Blowoff - Annex
interested in finding out some historical information on
the sideshow blowoff. Do you know where it got it's name
and when and why it originated? - Jeremy of
far as the name goes it's mostly sarcasm as in "Blow Them
Off." The true origins of the blowoff or annex are a
little sketchy but the goal of most blowoff's was to empty
the top to allow a new group of people to be ushered in.
It also created a way to generate additional money. The
blowoff attraction was housed in a partitioned-off area
usually at the back end of the top. Some shows even
offered two blowoff's with one at each end. Inside there
would be an act or attraction that wasn't advertised on
The way it
worked back then, and still today in most cases, was once
the main show was finished a lecturer would build up the
blowoff to get as many people as possible to enter. At
the same time, the talker would turn the tip and refill
the house again. There was always a tip being built.
was meant to clear the top so the next show could start
and at the same time bring in more money. Such noted
lecturers and performers as Jack Woods or Melvin Burkhart
were wonderful at this. They would give such a build up,
that almost everyone would go into the blowoff.
blowoff was sexually oriented like the Half and Half but
not always. Some of the more popular acts and attractions
seen in a blowoff were Pickled Punks, Human Pin Cushion or
Alligator Man. At one point Ward Hall had Schlitze the
Pin Head in one of his blowoff's. In general the blowoff
was never as evil as they made it sound though.
interesting side note, P.T. Barnumís American Museum in
New York City attracted large crowds as it became one of
the most poplar museums in New York. As the attendance
grew it created a problem because people would take their
time viewing all of the exhibits in the museum. This
raised concern for Barnum and his manager due to the fact
that the longer the crowd stayed in the museum the less
tickets they could sell.
To try and
alleviate some of the overcrowding Barnum posted a sign
with the word "Egress" painted on it at the top of a
stairway which lead down to a door. As the people arrived
at this point in the museum they would see the sign and
think it was another exhibit. When they went down the
long staircase and through the door they would find
themselves back out on the street.
didn't offer any additional money directly like a blowoff
does it moved the crowds through the building faster.
This in turn lead to more ticket sales which added to
Barnum's purse. -
information and assistance provided by Ward Hall & Slim
If you have a question you would like
to submit email us at the
Back to Ask the
Back to Main