It was 1944 when John Murphy and his wife Gladys, bought the Howard Amusement
Company for approximately $35,000 (about the cost of today's small rides). The show
consisted of five rides, and John changed the name to Tri-State Shows, playing Minnesota,
North and South Dakota.
Tri-State Shows was truly a family business with sons, Jerry and Jim, working
along side their parents, selling tickets, and helping set up the show. The
childhood experiences gained on their father's small show planted the seed that would one
day flourish into a multi-million dollar corporation.
John Murphy sold Tri-State Shows in 1955, but in 1957,
father and sons started Northern States Shows, playing their first date in Chadron,
Nebraska with a merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, and two kiddie rides. Traveling a
hurried schedule of small towns, Jerry and Jim learned the business of advance work and
bookings in short order.
Northern States Shows became Murphy Shows in 1962 with
Jerry and Jim managing the business under the guidance of their father. The show
grew to the point where it could be split into two units to accommodate more dates on
their expanding route. The Red Unit and Blue Unit would merge to play larger dates,
which by 1965 included the Sioux Empire Fair in Sioux, Falls, South Dakota and the Steele
County Fair in Owatonna, Minnesota.
By 1970, Murphy Shows was considered
one of the strongest shows in the western regions. Another contender was the William
T. Collins Shows, started in 1943. The time was right for a merger. 1971 saw
the Collins/Murphy merger complete with the addition of several impressive dates including
the Nebraska state fair in Lincoln. It was a special achievement to Jerry and Jim to
play their first state fair in Nebraska, where their fledging Northern States Shows had
started 15 years earlier. To reflect their increasing presence in the amusement
industry, Murphy Shows became Murphy Brothers Exposition.
Jerry and Jim lost their principal consultant and mentor
when John Murphy passed away in 1972. With wisdom and foresight, John Murphy had
seen fit to transfer the reigns of management to his sons years before, and though the
loss of their father was a heavy blow, the brothers had been well prepared for the rapid
expansion that lay ahead.
Within a five year growth period, 1975-1980, tremendous
changes occurred with acquisitions and birth of a brand new corporation. The changes
began with the powerful merger of the Mighty Bluegrass Shows (started in 1946 by Col. C.C.
Groscurth). This merger put two of the strongest shows under one umbrella and
heralded the birth of a huge corporate conglomerate that would be known as Worldwide
Amusement Corporation by 1979. A series of very significant acquisitions including
Hale's Shows of Tomorrow in 1978, Century 21 Shows in 1979, and the Dell & Travers
Show (later changed to Olympic Expositions) in 1980, expanded the powerful portfolio of
Worldwide Amusement Corporation.
news decade brought corporate re-shaping of Worldwide Amusement Corporation, when the
showing of economic activity of this decade demanded efficiency of operation.
Smaller shows in their portfolio were absorbed by larger ones, some were dissolved,
still others acquired. As a result of this corporate reshuffling, the two strongest
shows emerged to divide the enormous roster of venues and tangible assets. Murphy
Brothers Exposition, with Jerry Murphy at the helm, took most of the western and northern
state fairs, and the Mighty Bluegrass Shows managed by Jim Murphy, took the remainder.
Murphy Brothers Exposition, as one side of the corporate
tree, has continued to steadily expand and strengthen its route. With six state
fairs, one huge livestock show, and numerous large county fairs during the
"fair" season and tremendously successful indoor fairs during the
"off" season, Jerry Murphy has attained an enviable position in the industry.