On January 29, 1920, in West New York, New Jersey, Leitzel married Clyde Ingalls, assistant manager and chief lecturer of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey sideshow. It was the second marriage for Leitzel and at least the third marriage for Ingalls, and it had everyone in the circus scratching their heads. Their relationship had been the subject of much gossip during the 1919 season. Absolutely no one thought it would, or should, last. Lillian Leitzel and Clyde Ingalls were as mismatched a couple as could be imagined. The six foot, 200 pound Ingalls and the four foot, nine inch, 95 pound Leitzel painted quite a picture. But it was not the physical contrast that was puzzling everyone, it was everything else.
Ingalls, who was married and 16 years older than Leitzel when he began carrying on with her, was a product of the rough and tumble world of the Minnesota lumber camps. In his early twenties, he decided to try show business, first exhibiting early moving pictures with a traveling tent show and then working on the Forepaugh-Sells circus where he demonstrated a gift for language, which, years later, Otto Ringling noticed when he observed him luring away customers from the Ringling show while promoting a somewhat questionable attraction. Otto hired Ingalls to join the Barnum & Bailey sideshow, where he flourished. In the words of Alva Johnston of The New Yorker, Ingalls was “a Marc Antony for working on the feelings of a mob,” and as a sideshow orator “the most gifted of the demagogues in this line.” (New Yorker, April 28, 1934, p. 74)
Undoubtedly, it was Ingalls’ facility with language that first attracted Leitzel. They had developed a brief flirtation when Leitzel had spent a month with Barnum & Bailey at Madison Square Garden in 1917. Ingalls would buttonhole Leitzel when she left the arena after every performance to lavish her with the type of flowery praise she so loved and of which he was an almost unique master. She, in turn, would add additional tricks to her act to impress him. But when she left the Barnum & Bailey show to join the Ringling Bros. circus after the Madison Square Garden and Philadelphia stands, everyone assumed the relationship was over. After all, Ingalls was a married man.
But when Leitzel and Ingalls were reunited after the consolidation of the Ringling Brothers’ and the Barnum & Bailey circuses, the couple picked up right where they left off. It was all too much for Ingalls’ wife, who divorced him. Still, no one expected the relationship to develop into anything truly lasting. Leitzel was the queen of the circus, a true sophisticate, and she had her choice of suitors, most of whom seemed much better matches and had a lot more to offer than rather crude Ingalls. Yet, when the season ended, the relationship was still intact, and Leitzel and Ingalls decided to tie the knot in January.
Unfortunately, the passion that was sufficient to overcome any incompatibilities during their courtship, was insufficient to sustain their marriage. The issues that were obvious to everyone but Leitzel and Ingalls before they wed quickly manifested themselves. While the couple maintained appearances for public consumption, they became known as fighting hellcats in the backyard. The marriage managed to last four years, although for most of that time it was a marriage in name only. In 1924 they were divorced.
The union did allow Leitzel to travel overseas on Ingalls’ passport, which may have been one of her motivations for getting married. She had applied for naturalization, but was still waiting for her citizenship papers when they wed. At the time, becoming naturalized was anything but certain for women, no matter how worthy. The couple spent part of one winter with the Pubillones circus in Havana, Cuba, and then in the winter of 1921-1922, they traveled to London, where Leitzel starred in the Bertram Mills Circus at the Olympia, while Ingalls managed the sideshow. Thereafter they spent winters apart. Leitzel would tour in vaudeville, while Ingalls would return to work on the Bertram Mills circus in London.
The turmoil in Leitzel and Ingalls’ marriage never had any effect on their professional obligations. Leitzel was brilliant as ever and Ingalls was a superb steward of the sideshow, taking over its management from Lew Graham. The sideshow, under Ingalls’ management, proved so successful that the Ringling Brothers had to increase the size of its tent by fifty percent in 1922.
After the divorce, Ingalls quickly remarried another member of the circus community: Mrs. Kathleen Sophie Suzanne Baines, a widow who was the caretaker of the gorilla John Daniel II. While Baines, like Leitzel, was considerably younger than Ingalls, the marriage proved strong. It lasted the rest of his life and produced a son and a daughter. Ingalls died of a heart attack on March 16, 1940, at the age of 64.