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Sverre "Bex" Braathen

Sverre


The Braathens, Sverre and Faye, were active and avid circus fans and collectors. An attorney by trade, Sverre's passion for circus began in the early 1900s when he was a boy waiting for and later watching the Gollmar Brothers Circus unload, parade, and perform on the Great Plains in the small town of Mayville, North Dakota. As a young adult, he served in the U.S. Navy onboard the U.S.S. Kearsarge where he was a coronet player in their band. After World War I, he returned to his studies at Mayville Normal School, graduated, married Faye Oretta Bentley, and moved to Wisconsin, where he later became an attorney. He mixed his love of music with his love for circuses and began collecting circus music material. Through the years, his collection grew to include route books, business materials, periodicals, massive amounts of correspondence between all levels of circus personnel - from band members to performers, riggers to roustabouts. Every season found the Braathens following circuses throughout the upper Midwest and it was while following circuses that his photographic talents emerged.

Sverre used an Eastman Kodak Ektra F 1.9 camera to capture the images in the slide collection. He used Kodachrome film.

A love for all things circus-related permeated every aspect of their lives and their home -- the entrance of which was covered by a canopy of red and white striped canvas. The living room contained a queen's throne from a tableau wagon; their chandelier was a sunburst wheel from a bandwagon with a globe at the end of each of the 14 spokes. The room was fitted out with a green floor (to evoke a grassy lot) atop of which were three red circular rugs to intimate the three rings in a circus tent. Fittingly, they called their home "White Tops".

Sverre and Faye died in the mid-1970s. Their massive circus collection came to Illinois State University's Milner Library at that time and has resided in Special Collections ever since.

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