P.T. Barnum: Showman Supreme

BarnumP. T. Barnum and W. C. Coup founded one of the most spectacular American circuses in 1871. The show opened in Brooklyn New York and was billed as the "Greatest Show on Earth." Ten years later Barnum formed a partnership with James A. Bailey's circus. Beginning in 1881, it operated under the name of Barnum & Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth. The show was so huge it needed three rings. Barnum cashed in on the popularity of circus animals and exhibited unusual and unique creatures such as the world's largest elephant, Jumbo, for which he reputedly paid the London Zoological Gardens $30,000. Barnum and Bailey's circus also included a side-show, which was a smaller, separate show near the big top. Presenting side-show oddities had made Barnum famous and his circus offered a range of freak show exhibits. The "Greatest Show on Earth" visited the United Kingdom in 1889 and 1897 and was the ultimate in showmanship and spectacle with an average crowd of 10,000 people per performance. The United States led the way and European shows, though still tending towards a single ring, began to follow with their own more extravagant productions. Great showmanship, effective pre-publicity and elaborate parades became the means by which the circus advertised its tour and the performers became household names on both sides of the Atlantic.