Thursday, October 21, 2010

21 October 1908: Ringling Brothers Great Jubilee Season Comes to Athens

On this day in 1908, the Ringling Brothers circus performed two shows in Athens, Georgia, at 2pm and 8pm. Tickets were 50 cents for adults, 25 cents for children under 12, and could be purchased the day of the show at Palmer & Son's drugstore at 225 East Clayton Street or from ticket wagons on the show grounds.

Ringling Brothers had advertised the two weeks before the show in the Weekly Banner:

Sadly, there are no surviving Athens Banners from the day of or after the show to describe the pagentry of the circus arriving in town with their "3 miles long" parade.

The five Ringling Brothers (Al, Otto, Alf, John, and Charles) formed their circus in 1884, with early shows travelling in a 9 nine-wagon tour for twenty-five cent admissions. The Barnum & Bailey Circus began in 1888, and created the elaborate American circus experience, moving to three rings of spectacle, and travelling from town to town by railroad. A few smaller, independent circuses also toured the United States during this time.

P. T. Barnum died in 1891, and a year after the death of James Bailey in 1906, the Barnum & Bailey circus was acquired by the Ringling Brothers. They continued to run two separate circus shows until 1919, when they began to tour as the Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey Circus. The Ringling family opened the Ringling Museum of the Circus in 1948 in Sarasota, Florida, and sold the circus in 1967.

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