Museum Dedicated to Clown


The Emmett Kelly Museum is located in Sedan, Kansas and is dedicated to its native son, the famous, sad-faced clown Emmett Kelly, and his character "Weary Willie". The museum is located in the 1896 Opera House on Main Street. The collection includes memorabilia of his circus career as well as many items related to local history. To be honest, there are more things unrelated to Kelly housed in the museum than items attributed to the famous clown. That's not to say there aren't items that belonged to the well-known slapstick comedian, but one shouldn't expect to be overwhelmed with memorabilia on Kelly himself. In any event, admission is free and if you have affection for clowns or are interested in finding out about the history of Sedan, Kansas, it would be worth taking the time to visit.

Sedan, Kansas was the birthplace of Emmett Kelly, who portrayed Weary Willie, possibly the most famous circus entertainers of all time. Emmett Leo Kelly was born on December 9, 1898. Very little evidence details the period that the Kelly's lived in Sedan, but it is known that his father, Thomas Kelly, was a section boss for the local railroad. His mother, Molly, is believed to have run a local boarding house. Kelly's family moved to Missouri from Sedan when he was still a young child. Emmett died in Sarasota, Florida on March 28, 1979. He is buried in Lafayette, Indiana.

In 1967, Sedan honored the legendary performer with the opening of the Emmett Kelly Museum. As previously noted collection has a limited number of Emmett Kelly items, but does offer many snapshots, newspaper articles and clippings, circus placards and a number of items related to other, lesser known, clowns some of who worked in circuses around the same time as Kelly. Several of the prized items directly associated with Emmett are a huge pair of scuffed-up clown shoes donated to the museum along with a shirt and tie once worn by Kelly's character. Visitors can also admire The Original Emmett Kelly Circus Collection Limited Edition Figurines.

The small Emmett Kelley Museum also serves as the community historical museum with the greater part of the building being devoted to the exhibits of other items donated by Sedan residents. The greatest area of the museum is comprised of a huge collection of over 1500 collector whisky bottles and decanters. Included is the largest known assembly of commemorative Jim Beam bottles. Other items archived in the small museum include Russell Wemmer's well preserved, collection of radios, televisions and phonograph players, most which still function with some dating back as far as 1925. The old opera building also has quite a nice assortment of very old printing presses from bygone years.

Items once belonging to D. W. Washburn's character, Sparky can be found among the many circus and clown related objects. Washburn died the same year as Emmett Kelly. He was well known in the circus circles but evidently never worked directly with Kelly since Emmett was known for his individual performances as Weary Willy and never performed with the clown groups. With the amount of objects belonging to Sparky the Clown, some might wonder why the museum doesn't bear his name instead of Emmett's. None the less, it is quite an impressive display of clown items.

The museum also has memorabilia from the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and historical quilts.

The museum is open to the public from the beginning of May until the end of October.

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