 and managed a circus for the Chicago World's Fair in 1934.

Adkins and Terrell purchased the abandon buildings of the Rochester Bridge Co. in Rochester, IN. for their winter Quarters. The team hired Floyd King as general agent, and Arnold Maley as office manager. It was King who suggested the Cole Bros. Circus title.

The Cole Bros Circus grew to become one of the largest on the road.

On Tuesday June 25, 1940 the circus performed in Gardner, Massachusetts. That evening while dining in his private railroad car, Adkins became ill, and was rushed to the hospital. Jess Adkins died later that night of a heart attack, he was 54 years old.

Jess Adkins and Zack Terrell
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Jess Adkins (left) and Zack Terrell

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