Fruitcake Under the Big Top

Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus Poster
Posted in: Fruitcake, Bakery, Community

Ringling Bros Circus Helped Catapult Fruitcake’s Fame

Nearly 130 years ago, August “Gus” Weidmann traveled from Port Arthur, Texas to a little town bustling with excitement over oil fields and an intersecting railroad system. With so much promise in one place, Gus decided to stay awhile. His goal? Take his German heritage and turn it into the best bakery Texas would ever know. Lucky for us, that little town was Corsicana, Texas. And that bakery was Collin Street Bakery –established in 1896.


Gus was a master baker. He learned recipes and techniques from his German family and ancestors. But, he was not a salesman or a bookkeeper. He loved to bake and manage other bakers, yet hated all other aspects of his new business. After settling into a home of his own in Corsicana, Gus approached his new friend, Tom McElwee, from whom he had borrowed money to start Collin Street Bakery.

It was during this visit he gave Tom a somber update: Gus was planning on shutting down the bakery. It was just too much to manage on his own. The business was growing too fast and he had no idea how to manage it. Tom saw his investment slipping away before his eyes, so he decided to join Gus to help move the business along in a positive direction.


Tom was a natural salesman, and with the way sales shot up after truly partnering with Gus, you would’ve thought oil and fruitcake were about to dominate the 1900’s United States economy. A busybody, to say the least, Tom knew everything and everyone in Corsicana. He owned the Opera House and the Cotton Gin among other enterprises. Through Tom’s connections and personality, Collin Street Bakery drew the attention of celebrities like Will Rogers, Enrico Caruso, Jim Corbett, and John Ringling. And where there’s a Ringling . . . you better believe there’s a circus.

We’re not exactly certain the first time the Ringling Brothers were introduced to Collin Street fruitcake but, we can only imagine it was a magical occurrence. What we are certain of, however, is that before the circus came to Corsicana, the Ringling Brothers were busy traveling coast to coast while entertaining the masses.

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The Ringling Brothers Circus, founded in 1884, was a group of five brothers – also with German heritage roots – who decided to take their original variety show on the road. Their first 1882 “circus” performance was in Mazomanie, Wisconsin, and their first “inside the ring” performance was in 1884 – complete with a trick horse and a live bear! In 1888, trains made it possible for the circus to travel across the country. Luckily for Collin Street, the Ringling Brothers regularly stopped in the great state of Texas, not far from Corsicana and the home of Gus’ famous DeLuxe® Fruitcake.

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Although the Ringling Brothers Circus never formed an official partnership with Collin Street, their circus members sure did eat A LOT of our fruitcake. John Ringling – aka “King of the Sawdust Ring” – was a close friend of Tom McElwee’s, and even allowed Collin Street to set up a sales booth under the tent to sell cake during their shows! Well, what happens when friends, family, and fruitcake all mix with traveling entertainment? A fruitcake wildfire.

Lions & Tigers & Fruitcake -oh my!

While the word was spreading about the Ringling Circus, local demand for Collin Street’s fruitcake was also growing. But for Tom, just being known locally wasn’t enough. He had a vision of becoming known all over for baking the best dang fruitcakes in the country. And how was he going to make that vision a reality? - SIMPLE! Just load up your friends in the traveling circus with a bunch of fruitcakes and have them share a slice at every stop. That’s right, folks. The Ringling Brothers Circus was a Collin Street Bakery influencer before that was even a ‘thing.’

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Essentially, circus members took Collin Street’s DeLuxe® Fruitcake and passed them around to friends, family, and acquaintances alike as they traveled the country performing. Soon, hundreds of people from states far and wide began mailing letters to our bakery headquarters requesting fruitcakes of their very own. Of course, Gus and Thomas never wanted to turn down a customer. Thus our mail-order fruitcake business was born!

Call it the German Dream Team: Gus Weidmann and John Ringling. One brought the party. One brought the pecans. And the middle man who orchestrated the whole affair? Tom McElwee. Without John’s investment into Gus’ dream and encouragement to keep going when the business was teetering, Collin Street Bakery wouldn’t exist today. And like any good salesman, John was a friend. When the circus came through Texas, Tom saw an opportunity to befriend John Ringling and introduce his traveling circus to a traveling treat. As a result, Collin Street has been able to spread the delicious taste of our fruitcake all over the world for over 120 years.

Sample for yourself what the greatest fruitcake on earth tastes like. Try our Deluxe® Fruitcake today!


October 5, 2020
Brian Dent
October 12, 2020 at 12:01 PM
I think the name "John" should be "Tom" in a couple places in the last paragraph.
Collin Street Bakery
October 13, 2020 at 5:00 PM
Oopps! Good catch, thank you!!
Terri Esmaeili
October 12, 2020 at 12:50 PM
Omgoodness I love your fruitcake! I also loved the Circus! I had a friend Giuliano’s Malevolti in the RBB& B Circus! Love the history of the fruitcake and the circus! Thank you
Collin Street Bakery
October 13, 2020 at 12:04 PM
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! We are so glad you enjoyed it, as much as we did.
Lenore Maslonka
October 12, 2020 at 1:14 PM
Been eating your fruit cakes for 55 years! Given lots of them as Christmas gifts. Now days always buy the sliced ones. Keep in freezer & serve cold, asap the experience.
Collin Street Bakery
October 13, 2020 at 12:06 PM
Wow, thank you so much! We are so glad you have trusted our products to be your Christmas Gifts.
October 12, 2020 at 9:14 PM
Please correct me if I’m wrong but I just read your article about Ringling Brothers. In the last paragraph you refer to Johns investment into Gus’’ dream wasn’t it Toms investment into Gus’ dream?
Collin Street Bakery
October 13, 2020 at 5:06 PM
OPPS! Good catch! We'll fix that now, thank you!
Chris Willis
October 13, 2020 at 11:32 AM
My family was shipped a Fruitcake from a friend that lived in Corsicana in the 70's and I've loved it ever since. I've not bought one in a few years but this year I will be. I love the history behind the bakery, thank you for sharing and for continuing to make the only Fruitcake I will eat because it is the bezt there is. Chris
Collin Street Bakery
October 13, 2020 at 12:08 PM
Thank you so much! We are so glad they sent you a delicious fruitcake and it makes even more glad that you still continue to order from us! Check out our specials page, we have great deals going on.
October 13, 2020 at 2:04 PM
I first time I had a Deluxe Fruitcake was in 1976 when I was working for Bell Helicopter Int'l in Isfahan, Iran. BHI gave them out to all employees every Thanksgiving or Christmas, I can't remember which. I had never had such a wonderful fruitcake in all my life! I was hooked. I brought some large fruitcakes to Thailand years ago and they were crazy about them also. I then had to bring more the next time I visited. I order a Deluxe Fruitcake occasional now, Not as often as I would like as my wife says they are going to make me fat, but I only have a very small piece every so often, so I think it's OK.
Collin Street Bakery
October 15, 2020 at 9:51 AM
It is totally okay! We understand it is just too good to stop eating. We are so happy that you have allowed us to be apart of your life for so many years. Thank you!
Kenneth Fechtler
October 14, 2020 at 12:14 PM
Great story and history about the circus. I've been eating your Fruitcake for many years. Seems as far back into the sixties. I still order them and now I have moved to Texas so i often find them in my local store. Awesome! If a patron ever finds their Fruit cake has become dried out its an easy fix. Stir up an egg and drop the slices in the egg wash - like French Toast- and drop it in a warm skillet. Heat it just long enough to cook the egg and the cake is warmed through. Enjoy the warm Fruitcake. Semper Fi
Collin Street Bakery
October 14, 2020 at 3:06 PM
Thank you so much for this kind comment! We are so glad you took the time to read and comment back to us. Thank you for your tips as well! We are so glad you are apart of our Collin Street Bakery lovers!
Stella Craven
October 14, 2020 at 2:40 PM
As my parents grew older back in the 70’s and 80’s I found it difficult to buy gifts for them. I saw your ad and knowing how much they loved fruitcake I ordered one for them. During the Christmas season my mother served the fruitcake thinking it was just an ordinary fruit cake. Then she began hearing exclamations of how delicious it was. She then tried a slice herself. That was all it took. Every year after they received a Collin Street Bakery,. fruitcake from me. My mother began ordering them as gifts for others at Christmas. Today I use them as gifts for siblings and nieces and nephews. I found the story of your founding very interesting as my great grandfather came from Germany and established a German bakery in Charleston, SC.
Collin Street Bakery
October 15, 2020 at 9:54 AM
Thank you so much for sharing this with us. We are so glad to have become a traditional Christmas gift in your family. One slice is all it takes to turn someone it a CSB fruitcake lover!
jim crain sr
October 14, 2020 at 7:37 PM
I am an American from Florida living now in New Zealand for the last 44 years. I first had your great fruit cakes when I was about 10 years old in Miami. I have bought from you for many years and just love to give them to my friends here in New Zealand who have never had such a wonderful fruit cake. We just love them so much. I'm 83 now and still enjoy a slice of your great cake most nights. Thank you and love to all, jim and rosie crain sr. Hamilton, New Zealand Be safe and kind.
Collin Street Bakery
January 26, 2021 at 12:38 PM
Thank you so much Jim! We are so glad that you enjoy our products. Thank you for sharing them with others.
Doris A Netto
October 15, 2020 at 10:38 PM
Enrico Caruso is correct spelling for his name. An a not an o. I am the only one in my family who enjoys your fruitcake. This year I will make them try your fruit cake.
Collin Street Bakery
October 16, 2020 at 12:18 PM
Thank you for such a good catch! We are so glad you enjoy our fruitcake. One bite is all it takes and we are sure they'll love it as well.
Charles Kay
October 17, 2020 at 3:47 PM
Great story about the connection. Although not a true Texas, my wife is being from Big Lake. Being stationed at Randolph Field, Goodfellow AFB, Sheppard AFB and Ellington AFB, I consider myself an Adopted Texan. Love everything about this state. So your wonderful fruitcakes help me keep in touch with this great state. Always have one in reserve in the refrigerator so my wife and I can have a piece during our morning coffee break. Thanks for such a great fruitcake.
Collin Street Bakery
October 20, 2020 at 9:27 AM
Thank you so much for sharing this with us. We are so glad you enjoy our fruitcake, as much as you enjoy Texas. You are a true Texan in our eyes!
Monique Wherry
November 1, 2020 at 1:19 PM
I learned of your fruit cakes when some 20 years ago, I sold them as a fundraiser for my alumni association. Previous to this, I never liked fruit cake. My family loves your fruit cake as well. However, the alumni association stoped selling them some years ago. Today I decided to google for information, as I know they were associated with the circus. I am so please to find the company. I will be ordering this year. Best,
Collin Street Bakery
November 3, 2020 at 5:56 PM
Thank you for sharing this with us! We can not wait for you to have one of our products again.
Sheryl C Hoehner
December 15, 2020 at 7:03 AM
I grew up with Collins Street fruitcake a part of our Christmas tradition. I knew some details of your origin but it was very nice to hear the complete story. It is a remarkable Christmas story of dedication, love and friendship! Thank you for making such an incredible fruitcake. We look forward to ours arriving this year!! PS I have really enjoyed all your clever advertising this year!
Collin Street Bakery
January 26, 2021 at 12:39 PM
Thank you so much for your kind words! We love to share our history. We hope you have a great day Sheryl!
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