Handbill: "Barnum and London 9-Married Monster Shows"
Handbill for "Barnum and London 9-Married Monster Shows," dating to about 1885. The tall, narrow handbill, like a small poster, promotes the Ethnological Congress of Strange Savage Tribes; Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Russian Boy; the Sacred White Elephant; a Hindoo [Hindu] Serpent Charmer; scenes of the Wild West, and an animal parade. ...
Show moreHandbill for "Barnum and London 9-Married Monster Shows," dating to about 1885. The tall, narrow handbill, like a small poster, promotes the Ethnological Congress of Strange Savage Tribes; Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Russian Boy; the Sacred White Elephant; a Hindoo [Hindu] Serpent Charmer; scenes of the Wild West, and an animal parade.
Black and white illustrations show an elephant towering over horses and circus carriages in a city square; Nala Damajanti the Hindoo (Hindu) Serpent Charmer surrounded by snakes; Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Russian Boy in an interior home setting; a stage coach chase from the wild west; and an encampment with Anglo-Americans and Native Americans setting up camp together. The text employs over-the-top, boastful descriptions--the kind of hyperbolic language that Barnum's circus promoter, R. F. "Tody" Hamilton, was known for; possibly this is an example of his work.
The handbill describes the enormous scale of Barnum's enterprise, announcing that it required a "solid mile of railroad cars" to transport, weighed a "bulky" 2000 tons, and that its circus tents covered 10 acres. It also notes that "absolutely and most truly, [that] this is the last American tour of the Greatest Show that ever was, or ever will be and the final close of the Great Manager's half a century reign" and that all should "come one, come all, and say good-bye to Barnum." This advice was most likely a ploy to get people to buy tickets since Barnum's circus continued for years. The dates and locations for this show are not given on the handbill, however, the printer's location was in Philadelphia, so the show may have been in that vicinity.
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.