20 Fascinating Facts About the Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey Circus
20 Fascinating Facts About the Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey Circus

20 Fascinating Facts About the Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey Circus

Larry Holzwarth - June 21, 2019

20 Fascinating Facts About the Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey Circus
Among the factors which killed Ringling Brothers in the early 21st century were accusations of animal abuse. Wikimedia

20. The end of the Greatest Show on Earth

By the beginning of the 21st century Ringling Brothers was being beaten in attendance by, of all things, another circus, more upscale in presentation and drawing a more upscale audience – Cirque de Soleil. Ringling Brothers attempted to compete with a new show it called Barnum’s Kaleidoscope, but was unsuccessful. The circus was also by then absorbing legal expenditures over lawsuits regarding its abuses of animals, especially elephants, and other issues. In 2014 the circus won a countersuit and a judgment of over $25 million, but the following year succumbed to the continuing pressure and announced the elephants would be retired. The elephants were moved to the Center for Elephant Conservation, founded by Ringling Brothers in Florida in 1995.

In January 2017, Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, the Greatest Show on Earth, announced its schedule for the year would include 30 performances, with differing shows depending on location, and that the May 21, 2017 performance at Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum would be its last. The Greatest Show on Earth succumbed to heavy operating expenses, increased competition from other forms of entertainment, pressure from groups protesting what they perceived as animal cruelty, and most of all, an increasingly indifferent audience, no longer struck with awe at the sight of the tattooed man, the bearded lady, the lion tamer, and the trained elephant. The world simply outgrew the Greatest Show on Earth.

 

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“P. T. Barnum Isn’t the Hero the “Greatest Showman” Wants You to Think”. Jackie Mansky, Smithsonian.com. December 22, 2017

“Elephant Story: Jumbo and P. T. Barnum Under the Big Top”. Les Harding. 2000

“Selling the Swedish Nightingale: Jenny Lind and P. T. Barnum”. Ruth Hume, American Heritage Magazine. October, 1977

“The Life and Times of James Bailey, Circus King”. Graphic biography, by the producers of The American Experience, PBS. Online

“Very Special People”. Frederick Dimmer. 1973

“Augustus Ringling Dead: Head of Tented Shows in America Dies in New Orleans”. Obituary, The New York Times. December 19, 1907

“Arthur Concello”. Obituary, The Telegraph. July 12, 2001

“The Greatest Show on Earth: Notes”. Turner Classic Movies. Online

“The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy”. Stewart O’Nan. 2001

“Emmett Kelly”. Entry, Kansapedia, Kansas Historical Society. Online

“Wallenda: A Biography of Karl Wallenda”. R. Morris. 1976

“Think Your Office is a Circus?” Joan Tupponce, Virginia Business Magazine. July 29, 2009

“‘Lord of the Rings’ Irvin Feld Has Made a Fading Circus the Greatest Show on Earth Again”. Dolly Langdon, People Magazine. May 12, 1980

“How to Become a Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Clown”. Clown College, Official Website. Archived at the Wayback Machine

“Animal activists finally have something to applaud at Ringling Bros. Circus: Its Closure”. Amy B. Wang, The Washington Post. January 15, 2017

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