Circus Facts

A circus is a special kind of entertainment that can be enjoyed by children and adults. Circuses are a group of performers that may include acrobats, clowns, trained animals, trapeze acts, musicians, hoopers, tightrope walkers, jugglers and other artists who perform stunts. See the fact file below for more information on the circus.

  • Philip Astley is the first person to bring together all the elements of the circus in 1768. In 1793, John Bill Ricketts presents the first circus in America in Philadelphia on April 3rd.
  • J. Purdy Brown is the first to order a canvas tent for his circus. He realized he would have the ability to move his show
    every day by using a tent and could therefore reach more people and make more money. This occurred in 1825.
  • By 1829, the circus began using animals they had trained.
  • By 1835 circus wagons begin to appear in circus parades. The very first was a band wagon carrying the circus band.
  • In 1872, P.T. Barmum, together with William C. Coup and Dan Castello, moved their entire show in railroad cars, however, small circuses are still traveling by wagon.
  • 1882 Jumbo, the elephant, is brought to the United States by the Barnum and London Show. The word “jumbo” comes to be used as a synonym for large.
  • 1883 William F. Cody, or Buffalo Bill, performed in the first wild west sshow at the Rocky Mountain and Prairie Exhibition.
  • In 1907, the Ringlings purchased the Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth. By 1919, the Ringling Bros. Circus and Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth are combined into one giant circus.
    This new circus was called “The Big Show”.
  • The Big Show does its last tented show on July 16, 1956. The show was performed exclusively in arenas after this date.
  • In 1968, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey open Clown College, but women were not admitted until 1970.