Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, formerly Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows by name The Greatest Show on Earth, American circus that was the best-known circus in the United States of America travelling across the country in the 20th and early 21st centuries. It ceased operations in 2017.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus had its roots in Dan Castello’s Great Circus & Egyptian Caravan, which was founded in Delavan, Wisconsin, in 1867 by two veteran circus men, Dan Castello and William Cameron Coup. They had eight camels that had belonged to the U.S. Army’s experimental Camel Corps, Castello and Coup’s circus toured the Upper Midwest, both overland and by boat. It also traveled west by train shortly after the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. In 1870 Castello and Coup persuaded renowned impresario P.T. Barnum to join their venture, which reemerged in Brooklyn, New York, on April 10, 1871, as P.T. Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan and Hippodrome. Barnum, then aged 60 and one of the most famous people in the United States, had already earned a considerable reputation by satisfying the public’s hunger for spectacle with his American Museum in New York City, which presented all manner of human and animal curiosities, mixing exoticized reality with fantastic fabrications.
Coup contributed to the growth of their circus and circuses in general by designing a railcar and method of end-loading that increased the efficiency of transporting circuses by railroad. His railroad flatcars were joined by “crossover” metal plates, and a pulley-and-rope system allowed fully loaded circus wagons to be rolled on and off the train with unprecedented ease. By 1872 the Barnum circus, branded the “The Greatest Show on Earth,” had been redesigned to travel by train. Coup also introduced the use of specially chartered “excursion trains” that brought people from small towns in the surrounding area to the sites of the circus on performance days. Coup and Castello parted ways with Barnum in 1875 and started a new entrancement, the Centennial Circus, in 1876.
On a parallel track, in the early 1870s, James A. Bailey became a partner in the circus of which James E. Cooper was the principal owner. From 1876 to 1878 Cooper, Bailey and Co.’s Great International Circus traveled abroad, from Australia to South America and on to Great Britain, before returning to the United States and expanding its operations to include the Great London Circus and Sanger’s Royal British Menagerie. Thereafter, Cooper and Bailey’s circus often performed as the Great London Circus & Grand International Allied Shows, combined with Sanger’s Royal British Menagerie. In the process, it became a rival of Barnum’s circus, with which it agreed in 1880 to join forces, combining shows in 1881 and ultimately adopting the name Barnum & Bailey Circus.
In 1882 Barnum purchased Jumbo, an enormously popular elephant at the London Zoo, and transported him to the United States, where the larger-than-average elephant—called by Barnum “the largest elephant ever seen”—became the star attraction of Barnum’s circus. In May 1884 Barnum engineered a bounty of publicity for the circus by parading Jumbo, 20 other elephants, and 17 camels across the recently constructed Brooklyn Bridge to prove its structural integrity. When Barnum died in 1891, his widow sold her interest in the circus to Bailey, who began a five-year tour of Europe with the circus in 1897. By the end of the century, the Barnum & Bailey Circus featured five performance rings and more than 1,000 employees and traveled in some 85 railroad cars.
In October 1897 the most popular circus shows in the USA arrived in the Uk performing the Greatest show on earth for 3 years till 1900 when the left to travel to Germany.
Over the decades, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey featured an array of stars whose names are among the most prominent in circus history. One the circus’s early stars was May Wirth (1894–1978), who performed flips, leaps, and contortions on horseback. German-born aerialist Lillian Leitzel (1892–1931) dazzled audiences by performing her acrobatics on Roman rings 50 feet (15 metres) above the ground without a net. Husband and wife Arthur (1912–2001) Among other women who made their mark with the circus were the diminutive animal trainers (both of whom were about 5 feet [1.5 metres] tall) “Marvelous Mabel” Stark (1889–1968), who commanded tigers for some six decades despite receiving many hundreds of stitches as a result of attacks by her animal charges.
The Greatest Showman is a 2017 American musical drama film based on the Greatest Show directed by Michael Gracey in his directorial debut, written by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon and starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, and Zendaya.
Names of who was initiated from the circus
William A Larin
Cial G Clare
Edwin H Shaeaffer
William W Gilletti
Joe M Doherty
Harry G Hazel
Roger Lazell Fay
G W Benendiol
Extract from the history of Lodge Dramatic No.571
At the Regular meeting on 10th August 1899, we find another unusual event!
The Secretary reads applications from 13 gentlemen from the US of A, they are all employed in various jobs from ticket collectors to trapeze artists at the famous Barnum & Bailey's Circus and Show billed as ''The Greatest Show on Earth'' which toured the whole of America, Great Britain and Germany from 1891 to 1900.
They were in Scotland from 1897 untill 1899.
During this time they were in various parts of Scotland, and according to their tour route they were in Motherwell on 30th August 1899.
The 13 gentlemen received their EA Degree on the same date at 11.00pm at night.
The following month the show is in Aberdeen, where the same brethren receive their Fellowcraft Degree at the hands of Lodge Bon Accord No 669, (unfortunately they do not have a website, so no more information is available at the moment).
In Glasgow the show performs from 25-29th September, and the Lodge has an Emergency Meeting on the 29th (not uncommon at that time) the purpose of which was to confer the 3rd Degree and the Mark Ceremonial on the same 13. The meeting commenced at 11.30pm.
Thanks to Bro. Iain Urquart PM Secretary Lodge Dramatic No.571 for his assistance.