Louis F. Sunlin

When I was a kid, my Dad told me a story about one of our ancestors or relatives who worked with animals. He had some private menagerie or worked with the circus. I didn’t put any stock in it, until I learned about my great uncle, Louis F. Sunlin.

I’m going to try to tell his story here.


The Ringling Bros. Circus, 1900 Census, Columbus Ward 9, Franklin County, Ohio says that “Lew Sunlin” was born 1876 in Indiana and that father was also born in Indiana, and his mother was born in Ohio. We know that none of this is accurate.

According to 1900 Federal Census, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Louis Sunlin was born February 1857 in Ohio.

His father was born in France, and his mother born was born in Baden (which in 1900 was a Grand Duchy).

According to 1930 Federal Census, Flint, Michigan, he was born 1858 in Ohio.

It says that his father was born in Alsace Lorraine, Germany; mother was born in Germany.

In 1930 – the Alsace-Lorraine region (briefly) belonged to France.

Florida Passenger List (inbound from Cuba Nov 10, 1923): Birthdate is February 27.


Grand Rapids City Directory

As “Lewis Sohnlen” at age 21, still spelling his last name like his father. Occupation: Boilermaker (like his father and the rest of his family).


His first show with the Sells Brothers Circus?

  • from 1880 (according to CHS and repeated by Travelanche)
  • 1886-1887 (Slout, Olympians of the Sawdust Circle)
  • As late as 1888 (Daily Alta California, 16 Sep 1888)
  • There’s no Sunlin mentioned in Sells Brothers’ & S. H. Barrett’s Circus Route Book for 1890.



Lew’s brother William Sunlin

J. M. Hudson’s & Dan Castello’s Atlantic Circus, Museum and Menagerie are to open their season in Pana, Ill., April 30. The officers and company are: Hudson & Castello, managers; H. B. Carroll, assistant manager and railroad contractor; W. D. (“Yank”) Newell, general agent; John McDunnough, treasurer; F. E. Courtney, contracting agent; J. R. Kennedy, chief of brigade no. 1, with twelve assistants; Geo. Anderson, ostler, aided by ten grooms. The company, which is to perform in two rings at the same time, includes:

Riders – the Lowande Family; Miss Hudson, Menage; Mlle. scott, principal; Mlle. Lasaille, bareback somersault; Alice Stickney, principal; W. W. Nicholls and son, scene; Mons. Lagun Leon, bareback; Master Georg Hudson, four pony; and Master Benny Hudson, principal.

Acrobats, tumblers and leapers – Mlle. Aida, Chas. Matthews, Mons. Laiselle and son, the three Cooper Brothers, Joyce and lee, Geo. Scott, Wm. Sunlin, Wm. Dome, Edw. Leon Durand, Soimules and Watrigant, the Marvels of Peru; H. Causland, musical clown; Dan Castello, jester; Johnny Sheridan, Irish clown; and C. Laisalle, knock-about; Frank Dartwell, Geo. Finley, James Danielis, F. B. Daugan, Mons. Freibecks and Andrew Calton.

There are fourteen cages of animals, two tableau cars, and a band chariot. They are to travel by rail, using 21 cars, 5 stock, 12 flats, 2 sleepers and 1 coach. The principal features are Castello’s troupe of trained horses and a herd of performing Durham bulls, six in number.


  • The brother didn’t stay with the circus biz, instead taking a career rolling cigars and eventually moving to New England. Did he sustain an injury while performing? Maybe he went to Cuba with his brother and caught he cigar bug there?
  • I find interesting that while Lew is not mentioned, this circus does have a “herd of performing Durham bulls” – who else?


Kent County, Michigan, Marriage Index, 1842-1929

Name: Lewis F Sunlin
Spouse:  Maria Hart
Marriage Date: 1883-1886
Marriage Place: Kent, Michigan, United States

Michigan, Divorce Records, 1897-1952

Spoiler alert!

Name: Louis F Sunlin
Marriage Date: December 5, 1883
Marriage Place: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Decree Date: June 12, 1913
Decree Place: Kent, Michigan, USA
Spouse Name: Marie Sunlin

  • In the ring literature, both “Allie Jackson” and “Maria/Marie” are touted as names for “Mrs. Sunlin”, both also working with the same horse, Mizpah. (“Allie” with Ringling in 1889 and “Marie” with Shipp’s in 1905.)
  • Very likely that Allie Jackson was a stage name. Maria may have been born “Mary Hart”, perhaps a drab name for a performer. Marie and Maria would be much more exotic; even “Allie” would have a sort of “Annie Oakley” vibe.


Sells Brothers Circus

“… the antics of the rollicking elephant clown “Sid” and his human compeer, Lew Sunlin …”



Grand Rapids, Michigan City Directory, 1889

Lewis F. Sunlin, 124 Legrand, showman, Grand Rapids.

Ringling Brothers Route Book, 1899

Clown, Dog Race (English Whippet Hounds),

Incl. “Allie Sunlin”. As “Allie Jackson” with Mizpah.


New York Clipper, May 9, 1891, p. 150.:

Notes from the Irwin Bros. Circus. At Sing Sing, N. Y., May ?, about two o’clock A. M., fire was discovered in our stock car, which was ??? to the trucks. We had jsut finished loading when the fire was discovered, and on account of the doors not being closed, it made quick headway. Inside of six minutes it had destroyed the entire car with the contents. One end was used for our working people, and the other end for ponies and donkeys. Prof. John White lost two donkeys, one Shetland pony, and one broncho and his trained stallion. . . . Lew Sunlin lost his trick donkey, Peanuts, while Pickles was pretty well scorched before we got him out of the car. . . .

New York Dramatic News, May 23, 1891, p. 6.:

From the Irwin Brothers’ Circus: Eight ponies were recently added to the show, making forty-three head of stock for parade. The new parade costumes, trappings, etc., are nearly completed, and will be much handsomer than those destroyed in the fire. Everything will be finished by June 1. The show is giving the best of satisfaction. Josie Ashton is riding better than ever. Professor John White is breaking new stock to replace that lost in the fire. Stirk and Zeno are doing wonderfully clever work in their aerial act, having added several new tricks. Lew Suntin [sic Lew Sunlin?] bought another donkey, and will have him working in about ten days. . . .



Ringling Brothers Circus Route Book, 1892

Lew Sunlin, Tutor of Wise Donkeys, Acrobatic and Talking Clown.

Under “Leapers and Tumblers” as well as “Clown Sulky Race Riders”.

And in ring number two, “An interlude of merriment by the funniest fools on earth, Turnour, O’Brien, Sunlin.”

“Two ludicrous Ear Winking Donkeys, known to the world as Peanuts and Pickles, performed by their trainer, Lew Sunlin.”

Wednesday, May 25th. Arkansas City, Kas. A., T. & S. Fe, …Lew Sunlin’s new cinnamon bear, tied in dressing-room, upsets buckets and stands on his head in the water barrel. Also makes a lion-leap at Sunlin, intent to chew him up and spit him out. (Laughter.) Lew finally pacifies him, and jumps him up under a flat car cage, “thus showing man’s power over the brute creation.”

Saturday, May 28th. McPherson, Kas.…Lew Sunlin buys a coyote with teeth as sharp as Sharp’s needles.

Friday, June 3d. York, Neb. St. J. &. G. I., 66 miles. Pop. 3,405. La Grand Hotel. Madame Sunlin’s beautiful manege horse Brilliant died in the cars last night.

Thursday, October 6th. Hebron, Neb. Bur. Route, 40 miles. Pop. 1,502. Central Hotel. Lew Sunlin has been delighting the Japanese boys with a book entitled “The Story of Robinson Crusoe.”



Ringling Bros. Route Book, 1893

Lew Sunlin: Minstrel Entertainment (blackface?), Donkey Educator and Clown, Leapers and Tumblers, Clown, Clown Sulky Race Riders..



Ringling Brothers Route Book, 1894

The rings and stage are next occupied as follows: Ring No. 1, the performing donkeys and Sunlin, the humorist; Sunlin is Nature’s clown, and his pair of donkeys are quadrupedal imitations of their amusing master. The old “trick mule,” that belligerent acquaintance of our boyhood days, still keeping up his tricks and throwing everybody, is keeping the audience in roars of laughter, and his amateurish riders in a state of fear and dexterity, by the manner in which he dispossesses himself of unprofessional incumbrances, and allows none to ride him. A burlesque donkey act is at this time being exploited upon the stage, clown and donkeys doing very funny work, the donkeys being as expert at laugh-creating as their master, the comical animal educator.

With “Allie Jackson”, “high school” equestrianism.



New York Clipper, March 23, 1895, p. 35.:

Roster of W. F. Kirkhart’s Great American Railroad Circus: W. F. Kirkhart and R. M. Harvey, proprietors and managers; A. S. Kirkhart, treasurer; Sam A. Garber, railroad contractor; M. Clifford, general agent; Don M. O’Connell, press agent; Ben Fogle, boss bill poster with six assistants; Hal Burton, second brigade with two assistants; Rodger Lazelle, equestrian director; Herr Drayton, Harry Leonard, Brothers Lozelles (Harry, Sherman and Rodger), Owen and Sunlin, A. M. Bybee, Edger Geyer, Julia Geyer, the Irvings, Josie Dorr and her educated dogs and ponies, C. E. Jordan, Frankie Jordan, military band of twenty pieces; George Day, boss canvasman with ten assistants; George Warner, boss ostler with four assistants; William Day, boss property man with three assistants; Al Roadhouse, head cook with two assistants; J. M. Murphy, master of transportation; William Washington, car porter; Silly Billy, stage dancer; Madam Garrison, long-haired woman; Prof. Hart and Mlle Bessie. We open May 2 at Perry, Iowa. W. F. Kirkhart goes East in a few days to purchase two more cars and other show property.


Ringling Brothers Route Book, 1896:

Clown, with performing donkey, as “Lew Sunlin”.

With “Mlle. Sunlin”

Champaign, Ill. Friday, August 28. I. C. R. R. 25 miles. Pop. 7,000. Arrived early. Nice lot near fair ground on the railroad. A 9 o’clock parade was called here as we included both Urbana and Champaign in our line of march. Six miles covered in two hours. Though the last day of the fair business in the afternoon was good, big at night. William Predemore, Clate Alexander and Lou Sunlin were all confined to their beds by sickness, and many more ailing. Jake Michaels, an old time circus bass player, is chief of police here.



Ringling & Bros Route book.


Signor Lewis Sunlinasco is the name of the famous bass of all basses. Few are aware of the fact that when the Signor arrayed himself under the baton of Johnsonicola a dispute relative to certain technical points in music arose between the two. Sunlinasco believes in the motto, “Be sure you’re right then go ahead.” He had struck a note on his tuba which he judged was right and refused to vary it, and “on this line,” said he, “I propose to fight it out if it takes all summer.” Johnsonicola was forced at last to acknowledge that Sunlinasco could get as great a variety of effects with that one tone as many another could on the whole register.”


  • So I may presume that it is Louis “Lew” Sunlin, in clown face, with the tuba, second from left.


Ringling Brothers Route Book, 1899

As “Lew Sunlin”, with “Allie Sunlin”.



1900 Federal Census, Grand Rapids, Michigan

  • On the same form, for the same address (500 N Front Street):

L. Sunlin, no age listed, born in Michigan, circus man. Maria Sunlin, wife, age 42 (ie born 1858), married 20 years (ie married 1880), no children, born in Michigan, parents born in Ireland.

Louis Sunlin, born February 1857, age 43, married 20 years, born Ohio, father born France, mother born Baden, performer. Maria Sunlin, born February 1860, age 40, married 20 years, born Michigan, parents born Ireland, performer.

1900 Federal Census, Columbus, Ohio

The 1900 census of the Ringling Circus at Columbus, Ohio listed a Lew Sunlin, age 24, born in Indiana in 1876, father born in Indiana, mother born in Ohio.

Ringling Brothers Route Book, 1900

Clown, dog race, as “Lew Sunlin”, with “Allie Jackson”.


New York Clipper, January 19, 1901, p. 1046.

Circo Cubano, Cuba – 1900-1901

Notes from the Circo Cubano, now touring the island of Cuba.

We opened our traveling season at Matanzas, Cuba, Dec. 14, showing there one week to crowded tents. . . . Tito Ruenes is sole proprietor and manager. Mr. Ruens is a big favorite among the natives, owing to the fact he being a major in the late Cuban-Spanish war, being held a prisoner for more than two years by the Spaniards. Tomas Quevede is advance agent, Florenc?o Romero, Treasurer; Julio Ruenes, secretary; Antonio Blan?o, press agent; Ysodoro Radaga, general agent; Santiago Perez, transportation master; Ed. Y. Kuniely(?), assistant manager.

We carry a 100 ft. round top, with a 50 ft. middle piece; a 40 ft. round top dressing tent, 40ft. square horse tent. We carry twenty-eight head of horses. Chas. H. Bailey is in charge, with five assistants. Andrew Lopez is superintendent of canvas, with eight assistants; Pedro Madrzo in charge of lights; Luis Suarez, boss props.

We carry a native band of eight pieces. Nickolas Ceballos is our equestrian director. Peter Barlow, principal somersault and jockey rider; Mr. Maguire, with troupe of eight performing horses and his trained mule; Lew Sunlin, and his performing bull; George Gilbert, and his troupe of performing goats; Prof. Kreisel, with his dogs, cats and monkeys; Yamada’s Troupe of Japs, six in number; Joe Belmont, principal leaper; M?? Avon, Spanish rings and trapeze performer; Vig??? Ceboolos, gymnast; Nicolas Cebooles, high wire act; Nola and Ducrow, revolving ladder and clowns; L?rbey Bros., horizontal bars; Lyons and Craig, comic acrobats; John Carrie, equilibrist; Barons and Cha?hito, native dancers; Dan Ducrow, Spanish talking clown. We will show all the principal towns in Cuba, the season running until July.


Grand Rapids City Directory

Occupation: Stone quarry.


Grand Rapids City Directory

Stone Quarry, 500 N Front Street

Billboard, December 3, 1904, pp. 10, 20.

Pascatel will act as press agent back with the Shipp Indoor Circus. Dan F. Cline will go ahead of the show. The Pacheco Family, Chas. and Nettie Carroll, Lew Sunlin and wife, Art Adair and wife and Anita Stirk are booked with the show.


“Full retirement”

Women of the American Circus, 1880-1940, By Katherine H. Adams, Michael L. Keene

Proceedings of the City Commission

Grand Rapids, Michigan, December, 27 1904
To the Honorable Common Council
23559 Gentlemen — Your special committee consisting of the Aldermen of the Sixth Seventh and Eighth wards and the City Engineer to whom was referred the communication of LJ Sunlin file No 23339 relative to the lowering of the coffer dams maintained in the river within the city limits would report thereon Your committee has given the matter due consideration and met with said LF Sunlin and also with Mr Hiashutter who are maintaining coffer dams in said river and the following proposition was acceptable to said parties and your committee therefore recommends that one foot be taken off from the top of each coffer dam wall running east and west the same to be finished on or before Feb 1 1905 And further that the City Marshal be and he is hereby instructed not to take further action relative thereto until the further direction of the Common Council.
Respectfully submitted THOS J GLEASON City Marshal


Billboard, January 28, 1905, pp. 12, 20, 21

Shipp’s Indoor Circus, now in its sixth week, is eclipsing all previous efforts. Mr. Shipp’s idea of producing a circus on a stage is not only practical but satisfies the demand of the theatregoers, who are continually crying for something new. To further substantiate this Mr. Shipp has a tempting offer from a prominent syndicate to give up his regular summer circus engagement and devote his entire time to an indoor circus. The company includes some of the best known performers in America, and a glance a the roster will reveal many familiar names to those conversant with circus folks. Art and Dot Adair, head balancing act; Carrie Kemp, rolling globe; Miss Julia Lowande, principal bareback act; Prof. Sunlin, presenting his trained bull; Fred Ledgett and Dollie Julian, jockey riders; Arthur Adair and George Hartzell, principal clowns; Peerless Anita, aerialist; Delavoye and Fritz, trick-house act; Horace Webb, revolving ___; Madame Marei, with her educated horse, Mizpah; Cecil Lowande, principal somersault equestrian; Pascatel, the man with a hundred forms; Nettie Carroll, high wire act; the Marvelous Pacheco Family of acrobats and Alec G. Lowande, with his comic riding on a mule. The Shipp circus season is to close March 11, at Convention Hall, Kansas City, where the show is well known. W. N. Merrick has a band of eleven people, which has been one of the contributing factors to the success of the enterprise.

  • This was a common format for early vaudeville shows.

Proceedings of the City Commission

January, 1905

Referred to Committee on Supplies

To the Honorable Common Council:

Gentlemen In accordance the directions of your Honorable me to notify the or owners of quarries within the lines of Grand river in the City Grand Rapids maintaining obstructions within said dock lines to the same within twenty days after service upon them of such notice file 23604 would report thereon

I have served notice upon the following persons in accordance such directions: Haney School Furniture Co., Grand Rapids Veneer Works, GS Wilkmoon, Louis Sunlin, Marie Sunlin, Margaret Ohl, Edward Worfel, Grand Rapids Carved Moulding Co, J.A. Hiashutter, Grand Trunk Ry Co., and the City of Grand Rapids, more than twenty days have since such service and the City Grand Rapids through its Board Public Works has taken steps to remove such encroachments but that one else has taken any steps whatsoever to accomplish such end.

Respectfully submitted THOS J GLEASON City Marshal



Lew Sunlin, equestrian director, Sells-Floto

Directory of Tent Show People, Etc., Season of 1906 (not complete, a large number of names were unreadable)


Billboard, April 7, 1906, pp. 20, 21, 22

At ten o’clock Tuesday morning, April 8, the Sells-Floto train was loaded for the first time for Wichita Falls, Tex., the first stand the show makes this season. Among the people with this big show are the Peerless Potters, Kitty Druger, Lew Sunlin and wife, George Sunlin, the Marvelles, the Alpine Family, the Martell Family, Cecelia Fortuna, Harry Dio and wife, Herbert the frogman, William Marks, Sassara, William Rentz, John Carroll equestrian director, Blanche Hilliard, William Dutton, Mam’selle Hildo, the Tybells, Stokes and DeCarlo Troupe of five aerial performers, Clements and McAllister, Chris Zeitz and his performing herd of elephants, Clara Ruel, the Earl Sisters. It requires twenty-six cars to carry the show this season, which speaks volumes for this western giant that only four years ago had four cars and a little dog and pony show.

The entry of “George” is puzzling. There are no Georges in the family.


The 1910 census for Battle Creek, Michigan lists a Lillian B. Peters, age 48 (born 1862), divorced. Living with her was a daughter, Hazel L. Gillis, age 22 (born 1888), married twice, no children, occupation theatrical musician. Hazel will become Mrs. Sunlin number two.


Young Buffalo Wild West, reorganized by Col. V. C. Seaver, the Peoria, Ill., showman for the coming season. The show train will consist of twenty-four sixty-foot cars, heralded by fifty agents and billers, using two advance cars and several brigades. The spectacular numbers will include The Siege of the Alamo, military tournaments by ex-United States and British soldiers; Shooting Up the Town, as enacted in Cheyenne, Wyo. last summer for the edification of ex-President Roosevelt, with rolling scenery, showing the main street of Cheyenne for a background. Prominent among the special features will be exhibitions by Annie Oakely, Capt. A. H. Bogardus, Fred Burns, Lew Sunlin’s troupe of trained bovines, Hardin’s Zouaves, twenty in number; Helen Russlee’s “Calamity Jane” cowgirl’s brass band; Gordon and Gordon, casting the battle-ax; George Vanderburg and his comedy mule; Julia Allen’s blue ribbon horse, Teddy; Mlle. Marie, side saddle expert and whip; Ferro Sisters, Buffalo Vernon and O. D. Stevens. A. L. Salvail will be manager for the annex and offical announcer. Fred Burns, besides staging the big numbers, will have charge of the performance in the arena.




Marriage Date: 5 Dec 1883
Marriage Place: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Decree Date: 12 Jun 1913 Decree
Place: Kent, Michigan, USA
Spouse Name:   Marie Sunlin
State File Number: 17630
Number of Children: 0
Reason: “Extreme and repeated cruelty”.
Divorce Status: Granted

Michigan, Divorce Records, 1897-1952


Michigan Film Review, 1917


LF Sunlin of the Savoy theatre in Flint has just signed a Triangle contract to use the entire Triangle output between his two theatres using everything second run in that city This will give him six clays of Triangle pictures The first runs are being used at the Strand theatre.




Name: Louis F Sunlin
Gender: Male
Spouse Name: Hazel L. Peters
Spouse Gender: Female
Marriage Date: 9 Apr 1919

Maria Sunlin

Grand Rapids City Directory: “Sunlin Marie (wid Louis F), clk Friedman-Spring Co. h 348 Fulton W”

  • Marie Hart remarried in 1922.

The American Contractor, volume 40, 1919

Feb 1, 1919 (multiple entries)

Savoy Motion Picture Theater & Commercial Garage $50,000 3 sty & has 40×150 S Saginaw st Archt Geo J Bachman 512 Flint Smith bldg Owner LS Sunlin prop Savoy Theater Brk steel frame semi frpf terra cotta Plans will be completed abt Feb 10 Archt will take bids Res $2,000

Flint Mich.– Commercial Garage & Savoy Motion Picture Theater $50 000 3 sty & bas 4UxloU Archt Geo J Bachman 512 Flint P Smith bldg Owner LS Sunlin prop Savoy Theater Plans will be completed abt Feb 10 Archt will take bids.

Flint Mich.– Savory Motion Picture Theater & Commercial Bldg 700 seats $75,000 3 sty & bas 40×150 Archt Geo J Bachman 512 Flint P Smith bldg Owner LS Sunlin Archt taking bids to Mar 20


Flint City Directory

Sunlin Building” 302-4 S Saginaw


Trip to Cuba

  • This was not their first trip to Cuba – for Louis anyway. He was with the “Circo Cubano” in 1900-1901 at any rate.

Name: Louis F Sunlin
Arrival Date: 10 Nov 1923
Birth Date: 27 Feb 1867
Age: 55
Gender: Male
Port of Arrival: Key West, Florida, USA
Ship: CUBA

Name: Hazel Sunlin
Arrival Date: 10 Nov 1923
Birth Date: 12 Jul 1890
Age: 32
Gender: Female
Port of Arrival: Key West, Florida, USA
Ship: CUBA

Florida Passenger Lists, 1898-1951


Reports of the U.S. Board of Tax Appeals, Volume 6, 1928


L.F. Sunlin, Petitioner, v. commissioner of Internal Revenue

Docket No. 7483. Promulgated May 4, 1927.

The petitioner and his wife, prior to their marriage on April 9, 1919, formed a business partnership in Michigan, each contributing…

…people, and before her marriage to Sunlin she had a theatrical career and experience in the management of theatres. In 1919 she took entire chage of the business, her active control being necessitated by the illness of her partner, he having suffered two paralytic strokes. When the partnership with petitioner was formed, he was…


1930 Federal Census, Flint, Michigan.

Louis F. Sunlin owned his home, worth $70,000.

He was age 72 (born 1858), married at age 18 (=1876), born in Ohio.

His father was born in Alsace Lorraine, Germany; mother was born in Germany, occupation theater proprietor.

His wife was Hazel P. Sunlin, age 42 (born 1888), married at age 19 (circa 1911), born in Michigan, father born in Michigan, mother born in New Hampshire.

Living with them was Lillian B. Peters, Hazel’s mother, age 72, widow, born in New Hampshire.

Indicates that Hazel’s maiden name was Peters.

The family had a cook, Mansel Vardeman, living with them.


  • The “Louis Sunlin” that died on April 11, 1935 at Cook County, Illinois was not the Louis F. Sunlin of circus fame. He was an infant, born to Mark Sunlin (born Minneapolis) and Aline Bluff (born New Harmony), my grandparents. Address listed is 3562 Wabasha. Cause of death is “premature pulmonary atelectasis”.
  • For some reason my notes read February 12, 1935. There’s a good reason for this, but I don’t have the cite handy.


Maria Hart/Allie Jackson

  • Marie Hart went by the name Maria Hart as well. We see how on different occasions in the ring lit, “Mrs. Sunlin” is referred to as Allie and as Marie/Maria. Also the horse “Mizpah” is described as Marie’s and as Allie’s. My conclusion: “Allie Jackson” was Marie’s stage name. We see her name in the census only in connection with the circus. In this case, she subtracts five years from her age (and Lew is younger as well), moves her birthplace to Kentucky, and lists herself as “single”.

Hazel Sunlin

  • By 1930, Louis’ wife was listed as Hazel. This is a few years after Louis is divorced by Marie.




Louis F. was the owner of at least two theaters in Flint, Michigan. It may be that he had a hand in a theater in Grand Rapids as well. In this period, theaters typically began life as Vaudeville houses, and began showing silent movies as soon as they could, often as part of a live show. It wasn’t long before they only showed movies.

Savoy Theater

302 S. Saginaw, Flint MI

Michigan Film Review, 1917


L.F. Sunlin of the Savoy theatre in Flint has just signed a Triangle contract to use the entire Triangle output between his two theatres using everything second run in that city. This will give him six clays of Triangle pictures. The first runs are being used at the Strand theatre.


The American Contractor, Volume 40, 1919

Drawing plans Savoy Motion Picture Theater & Commercial GaraKei $50,000 3 sty & has 40×150 S Saginaw st Archt Geo J Bachman 512 Flint Smith bldg Owner LS Sunlin prop Savoy Theater Brk steel frame semi frpf terra cotta Plans will be completed abt Feb 10 Archt will take bids

Engineering News-record, 1919

Mich Fiint – Ofllces etc – L.F. Sunlin having plans prepared by G. Bachman, archt., building 3 story, 41 x 150 ft brick and rein-con. business block to include oflices theatre and shops tile and rein con flooring concrete foundation on South Saginaw St About $75,000

Flint, MI City Directory, 1922:

“Savoy Theatre Louis F Sunlin 302 S Saginaw.”

Film Year Book, 1926:

L.F. Sunlin : Elite and Savoy


308 S. Saginaw Street,  Flint,  MI 48502

Opened as the Savoy Theatre in 1908, it became the New Savoy Theatre and later became the Royal Theatre. It was finally renamed as the Rialto Theatre.

The theatre opened in 1935 with seating listed at 565. It was operated by Associated Theatres.

The Rialto Theatre closed in 1973 and has since been demolished. Any further information on this theatre would be appreciated.


302 S Saginaw St

AKA: New Savoy, Rialto, Royal

Picture palaces & movie houses

Savoy Theater, 302 S Saginaw St, Flint MI:

The theater closed in 1925. 9 Savoy 302 S. Saginaw St. at Union (Later Rialto, Royal) The theater opened on the site of Joseph P. Allen’s saloon in 1908 as the Savoy. It was owned by Louis Sunlin. The longest continuously operating theater …

Rialto Theater, 308 Saginaw, Flint, MI


Elite Theater

Film Year Book, 1926

L.F. Sunlin: Elite and Savoy


312 S. Saginaw Street,  Flint,  MI 48502

The Elite Theatre was listed in the 1915 and 1922 Flint city directories.


The Gem opened in 1910 in the location just north of the Citizens Bank Building. In 1913 the name was changed to Superba and in 1915 it became the Elite. The theater closed in 1925.


While both of his wives lived on and at least we know that Marie remarried, Louis F. Sunlin left no children to carry on his memory. I suppose that this something that I can do.

I have yet to find Louis’ death certificate or place of burial. If any knows, or can look it up, please let me know.






2 thoughts on “Louis F. Sunlin

  1. Circus History
    -Sells Brothers 1880-1888
    -Buffalo Bill Wild West (with Floto) 1884
    -Ringling 1890-1900
    -Irwin 1891
    -Kirkhart 1895
    -Circo Cubano 1900-1901
    -Shipp 1904-1905
    -Sells-Floto 1906
    -Young Buffalo Wild West 1911

    • The account of the “Clown Band” is interesting: “Sunlinasco could get as great a variety of effects with that one tone as many another could on the whole register.” It sounds as though he was getting didgeridoo effects with the tuba.

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