"In the field the lights were strung overhead and barkers called out"
Barker at Louisiana state fair (1938)
Public DomainBarker introducing performers at Louisiana state fair (1938) - Credit: Lee Russell (Library of Congress)

Barkers were employed at circuses and funfairs to announce the attractions of a specific show and to try and tempt in passing fairgoers.

Often just as entertaining as the shows they promoted, barkers sometimes conducted brief free shows where they introduced the performers and described the acts to be given at the main performance.

Most professional barkers prefer the term talkers, drawing a distinction between what they do and other fairground announcers who simply repeat a few stock phrases.



Barker at the Greene County fair in Greensboro, Georgia (1941)
Public DomainBarker at the Greene County fair in Greensboro, Georgia (1941) - Credit: Jack Delano (Library of Congress)