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Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (1919 - 2017)

 Organisation

Dates

  • Existence: 1919 - 2017

Biography

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was an American traveling circus dubbed The Greatest Show on Earth.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows was first formed in 1919 with the merge of the Barnum & Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth and the Ringling Bros. World's Greatest Shows. Barnum & Bailey had been acquired by the Ringling Brothers, who owned Ringling Bros. Circus, thirteen years earlier but did not merge the two companies until 1919, when it became obvious that running them separately was too complex and expensive.

The company underwent many changes through the second part of the twenty-century including moving the tenting shows to static venues in 1957 and several changes of ownership. The circus was first sold to partners Irvin and Israel Feld, and Roy Hofhein in 1967, they later sold it to the toy company Mattel in 1971, only to buy it back in 1981, to become part of the Feld Entertainment Firm in 1984 until its closure in 2017.

Although the company prospered, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus suffered the effects of the Great Depression in the 1930s but managed to survive and continued operating through to the Second World War, thanks to a special dispensation to travel by train granted by President Roosevelt. The post-war years however, were not to be as sympathetic as the advent of television and the rise in operational costs affected the profitability of the business. At about this time, the Felt brothers bought Ringling and made some radical changes to make the company relevant to its audience once again, including the formation of their own clown college.

By May 1980, the company expanded to three circuses by adding the one-ring International Circus Festival of Monte Carlo that debuted in Japan and Australia. Their shows however, were heavily dependent on animal performances and the opposition from animal protection groups started to take its toll. After years of protests and confrontation, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey opened the Centre for Elephant Conservation (CEC) in 1995, but continued working with elephants until 2016 when they were all retired to the centre. After this, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus declined dramatically and finally closed in 2017.

Found in 28 Collections and/or Records:

American and International Circus Programmes, c1950 - 1959

 Sub-Series
Reference code: 178K56.52-77
Scope and Contents

American and international circus programmes including Circo Americano, Boswell-Wilkie, Oklahoma State Fair, Cole Bros Circus, Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. and Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus, all contain photographs of the acts and descriptions. In various languages.

Dates: c1950 - 1959

Audio Material, 1967

 Series
Reference code: 178E16
Scope and Contents

Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus Spectacular sound track.

Dates: 1967

Behold the Calliope Print, c1960 - 1969

 File
Reference code: 178V11.76
Scope and Contents

Colour screenprint of a calliope wagon from the Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus showing a lion and a tiger stood on top of elephant head in golden colours and a red carriage carrying the calliope which golden whistles can be seen in the centre printed on pink paper with information on the bottom section, artwork by George Da Deppo. Print presented by the artist to the Circus Friends Association of Great Britain accompanied by correspondence and artist business card.

Dates: c1960 - 1969

Bill Barnes Collection

 Fonds
Reference code: NFA0172
Scope and Contents

Programmes, posters and photographs mainly related to the Poole family's travelling Myriorama show.

Dates: 1881 - 2017

Circus Films, c1950 - 1959

 Item
Reference code: 178D24.3
Scope and Contents

Copy of film on DVD showing trampoline acts, female aerial acts, trapeze, acrobatics, clowning, wild animal acts, equestrian acts, ball ballancing and circus parades at various locations as well as circus scenes outside the tent and building the tent and with various circuses including Clyde Beatty, Ringling and Circo Americano and circus buildings in Germany and Viena. Colour, silent.

Dates: c1950 - 1959

Circus Friends Association Collection

 Fonds
Reference code: NFA0122
Scope and Contents

This collection consists of a large library of books and journals, as well as archival material including posters, programmes, photographs, films, handbills, research material, scrapbooks, original artwork and many other items of ephemera relating to British, Irish and European circuses

Dates: 1795 - 2020

Circus Photographic Album, c1900 - 1999

 Item
Reference code: 178C108.5139
Scope and Contents

Photographic album containing colour photographs of various American circuses including; Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey, Circus Vargas and Clyde Beatty Cole Bross Circus and the Circus World Museum, 18p.p. loose.

Dates: c1900 - 1999

Circus Research Material, 1891 - 1935

 Sub-Series
Reference code: 178B30.37
Scope and Contents A large volume of typed and handwritten material referring to information published in newspapers and journals including the Strand Magazine, The Royal Magazine, McClure's Magazine, Cosmopolitan Magazine, The Bookman, The World Magazine, Cassells's Magazine, American Magazine, The Toronto Star Weekly, Everybody's Magazine, Collier's Illustrated Weekly, St. Nicholas Magazine, Popular Science Monthly, Pearson's Magazine and Saturday Evening Post on animal training and other aspects of wild...
Dates: 1891 - 1935

Circus Research Material, 1872 - 1975

 Sub-Series
Reference code: 178B30.1
Scope and Contents Photocopies of programmes from the London Hippodrome, the National Amphitheatre, Hengler's Circus, Olympia, Hagenbeck's Wonder Zoo and Big Circus, Barnum and Bailey, Paulo's Circus, Chapman's Circus, Rosaire's Circus, Grand Continental Circus at the Crystal Palace, Barrett's Canadian Circus, Cody's Continental Circus, Pinder's Royal Circus and Menagerie and other UK and international circuses, also photocopies of newspaper cuttings, ordenance survey, photographs of performers and posters,...
Dates: 1872 - 1975

Circus Scrapbook, 1949 - 1961

 Item
Reference code: 178G21.87
Scope and Contents

Scrapbook containing newspaper and magazine cuttings on British and foreign circuses in colour and black and white, including Circus Medrano, Hunt Bros. Royal International Circus, Bertram Mills, Smarts, Fossetts, Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey amongst others, some obituaries, wedding news and other articles on performers and circus news, 34p.p.

Dates: 1949 - 1961

Circus Spectacular Vinyl Album, 1967

 Item
Reference code: 178E16.1
Scope and Contents

Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus Spectacular directed by Merle Evans, mono LK 4870 with colour photograph of clown's face on the front of the cover sleeve.

Dates: 1967

Correspondence, c1900 - 1999

 Series
Reference code: 178F31
Scope and Contents

Items of correspondence including personal and business letters and Christmas greetings.

Dates: c1900 - 1999

Correspondence Addressed to Mr David Strachan, 1954 - 1960

 File
Reference code: 178F31.2
Scope and Contents

Letters addressed to Mr David Strachan, from the Circus Fans' Association of Great Britain and Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey circus, on headed paper.

Dates: 1954 - 1960

Cyril Critchlow Collection

 Fonds
Reference code: NFA0089
Scope and Contents The Cyril Critchlow collection contains programmes, posters, handbills, books and magic journals, many of which relate to shows in Blackpool where Cyril resided and includes material on entertainment venues such as Blackpool’s North Pier, Central Pier, South Pier, Tower Circus and a small collection of programmes from other national venues. Additionally, it contains circus photographs and postcards mainly of the Ohmy Circus and Sanger Circus including individual circus troupes and performers...
Dates: c1837 - 2008

Digger Pugh Collection

 Fonds
Reference code: NFA0179
Scope and Contents

Archive of the Digger Pugh family including newspaper cuttings, photographs, negatives, business records, programmes, research material, posters and films.

Dates: c1930 - 2010

Films, c1950 - 1959

 Series
Reference code: 178D24
Scope and Contents

Please notice that 178D24.4 contains scenes of animal cruelty and human fatalities. Copies of films on DVD format showing performers at various circus around the world, travelling scenes, scenic views, performers behind the scenes, film sets. Black and white and colour, sound.

Dates: c1950 - 1959

Monographs, Articles, Manuscripts and Research Material, c1795 - 1999

 Series
Reference code: 178B30
Scope and Contents

Compilation of monographs, articles, manuscripts and a range of research material about circus companies and performers in the United Kingdom, Europe and other parts of the world by various authors, the research was mainly compiled by Hal Thomas.

Dates: c1795 - 1999

Newspaper Cuttings and Scapbooks, 1838 - 2007

 Series
Reference code: 178G21
Scope and Contents

A collection of newspaper cuttings on circus, circus proprietors and performers and scrapbooks containing newspaper cuttings, posters, programmes and other items of ephemera, covering mainly British circuses and venues such as Belle Vue and also some international circuses.

Dates: 1838 - 2007

Original Artwork, c1800 - 2000

 Series
Reference code: 178V11
Scope and Contents

Original works of art including artists' prints, drawings, watercolours and paintings, and designs for circus posters.

Dates: c1800 - 2000

Posters, c1887 - 2010

 Series
Reference code: 178R27
Scope and Contents

Circus, variety, pantomime and magic posters including Argyle theatre, Liverpool Empire, Blackpool Tower Circus, Robert Brothers, Austen Brothers, Sorcar, Vesta Tilley, Ken Dodd, Dan Leno, Florrie Forde and others.

Dates: c1887 - 2010