Thomas Luckie Samwells 1869 – 1944

Circus Performer, Juggler

Given the same name as his father, Thomas was born in London to Thomas and Mary Ann (nee Whiteley) Samwells.  He had several brothers and sisters but was the only child to survive to adulthood and continue a career in the circus profession.

At the time of his birth Thomas’ father was renowned in exhibiting performing dogs on the English circuit, playing to packed houses in London.  When he was aged two the family moved to USA where his father became most celebrated for performing animals travelling extensively throughout USA, South America, Mexico, the West Indies and South Africa.  Thomas, along with his sister Ellen and older brother John, were performers in the show.

In his adult years Thomas performed with various shows as a juggler, including with the Yellowstone Kit Medicine Company.  Yellowstone Kit was the pseudonym of George Grant, a medicine man who toured the country hosting concerts and street parades, and selling medicinal potions and other wares.

Around 1906 Thomas left his wife and co-habitated with a Mexican-born woman named Francisca Arambula who had a son, Antonio, from a previous marriage.  During the 1920s the three of them were exhibiting with a Mexican circus and later settled in Los Angeles.  Francisca died in 1932 and Thomas died in Los Angeles in 1944.  What became of Antonio is unknown.

Contact Caroline Cavanagh at to purchase a copy of Once a Famous Circus which provides much more detail on the Saunders and Samwell travelling circus families.

Text © Caroline Cavanagh 2017.