cover image: Carnie King : The Story of Patty Conklin and Conklin Shows


Carnie King : The Story of Patty Conklin and Conklin Shows

2 Jul 2024

The story of the audacious showman who built the greatest carnival dynasty in North America.

Enter the realm of the carnie king, Patty Conklin, the flamboyant founder of what would become the world’s largest carnival company. Patty started on the mean streets of New York selling peanuts before becoming a a small-time operator. Willing to try anything to promote his show, he established himself as a carnie celebrity. Winning the midway contract for the Canadian National Exhibition in 1937, he made it his personal world’s fair. It became the foundation for his son and grandson to expand Conklin Shows until they were playing the biggest fairs and exhibitions throughout North America.

Carnie King begins with the birth of Joseph Renker to German immigrant parents, tells of his personal transformation into Patty Conklin, and follows his incredible life through to his death in 1970. It covers his company's history after Jim Conklin took over, expanded it beyond recognition, then handed it on to his own son.

Not only a history of Conklin Shows, Carnie King explores how midways work and their commercial and popular presence in North America The story it tells is based on dozens of interviews with carnies and access to the Conklin archives. It includes anecdotes about a range of characters and insights about life on the midway. Carnie King is at once a revealing look at a unique part of twentieth-century culture and a vivid account of three generations of showmen and their dominance of midways across the continent.


John Thurston

Published in
Toronto, CA

Table of Contents