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February, 2016:

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Saturday, January 9, 2016

A poster advertised the act of the Thorn brothers, Edward and John, as 
jugglers and slack wire walkers. (CONTRIBUTED)
Edward Thorn’s life as an entertainer with wanderlust, traveling the country on the Wild West Circuit in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, took him from Buffalo across the United States as a sideshow barker and Punch and Judy puppeteer.

Family tales of Thorn’s adventures and the sight of his traveling trunks encouraged a life-long love of history in his great-granddaughter, Melissa Dunlap, who would make history her career and become executive director of the Niagara History Center. Hear about Edward Thorn’s world as Dunlap presents “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and His Western New York Connections”2 p.m. Jan. 28 at the History Center, 215 Niagara St.

Thorn and other family members worked with many shows, including William Cody’s famous Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, from 1900-1915. It was the largest and best-known of its kind. Dunlap will discuss Thorn’s Wild West years and Buffalo Bill’s many ties to Western New York.

Thorn also worked in vaudeville and had his own show prior to joining Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. He had perfect pitch and a rich baritone voice. Thorn also had a slack wire act.

Dunlap has a Bachelor of Science Degree from SUNY Empire State College, belongs to many professional organizations and has been the recipient of various awards. She has been with the Niagara County Historical Society for 25 years, 21 of them as the executive director.

During that period, the Niagara County Historical Society (Niagara History) in Lockport has been expanding and now includes a five building campus on Niagara Street, the 1824 National Register Col. William Bond House, and the Erie Canal Discovery Center, opened in 2005. In 2011 the Charles Rand Penney Gallery opened at the Discovery Center.

Dunlap and her husband raised four sons. She now also has four daughters-in-law and seven grandchildren.

This program is open to the public. Donations are accepted. Call (716) 434-7433 for details.

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