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The Franconi Tours

Each year the Franconi go on tour during the "theatrical season" (April to October) during which Paris' minors theaters must close in order not to compete with privileged theaters. During their tours, the Franconi  regularly settle in the same cities: Rouen, Le Havre, Bordeaux, Lyon... where relevant infrastructure can accommodate their show and especially their cavalry. They therefore appear both in riding schools (manèges) and in temporary structures built expressly for their spectacle. 

During the 3 to 4 months of their annual circuit, the Franconi generally organize themselves to crisscross the same region in order to limit journeys.  On the other hand, in 1826, the fire at the Cirque Olympique engages them in a journey longer than usual where they travel all of France (doc. 2), except eluding extreme east, west and the center.

Local sources make it possible to retrace certain stages of their tours: not only do strollers and traveling artists need permission to present their shows but they are controlled by the local police. But also, the recriminations of the directors of theaters in the towns they visit constitute very enlightening sources to capture the success of a troupe passing through town, even more so when it comes to the Franconi shows (doc.1). I


ndeed, to be able to present its show, whatever the city, the troupe must seek authorization from the local authorities. They are the ones who arbitrate the approval of coming in town and of the duration of the stay along with the schedules of the performances. However, the legislation, especially that related to theatrical genres and royalties depend on the Ministry of the Interior. When confronted to the impact of incoming competition, local theatre directors who reach out for official support to rule out the disrupting outsiders dont exactly get the same "understanding"  from the authorities of their city or from the region prefect than that of the ministry.


It is not uncommon, and this is notably the case in Rouen during the 1820s, that the support of the local authorities is not at all relayed by the ministry, especially when it is a troupe established in Paris during the winter and therefore subject to the constraints of the laws governing Parisian theaters.

Franconi VS local theater competition

The passage of a traveling performance troupe is a real ax for local theaters which see their revenue reduced during the entire stay of a new show, attracting all the more spectators as the program is new and temporary. Above all, the Cirque Olympique has seen its "local tax" reduced since 1812. In fact, each itinerant show must pay an indemnity to the city's theater(s), which is far from being insignificant for the visiting show, which sees its revenues largely deducted, while the local theater receives a notorious compensation for having its regular entries disrupted.

Touring spectacles de curiosités must contribute 1/5th of their revenue, while touring minor theaters must contribute only 1/20th. However, the Franconi's show has had its status changed from spectacles de curiosité to minor theatre because, given their cavalry, their fees are much higher than those of other spectacles. Their arguments to obtain a reduction in their "local tax" were heard. And, although still a curiosity show, in 1812 they obtained a reduction of the payment due to the local theaters to 1/5th: from now on they only owed  1/20th of their receipts.


This is a major and decisive turning point in the history of the Cirque Olympique since this financial decision becomes the argument of the Franconi to obtain the change of their status. Contrary to the "order of things" according to which an entertainment is approved in a category and must therefore respect the corresponding conditions of exploitation, the Franconi argue that their conditions which have been adapted to circumtstances of exploitation in having them pay royalties of 1/20th, means they should therefore change to another administrative category calling for a change in their status.  From 1814, their argument is heard as it is based on facts: only minor theatres pay the 1/20th. Thus, they are approved as minor theatres, which extends their royalties of 1/20th to their Paris establishment... (see From Equestrian Theaters to the Circus, p. 159 et seq.).

Morel, director of the Rouen theaters, demonstrated in several reports to the Minister of the Interior that despite this "tax", the Franconis' stays in Rouen were a source of immense losses for his establishments. For example, if the Franconis paid the 1/5th, in 1819, the sum would have reached 4592,35 Francs (3404,9 Francs more than the 1/20th collected).


The comparison of the receipts of the two theaters shows the impact of the horsemen is unequivocal, particularly in 1822, when Franconis spectacles revenues reach almost the double of those of the Theater of Rouen.

In the reports of 1822 and 1824, Morel also mentions the receipts of the Theatre of Le Havre, whose service is ensured by the management of Rouen. From May 23 to June 3, in 6 days, the sedentary theater has receipts of an average of 260,30F (1/20th included) per evening whereas the Franconi obtained an average receipt of 1020,15F per evening in 11 days. Success amounts to 4 times more revenue even after being taxed. Numbers kind of sum it up !

Recettes Rouen VS Franconi 1819 1822 182

The Franconi Tour of France in 1826

The fire of the Cirque Olympique des Franconi in March 1826, in Paris, devastated their theater.

During two months following the catastrophe, they performed on several Parisian stages and then left for a long tour through France, the itinerary of which they sent to the Minister of the Interior for approval.

Their itinerary lists 28 stages. The map drawn out from this list shows that the Franconi went on a real tour of France which kept them about 7-8 months away from Paris.

Sources: AN.F21.1142 TD:Itinerary of MM. Franconi for their 1826 tour ” and “ Lettre du Ministre aux préfets des départements to contribute  to the reparation of a great disaster ”and “ Theatrical Administration of Bordeaux, June 6, 1826 ”. 


To find out more about the Franconi and the Olympic Circus

Olympic Circus
Revenues & Success:
Economy of the show
Franconi's horses
Répertoire of the Olympic Circus
Equestrian theaters and circuses in Paris
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