Carson and Barnes Circus, in the 1960s

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Fred D. Pfening, Jr., Bandwagon Editor and Publisher, Leading Recorder of American Circus History

With regret, today I learned that long-time Bandwagon editor, Fred D. Pfening, Jr. passed away last night.

We knew he was ill. We sensed that his last season may have arrived. Nonetheless, he will be greatly missed. For 49 years, he edited the journal of the Circus Historical Society, a bi-monthly magazine that will forever be associated with his name and well-deserved reputation for excellence in honoring circus history through an unstinting fidelity to truth.

Perhaps more than any other soul, Pfening helped compile, edit and preserve an untold wealth of big top history and lore, and this he accomplished with a quiet respect for the subject he loved.

In recent times, I have particularly admired his courage to tackle some rather messy and unpleasant issues understandably sensitive to many circus fans, among them, phone room operations and a reportedly organized short-changing operation among ticket sellers on the Ringling show, of all circuses, at least during its last two or three seasons under canvas. Not easy subjects to acknowledge, but Pfening took them head on. In the pages of Bandwagon, you can learn a thousand fascinating things about the tented cities that move by night.

Born Frederic Denver Pfening, Jr. in Columbus, Ohio on March 29, 1925, Pfening's labor of love came loaded with rich historical detail well documented, and from many back issues I have drawn during the all-important research phases for the books that I have written.

I can only hope and trust -- not so difficult an exercise given that Fred's son, Fred D. Pfening, III, is the magazine's managing editor -- that Bandwagon will continue on the same even path, daring to shed light on all aspects of circus history with the same steady resolve that editor Fred Jr. gave it.

Thank you and Farewell, Mr. Bandwagon. May your legacy live on in Center Ring.

2 comments:

Harry Kingston said...

It was a sad day for me when I learned of Fred's passing.
I always heard from him to see what photos I had to contribute to the year end in review in the Bandwagon.
It was my great pleasure to help this master circus historian in any way.
He help us young collectors in years past to build our collections with his circus extras.
There is not enough words of thanks for this master historian.
I corresponded with Fred for many years and finally got to meet Fred and Rick at the Atlanta CFA convention.
God bless the Pfening family in his passing, he is gone but not forgotten.
His great Bandwagon I know will go on as Rick will see to that.
Harry Kingston
Beaumont, Texas

Jack Ryan said...

David,

Mr. Pfening was, indeed, a giant in the field of circus history and scholarship.

His myriad of contributions will long be appreciated and remembered.

Jack