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Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus Lithograph. Circa: 1942-1944. Condition: Fair

SKU: Ringling Bros., Posters3958 $149.95
The Barnum & Bailey Circus (The Greatest Show on Earth): In 1875, Dan Castello and William Cameron Coup persuaded Barnum to lend his name and financial backing to the circus they had already created in Delavan, Wisconsin. It was called "P.T. Barnum's Great Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Hippodrome". The moniker "Greatest Show on Earth" was added later. Independently of Castello and Coup, James Anthony Bailey had teamed up with James E. Cooper to create the Cooper and Bailey Circus in the 1860s. The Cooper and Bailey Circus was soon Barnum's chief competitor, exhibiting "Columbia," the first baby elephant ever born in the United States. She was born in March 1880 in Philadelphia, to "Babe" and "Mandarin", and later euthanized in November 1907 for aggressiveness. Barnum attempted to buy the elephant. They eventually agreed to combine their shows on March 28, 1881. In 1882, the combined "Barnum & Bailey Circus" was successful with acts such as Jumbo, advertised as the world's largest elephant. Barnum died in 1891 and Bailey then purchased the circus from his widow. Bailey continued touring the eastern United States until he took his circus to Europe. That tour started on December 27, 1897 and lasted until 1902. In 1884, five of the seven Ringling brothers had started a small circus about the same time that Barnum & Bailey were at the peak of their popularity. Similar to dozens of small circuses that toured the Midwest and the Northeast at the time, the Ringlings moved their circus from town to town in small animal-drawn caravans. Their circus rapidly grew and they were soon able to move their circus by train, which allowed them to have the largest traveling amusement enterprise of that time. Bailey's European tour gave the Ringling brothers an opportunity to move their show from the Midwest to the eastern seaboard. Faced with the new competition, Bailey took his show west of the Rocky Mountains for the first time in 1905. He died the next year and the circus was sold to the Ringling Brothers. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus: The Ringlings purchased the Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1907 and ran the circuses separately until 1919. By that time, Charles Edward Ringling and John Nicholas Ringling were the only remaining brothers of the five who founded the circus. They decided that it was too difficult to run the two circuses independently, and on March 29, 1919, "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows" debuted in New York City. The posters declared, "The Ringling Bros. World's Greatest Shows and the Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth are now combined into one record-breaking giant of all exhibitions." Charles E. Ringling died in 1926, but the circus flourished through the Roaring Twenties. In 1929 the American Circus Corporation signed a contract to perform in New York City. John Nicholas Ringling purchased American Circus for $1.7 million. That absorbed five major shows: Sells-Floto Circus, Al G. Barnes Circus, Sparks Circus, Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, and John Robinson Circus. n 1938, the circus made Frank Buck a lucrative offer to tour as their star attraction and to enter the show astride an elephant. He refused to join the American Federation of Actors, stating that he was "a scientist, not an actor." Though there was a threat of a strike if he did not join the union, he maintained that he would not compromise his principles, saying, "Don't get me wrong. I'm with the working man. I worked like a dog once myself. And my heart is with the fellow who works. But I don't want some ... union delegate telling me when to get on and off an elephant." Eventually, the union gave Buck a special dispensation to introduce Gargantua the gorilla without registering as an actor. The circus suffered during the 1930s due to the Great Depression, but managed to stay in business. John Nicholas Ringling's nephew, John Ringling North, managed the circus through the difficult times for several decades. Special dispensation was given to the circus by President Roosevelt to use the rails to operate in 1942, in spite of travel restrictions imposed as a result of World War II. A new marketing poster depicting a threatening circus tiger was also released that year. Many of the most famous images from the circus that were published in magazine and posters were captured by American Photographer Maxwell Frederic Coplan, who traveled the world with the circus, capturing its beauty as well as its harsh realities. The Hartford Circus Fire: The Hartford Circus Fire occurred on July 6, 1944, in Hartford, Connecticut, during an afternoon performance that was attended by approximately 7,500 to 8,700 people. It was one of the worst fire disasters in the history of the United States. Emmett Kelly, the tramp clown, threw a bucket of water at the burning canvas tent in a futile effort to put the fire out, but ultimately more than 150 people were killed, and hundreds more were injured. The great irony of the fire was that the performance took place under canvas. Had the crowd realized it, safety was no farther away than ducking out under the sidewalls of the tent. Some of the dead remain unidentified to this day, even with modern DNA techniques. Actor and theater director Charles Nelson Reilly, who was thirteen years old at the time, survived the fire and dramatized it in the film of his stage show, "The Life of Reilly". In a 1997 interview, Reilly said that he rarely attended the theater, despite being a director, since the sound of a large audience in a theater reminded him of the large crowd at the circus before the disaster. In the following investigation, it was discovered that the tent had not been fireproofed. Ringling Bros.' had applied to the Army, which had an absolute priority on the material, for enough fireproofing liquid to treat their Big Top. The Army had refused to release it to them. The circus had instead waterproofed their canvas using an older method of parrafin dissolved in gasoline and painted onto the canvas. The waterproofing worked, but as had been repeatedly shown it was horribly flammable. Circus management was found to be negligent and several Ringling executives served sentences in jail. Ringling Brothers' management set aside all profits for the next ten years to pay the claims filed against the show by the City of Hartford and the survivors of the fire. Feld family: The post-war prosperity enjoyed by the rest of the nation was not shared by the circus as crowds dwindled and costs increased. Public tastes, influenced by the movies and television, abandoned the circus, which gave its last performance under the big top in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 16, 1956. An article in Life magazine reported that "a magical era had passed forever". In 1957, when John Ringling North and Arthur Concello moved the circus from a tent show to an indoor operation, Irvin Feld was one of several promoters hired to work the advance for select dates, mostly in the Detroit and Philadelphia areas. Irvin Feld and his brother, Israel Feld, had already made a name for themselves producing touring rock and roll shows.