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Mabel Stark: Topics in Chronicling America

Mabel Stark was one of the most celebrated animal trainers in a field dominated by men. This guide provides access to materials related to “Mabel Stark” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

"Mabel Stark. Most fearless woman animal educator in the world, and Prince, the horse-riding leopard of the Al G. Barnes Wild Animal Circus that she raised by hand-feeding." July 5, 1907. The Butte Daily Post (Butte, MT), Image 6. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

After suffering a nervous breakdown as a nurse, Mabel Stark (1889-1968) seeks a “simpler & easier profession”: training wild jungle cats for the Big Top. Formerly known as Mary Haynie, she joins the circus and becomes the world’s foremost wild animal trainer, circa 1910-1920. Despite numerous maulings, it is Mabel’s love of big cats that keeps her coming back. Wrestling the Bengal tiger, Rajah, is her signature act, spectators looking on in amazement as the lithe dare-devil steps into a cageful of snarling jungle cats armed only with a cane, a whip and a pistol full of blanks. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.

Timeline

1916 Adopts a motherless Bengal tiger cub as her own and names him Rajah.
February 1916 Mabel Stark is severely mauled by a lion named Louie.
August 2, 1921 Stark battles 3 enraged tigers before hundreds of spectators, causing a panic.
1922 Joins the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.