My header isn’t big enough for the full name: Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. If you think that’s long, look at the name as it appeared in the late 1880s: “Ringling Brothers United Monster Shows, Great Double Circus, Royal European Menagerie, Museum, Caravan, and Congress of Trained Animals.”
P.T. Barnum got the ball rolling (a little elephant pun) when he created his circus in 1871. James Bailey formed a competing circus four years later, and the competitors merged in 1881. The Ringlings formed their company in 1884, and finally purchased Barnum & Bailey in 1907. The two operations continued to tour separately until 1919, when they merged into the circus we know today.
The company runs two circus productions concurrently, the Red Tour and the Blue Tour. The tours crisscross the country in special mile-long trains with approximately 60 passenger cars and 40 freight cars. Though everyone rightly associates Ringling Brothers with mammoth elephants, it’s also well-known for its clowns – the most famous being Emmett Kelly, whose “Weary Willie” is probably the most famous clown ever.
With acrobats, trapeze artists, clowns, high wire artists, and a wide variety of wild animals, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey has earned the right to call itself “The Greatest Show on Earth”…