The D.S. Dudley Show of Mankins

Winter home for the D.S. Dudley show in Mankins. (Photo by Shannon Gillette)

By Shannon Gillette

Mankins, Texas, located twenty miles southeast of Wichita Falls in the north corner of Archer County has the unique distinction of once being able to claim circus activities as their primary source of industry. From 1914 through the early 1970s, Mankins was the home base of the D. S. Dudley traveling show.

D.S. Dudley, better known as Cheyenne, was born in 1895 in Gainesville, Texas. He made a name for himself as a rodeo performer and bronc rider, but dreamed of owning and operating his own show. In 1914, he purchased a traveling carnival.

His work of growing the new business was halted with the outbreak of World War I. Dudley joined the military. He served in Company D, 133rd Machine Gun Battalion, 72nd Infantry Brigade. Once the war ended, he returned to Texas and set his sights on creating a successful traveling carnival.

Dudley married a girl from Mankins, Jessie Ruth Wolf. Together they raised a family and lived the carny lifestyle. The D.S. Dudley Show included various rides for kids of all ages, side show exhibits, exotic animals and midway games of chance. They performed in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska.

They traveled and performed eight months out of the year. The show was a family affair. The 1940 Federal Population Census lists Dudley’s occupation as a manager of his own show. He was living next door to his brother, John. John’s occupation was an electrician in show business. John’s brother-in-law, living with him, was listed as an apprentice in show business.

At the peak of their success, the D.S. Dudley Show employed 250 people. When planning shows out of state, Dudley often placed advertisements in “Billboard Magazine” looking for temporary help. He required those whom he hired to be sober and reliable. Through these ads, it is possible to get an idea of what types of shows, rides and games that the D.S. Dudley Show presented.

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