After seeing action in the American Civil War, Burke began a forty-year career as a clown and minstrel singer. He worked for several troupes, and by 1882 was traveling with Barnum and Bailey's circus.
Burke grandly billed himself as "America's Greatest Clown," and after moving his family to Europe, produced a show called Billy Burke's Barnum & Great London Circus Songsters.
He continued to perform until his death at age 62 in the Infirmary at Huddersfield.
Blanche Beatty Burke
1844–1921 (m. 1883)
Tenderly loved and deeply mourned by his wife and daughter