Bostock, known as the “Animal King”, came naturally to his role as famed animal trainer– both his mother and father’s families managed traveling menageries throughout the 19th century. Bostock continued the tradition when he began showing wild animals in the US after immigrating from England in 1893.
Early on in Bostock’s career in the US, New York papers reported that his “untamable” lion Wallace escaped and killed a horse, then was wrestled by his trainer for nearly a day before being returned to his cage. It turned out that the the story was a publicity stunt to create buzz around Bostock’s show. Bostock played up his growing fame by creating the massive touring “Jungle” show which traveled around the US and UK. The show combined huge stage displays that were later copied by American Midway shows.
The Bostock pin isn’t strictly a pinback button; Christen Carter, owner of Busy Beaver Button Co. and co-curator of the museum, said that the back resembles those that St. Louis Button Co. used to subvert Whitehead and Hoag’s original patented pinback design. Carter was also intrigued that the pin isn’t printed, as most buttons from the era are, but instead is made from an actual photograph with exposures for Bostock and each of the 10 animal subjects. The pin is a bit of an anomaly today since circuses now tend to feature few animals, where Bostock’s acts included multiple trained lions, tigers, black bears, polar bears, kangaroos, pumas, jaguars, monkeys, snakes and birds, among others.
See more historic buttons in the Busy Beaver Button Museum.
Photos and information on Bostock’s Jungle from The Sheffield Jungle project.