Handbill: "P.T. Barnum's Greatest Show on Earth, The Great London Circus, and Sanger's Royal British Menagerie 7 Monster Shows"
Handbill advertising the combined shows of P.T. Barnum's Greatest Show on Earth, the Great London Circus, and Sanger's Royal British Menagerie, and Grand International Allied Shows for their seven united monster shows. Handbills, which are similar in concept to modern-day flyers, were used to publicize events from the 1700s into the early 1900s. ...
Show moreHandbill advertising the combined shows of P.T. Barnum's Greatest Show on Earth, the Great London Circus, and Sanger's Royal British Menagerie, and Grand International Allied Shows for their seven united monster shows. Handbills, which are similar in concept to modern-day flyers, were used to publicize events from the 1700s into the early 1900s.
The heading at the top of this handbill states, "Larger than any other 10 [shows] combined." P.T. Barnum, J. A. (James Anthony) Bailey, and J. L. (James) Hutchinson are named as the "sole owners." The handbill includes four illustrations and a lot of text, all printed in black, some of it printed sideways to frame the illustrations. The illustrations are: centered in the upper half, a portrait of P.T. Barnum; in the center, a baby elephant and its mother; in the lower half, two smaller illustrations, including one of a four-legged girl and the other of two women each riding two horses.
The text promotes "The Revival of P.T. Barnum's Great Roman Hippodrome"; "Baby Bridgeport," a baby elephant born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on February 2, 1882; Zazel, the Woman Cannon Ball; Myrtle Cobin, the four-legged girl; Brustad, the Norwegian giant; Lulu, the Winged Meteor; Che-mah, the rebel Chinese dwarf; Major Atom, the midget man; Madam Dockrill; William Dutton; and Santa Claus giving out Christmas gifts. Other text describes the components of the Roman Hippodrome and its grand show of "Reflex of the Glories of Cesar's Period." Also promoted is "The Wild Indian Lover's Ride for a Wife by a Whole Tribe of Sitting Bull's Sioux Warrior Savages." No dates are given for the show, nor is the location listed. Possibly the time of year was in late fall, since the procession description mentions Santa Claus. No printer name is included.
P. T. Barnum is best known today for the Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth, but his circus ventures did not come about until he was in his early 60s. His first circus, in the early 1870s, was called P. T. Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan and Circus. Barnum subsequently opened the New York Hippodrome with similar acts. In the 1880s, competition from other circuses increased. A merger between Barnum’s show and the Great London Show of Cooper, Bailey, and Hutchinson formed the circus called Barnum & London. America's new and ever-growing railroad system propelled the circus to success, making it possible to add destinations and reach distant locations, as well as transport many more circus wagons, animals, equipment, tent canvas, performers and support staff. Barnum's partnership with James A. Bailey in 1887 formed Barnum & Bailey, which continued to be managed by Bailey after Barnum's death in 1891. After Bailey's death in 1906, the Ringling Brothers bought Barnum & Bailey and operated it separately from their own circus. In 1919 the two were combined to form Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth. That circus gave its final performance on May 21, 2017.