exico City. November of 1898. Big moustache and face painted in white, Bell the Clown pulls an old coffeepot, a tiny violin, and other strange objects from his bottomless pockets. He performs all kinds of bizarre and senseless acts, his facial expressions covering the entire range of human emotions. From a vast repertoire, Bell starts with jokes satirizing the government’s unpopular tax policies. Then, he plays his little violin for a while.  Delighted, the audience at the Orrín Circus in Mexico City—an arena with a capacity for 2,500 spectators—unleashes a symphony of laughs that will last until the clown’s performance is over.


Richard Bell. Mexico, c. 1900

hough surrounded by all sorts of acrobats, tamers, and eccentrics, Richard Bell is definitively the star of the show. At the height of his fame, touring the entire country and giving as many as four presentations a day, Bell has become a national celebrity. A well-known Mexican poet once said that Bell was “more popular than pulque” [a traditional and extremely popular alcoholic beverage] .


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Richard Bell. Mexico, c. 1900




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