Dion De Marbelle

Short Name: Dion De Marbelle
Full Name: De Marbelle, Dion, 1818-1903
Birth Year: 1818
Death Year: 1903

[Daniel de Marbelle]

Born: Ju­ly 4, 1818, Se­ville, Spain (or per­haps France).
Died: De­cem­ber 18, 1903, El­gin, Il­li­nois.
Buried: Bluff Ci­ty Cem­e­te­ry, El­gin, Il­li­nois.

De Mar­belle worked on a whal­ing ship in the ear­ly 1800’s, then joined the Amer­i­can na­vy and served as a drum­mer in a New York com­pa­ny dur­ing the Mex­i­can War (1847). He was al­so a mil­i­ta­ry mu­si­cian in the Amer­i­can ci­vil war, serv­ing in the 6th Mi­chi­gan In­fan­try. Af­ter that, he toured Amer­i­ca as a mu­si­cian and ac­tor with an op­e­ra com­pa­ny, lat­er or­gan­iz­ing his own the­a­tri­cal troupe. It has been said that at the in­vi­ta­tion of Bail­ey (of Bar­num and Bail­ey fame), he be­came the ve­ry first cir­cus clown. Lat­er, he man­aged his own cir­cus, but lost ev­er­y­thing in a fire while tour­ing Ca­na­da. Then, he helped Buf­fa­lo Bill Co­dy set up his fa­mous Wild West Show:

"Wracked by rheu­ma­tism and pen­ni­less, a tired old man had come to El­gin [Il­li­nois] to live with a son on Sen­e­ca Street. Few paid him much at­ten­tion un­til Buf­falo Bill and his Wild West Show came to town in 1897. He was stand­ing in the crowd among the tents when Col­o­nel W. F. Co­dy glanced in his di­rect­ion, gazed in­tent­ly at him for an in­stant, and re­cog­nized a for­mer as­so­ci­ate, Dan De Mar­belle…The col­o­nel ar­ranged for his old friend to view the af­ter­noon en­ter­tain­ment from an ea­sy chair in front of the band. That ev­en­ing, De Mar­belle dined with Co­dy, An­nie Oak­ley, and other show fig­ures in the col­o­nel’s pri­vate din­ing car, and left with a gen­er­ous part­ing gift [called in his obit­u­ary "a sub­stan­tial roll of cur­ren­cy"]." Days Gone By, by Mike Alft, p. 141

De Mar­belle could play al­most any in­stru­ment, and wrote ma­ny songs. He was a ven­tril­o­quist, or­gan­ized a brass band, and sang in a Me­thod­ist choir in El­gin, Il­li­nois. He al­so called the fig­ures in lo­cal square danc­es. He claimed he could make an el­o­quent speech on any sub­ject, with­out prep­a­ra­tion! The roy­al­ties from all his songs were stol­en from him, and he died pen­ni­less, near starva­tion.


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