The free exhibition which includes original posters, footage and rare artefacts is being hosted by Sheffield University’s unique at the National Fairground Archive .
Films and recordings of acts which amazed and delighted earlier generations are part of the collection which will go on display, alongside a film of the University taken in 1905.
Professor Vanessa Toulmin, who runs the archive said: “Sheffield has a long and important association with the travelling fairground community.
“Modern fairs are held almost weekly within the city boundaries, but historical fairs such as Crookes Feast and Sheffield Christmas Fair no longer exist.
“Up until the 1930s, Sheffield’s great Christmas Fair held on Blonk Street was one of the most prominent travelling fairs in the United Kingdom. Famous show-families such as the Lings, the Pullens, Farrar’s Fun Fairs, the Waddingtons, the Holmes and the Whitings have all been part of the city’s entertainment fabric for many generations.”
Prof Toulmin said one of the most popular acts in Sheffield during this golden age was Professor De Lyle, whose conjuring show included magic lantern recitals and early cinematograph performances.
Born Arthur George Fox in 1871, the inspiration for his stage name came from the famous Lyle’s treacle. His daughter Winnie was a ventriloquist who started performing aged nine alongside her father.
Many items in the exhibition have been kindly donated by the families of famous show people, including the descendants of Professor De Lyle.
Professor Toulmin said: “I’m delighted to be opening up Sheffield’s rich entertainment heritage to the public.
“There are so many rare gems in this exhibition, from famous names like Harry Houdini to local heroes that made their mark on the industry to local heroes that made their mark on the industry such as Fred Holmes. There is an amazing collection of 350 handbills and posters donated by his grandson Roger Waterhouse
“We’re thrilled to have all this fantastic material in one place for the next three months for everyone to come and enjoy.”