Skip to main content

Heiser-Alban Collection of Historical Circus Materials

Identifier: MSS 0257

Scope and Contents

This collection contains periodicals, clippings, correspondence, photographs, posters, and other memorabilia relating to the circus from the collection of Joseph Matthew Heiser, Jr. ( 1897-1987), a well-known Houston naturalist (see MSS 246, J. M. Heiser Jr. Environmental Collection) and long-time circus fan who served in both World Wars and was employed by the Texas Company as an accountant.

The collection documents the circus mainly through its advertising material. It contains over 800 posters from the 1890s to the present, as well as several hundred date sheets, most from Texas performers and specifically the Houston region. The collection also contains brochures, handbills, window cards, programs, and an extensive collection of newspaper clippings.

Also represented are Heiser's activities as a circus fan. He was a member of such organizations as Circus Fans of America, the Circus Historical Society, and Circus Model Builders, and the collection includes records of local meetings, conventions, and a substantial run of magazines published by these organizations.

During the 1930s and 1940s, Heiser took many behind-the-scenes photographs of performers in the "back yard" or back lots of the circus. These photographs were often featured in White Tops, the magazine of the Circus Fans of America. Most of these photographs, which are not of specifically local interest, have been donated to the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin. However, the Heiser-Alban Collection contains over 1,400 photographs.


  • 1882-1987

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research. Lithographs may be viewed by prior appointment.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish or reproduce materials from MSS 0257 Heiser-Alban Collection of Historical Circus Materials must be obtained from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center or the appropriate copyright holder.


24 Linear Feet (45 regular document boxes, 1 oversized document box, 1 thin document box, 4 large flat boxes, 2 photo boxes; approximately 730 lithographs)

Language of Materials



Box List

  1. Circus Magazines Boxes 1-17
  2. Circus Newsletters Boxes 17-19
  3. Circus Newspapers Box 18-19
  4. Magazines Containing Circus Articles Boxes 19-21
  5. Newspaper Clippings Boxes 22-29
  6. Correspondence Boxes 29-31
  7. Christmas Cards Boxes 31-32
  8. Fan Organizations and Rosters Boxes 32-33
  9. Notes Boxes 34-35
  10. Route Cards Box 35
  11. Route Books Boxes 35-36
  12. Circus Documents Boxes 36-37
  13. Brochures Box 37
  14. Small Advertisements Box 37
  15. Couriers Boxes 37-38
  16. Programs Boxes 38-45
  17. Postcards/Memorabilia/Realia Box 46
  18. Undersize: Business Cards/Tickets/Passes Boxes 47-48
  19. Oversize:
  20. Christmas Cards/Programs/Couriers Box 49
  21. Souvenirs/Heralds Box 50
  22. Couriers/Newspapers Box 51
  23. Window Cards Boxes 52-53

Acquisition Information

Donated by J. M. Heiser, Jr., August 1984

Digitized Materials

A portion of this collection has been digitized and is available through the Houston Area Digital Archives. Please view the digitized material at:

Processing Information

Processed by Nancy Hadley and Tara Wenger
Heiser-Alban Collection of Circus Historical Materials
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • December 21, 2004: Proofread by Susan Lindberg

Repository Details

Part of the Houston Metropolitan Research Center Repository


The African American Library at the Gregory School
1300 Victor Street
Houston, Texas 77019
Houston Metropolitan Research Center
Houston Public Library
550 McKinney St.
Houston, Texas 77002