Jun 03 2016

Living Museum (Mabel Stark)

Mabel Stark, Living Museum, Brina, 5th grade, school, fun, activity

Mabel Stark

December 9, 1889 –  April 20, 1968

Social Studies – Living Museum

Mabel Stark was born on December 9, 1889, in Princeton, Kentucky. Her parents were Hardy Haynie and Lela Haynie.  Mabel Stark’s birth name was Mabel Haynie.  Stark’s parents were farmers. Both of her parents died within a few months of each other and she was orphaned by the time she was 17 years old. She was the only child in her family and after her parents death she was sent to live with her Aunt.

Shortly after turning eighteen she left her Aunt’s house.  Mabel attended school at St. Mary’s Hospital to become a nurse.  Her background and history are a little more difficult to follow because she didn’t speak much of her past.  Also, she changed her name more than once making it harder to find out all the details of her life before being a part of the circus.

She loved the circus even when she was a little girl.   Her circus friends think that she started working in carnivals as a dancer after attending St. Mary’s nursing school.   While working in carnivals and with other performers she discovered her love for big cats, especially tigers. She was convinced that she wanted to be a tiger trainer and continued to pursue that dream whenever possible.  Stark’s first big cat performance was with two lions and two tigers. She worked for a brief time as a horseback rider, but really wanted to work with the big cats.

Stark was married at least five times, but never had any children.  One of her earlier training positions was working with goats for performances in Al G. Barnes’ dog and pony show.  Later she began train with Louis Roth, a famous “cat man” who would later become her husband. During that time Roth starting changing the way that trainers taught the animals.  Instead of using negative force he would reward the animals when they did a training exercise correctly.  Roth called it “gentling” the animals.  He taught this positive reinforcement training method to Stark.

The first tigers she was given to train were the same three that had mauled the previous trainer to death.  She did not let that discourage her from following her dream.   She adopted a sick tiger cub named “Rajah” and raised him to perform a famous wrestling act with her. She trained him by romping and playing with the cub at the beach and actually keeping him as a pet in her home. After years of work she became known as a tiger trainer and people came to see her shows. By 1916, she was presenting the show’s major tiger act.  She worked for The Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus for most of her training career.  The Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus is still one of the most popular circus shows that you can see today.

She was the most famous female tiger tamer. She worked with the animals from 1911 to 1968. She was mauled many times, but kept coming back to train more tigers.  Even into her old age she chose to continue spending her time training tigers. Her maiden name is Mary Haynie, but she goes by and is most well known by one of her married names – Mabel Stark.

Her favorite big cat was a tiger.  Even though she preferred the tiger she worked with other big cats too.  She had performances with lions, tigers, leopards, numerous big cats, and even other animals.  As she continued to grow more famous she was able to work alongside tigers more frequently which she loved.  The most big cats she had in one presentations was eighteen.

Mabel Stark was the first female to work with and train big cats. Two of the most common nicknames that she is referred to by is “Tiger Queen” or “The Lady with Tigers.” Mabel Stark, died in Thousand Oaks, California, on April 20, 1968. She had spent over fifty-seven years in the arena training and performing with tigers (and other animals).

She was a brave person.  Mabel took a risk by spending hours each day inside cages with very powerful and potentially dangerous animals, yet it was exactly what she wanted to be doing!  Being the be the first lady to train big cats is a really neat accomplishment.  It was not common in her era for women to be involved in such a position, but she did it anyway.  She is a great example of not letting the past hold her back and when she wanted something she went after it wholeheartedly.  Her hard work, dedication, and love for the tigers paid off.  She is best known for her skills and talents as the first female big cat trainer.

References

 

Mabel Stark is the person I rehearsed for the Living Museum project.

She worked at a circus called Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey.

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s circus still performs

today, including regularly in Greenville, SC!

Mabel Stark training a tiger at the circus for  Ringling Brothers,

Barnum & Bailey Circus act. She loved to train and uses positive

reinforcement such as treats and other rewards to teach the tigers.

The poster above is advertising Mabel Stark circus show with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus.  It is still often called “The Greatest Show on Earth” even today!  The poster encouraged more people came to to see her and the big cats perform. The most tigers she had in the same arena at one time was 18 big cats.

A picture of Mabel Stark with a group of her tigers from one of her shows.

The show had 18 tigers in the same pen at one time.

Eighteen tigers in one show was the most

she had during a performance.

Mabel Stark training a tiger for the big show they are going to be in together.  She enjoyed working with the tigers and used positive reinforcement to help encourage the tigers to want to learn and perform for her.  It was a lot of work, but she loved it!

Above are some books about Mabel Stark and her life if you would like to learn even more about this amazing lady!

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