August 18, 2021
The history of the circus dates back to ancient Rome, however, the most famous circus in modern American history was no other than the Ringling Brothers. Started by seven brothers and a sister, the iconic circus family began with humble roots in the Midwest. In fact, their first act started as a five-cent show in rural Iowa. Nevertheless, the show quickly grew and eventually merged with the famous Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1909.
Their incredible story runs through the roaring ‘20s and even the Great Depression. Although they became one of the wealthiest families in America, at one point they also suffered great hardship. 'Circus King' John Ringling died with a paltry $311 to his name. This is the story of the Ringling family and the start of "The Greatest Show on Earth."
The Animals Came Two By Two
According to Henry Ringling North’s memoir, "Circus Kings: Our Ringling Family Story," the impetus for the Ringling family business began by watching show animals arrive by boat in 1870. Apparently, "When the last wagon had rolled slowly up the bank, Al (Ringling), with a sigh of relaxation, turn to Otto (Ringling) and said: 'What would you say if we had a show like that?'" And so they did. The first show only cost children a cent and netted a robust $8.37, which amounts to just under $245 in today’s money.