Janet M. Davis, a professor of history and American studies at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of “The Circus Age: Culture and Society Under the American Big Top” and “The Gospel of Kindness: Animal Welfare and the Making of Modern America,” shares five common myths about circus.
On May 14, 1917, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus descended upon the nation’s capital on four trains stretching more than a mile. The Washington Post reported that a crowd of about 30,000 people gathered at the show grounds at 15th and H streets to watch the construction of the multi-acre tented city, which housed 1,370 performers and laborers, more than 1,000 wild animals, 735 horses and 41 elephants for the two-day stand. The big top could hold more than 10,000 people for a single performance. Nearly 100 years later, the Ringling Bros. circus is staging its final shows in Washington this weekend, and then, the storied “Greatest Show on Earth” will shutter forever in May. If you want to understand this history, and the future of the American circus, be wary of these common refrains.
Link to the five myths and full article on The Washington Post.