This collection was part of the Bertram Mills family archives relating to the history of the family's circus business, used by Cyril Mills (1902, 1991) to write his 1967 book Bertram Mills Circus: Its Story.
Bertram Wagstaff Mills (1873- 1938), a keen horseman, founded the annual Mills Circus at Olympia in 1920, famously creating his “Quality Show” in response to a bet. The Circus at Olympia revived circus as a form of entertainment, re-elevating the performance art to attract the cream of high society, gaining worldwide respect. After Bertram Mills’ death, the circus was run by his sons Cyril and Bernard, until it closed in 1966. Besides its famous winter residency at Olympia, Bertram Mills Circus also toured the UK as a tenting summer circus, starting with a collaboration with Harry Cameron's Carmo Circus (also known as The Great Carmo).
Cyril Mills started his career as an engineer after studying at Harrow and Cambridge, but soon joined his father's circus and dancehall businesses. By 1927 both Mills sons joined their father as directors of the circus. Cyril Mills obtained his pilot's license in 1933 and travelled Europe scouting for talent, discovering many acts that would go on to become household names, such as Koringa, the Female Fakir and Togare, the Tiger Tamer. This piloting ability would later serve Cyril well during World War II, where he served as a spy for MI5.
Cyril Mills retired from the circus business in 1966, but continued to take an avid interest in the circus world, serving as Honorary Chairman of the Association of Circus Proprietors of Great Britain for many years.