Advertisements - Barnum Museum

Broadside: "General Tom Thumb, Man in Miniature, arriving in Exeter"
Broadside advertising the appearance of General Tom Thumb, "Man in Miniature" at the Town Hall in Exeter, [New Hampshire], on Monday, October 23 and "positively no longer." The year is calculated to be 1848. Broadsides are the ancestors of posters, and in the 1700s and 1800s they were a common way of publicly announcing news and events, as well as advertising as done here. Broadsides usually contain more text than pictures and are printed in black ink, unlike posters, which are typically colorful, with a dominant image or design. No printer's name is listed on this broadside; the light brown color of the paper is due to age and was probably closer to white originally. General Tom Thumb was the stage name for Charles S. Stratton, a little person performer who worked for P. T. Barnum. His weight is advertised as 15 pounds and his height as 28 inches, about 4 inches taller than when Barnum first met him in late 1842. Stratton would have been 10 3/4 years old at the time of this advertisement even though it is stated as 16. Barnum did this intentionally to make Stratton’s small stature seem all the more impressive to audiences. His appearances are advertised as levees (or receptions), and he was scheduled to do three levees on October 23: late morning, late afternoon, and early evening, each one 1 1/2 hours long. Admission is noted as 25 cents for adults, and half price for children under 10. This broadside includes two illustrations. The top one is an imaginary scene showcasing Tom Thumb’s characters, some posed as Grecian statues and others in various costumes as the Little General, Napoleon Bonaparte, Frederick the Great, and in Scotch Costume, and Court Dress. The audience is an assemblage of the nobility and heads of state whom Stratton had met on his three-year tour of Europe with P. T. Barnum in the mid-1840s. The bottom illustration shows Stratton alongside his miniature carriage and ponies, called by its French term "equipage," while an admiring audience of ladies and gentlemen look on. The equipage is noted to have been a gift of Queen Victoria. Charles S. Stratton (January 4, 1838 - July 15, 1883) was an entertainer who got his start with P. T. Barnum in the 1840s. Stratton's parents signed him with Barnum when the boy was barely five years old. The family went to live in New York City where Stratton performed at Barnum's American Museum, located on Broadway at Ann Street. The little boy took quickly to performing, and on tours he entertained audiences worldwide, including royalty. Stratton's performances brought him renown, becoming one of the biggest celebrities at the time, and considerable wealth. In 1863, Stratton married fellow performer and little person M. Lavinia Warren; the two had a happy marriage and continued touring and performing. On July 15,1883, Stratton suffered a stroke and passed away. He is buried at Mountain Grove Cemetery in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Handbill: "Barnum & London 10 Greatest Shows on Earth"
Handbill for Barnum & London's "10 Greatest Shows on Earth," promoting a circus show to take place in Reading [Pennsylvania] on Wednesday, May 25, 1887. A handbill is similar in concept to a modern day flyer, although in this case the tall, narrow proportion is quite different from today's usual 8.5 by 11-inch page. The two-sided handbill advertises the Strange Hairy Family of Burma; a three-ring circus show; the Roman Hippodrome; Captain Paul Boyton, a "heroic life-saver and inventor"; a "jumbo" herd of elephants; the "historic" display of Jumbo the Elephant's remains; and the elephant Alice, Jumbo's so-called widow. The black and white handbill includes detailed illustrations at the top and bottom. The upper illustration shows Maphoon and her son Moung-Phoset, who were billed as the Strange Hairy Family of Burma, standing before their Burmese king. The illustration in the lower third is a grim depiction of Jumbo being hit by a train, the tragic event that ended his life in 1885. In the center of the handbill, a decoratively arranged block of text is designed with the text set in four directions to create the appearance of four triangles. At the center of the text block is a circle advertising Captain Boyton's name in bold letters and describing his aquatic adventures. The illustrations and text on the reverse side of the handbill are unknown to the time this description has been written (2017), since the piece is framed. This promotional piece employs over-the-top, boastful descriptions--the kind of hyperbolic language that Barnum's circus promoter, R. F. "Tody" Hamilton, was known for, and possibly this is an example of his work. In addition to highlighting the performers and "1000 Rare and All-Amazing Sights," the handbill describes the enormous scale of the enterprise as "3000 Honest Tons of Purest Entertainment Under Ten Acres of Stupendous Tents." The printer of the handbill is The Courier Company, Buffalo, NY; the name faintly shows through from the back side of the page. 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.
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. 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.
Handbill: "Barnum and London 9 United Monster Shows in Haverhill, July 7"
Handbill promoting Barnum and London 9 United Monster Shows, performing in Haverhill [Massachusetts], on [Monday,] July 7, [1884]. A handbill is similar in concept to a modern day flyer, although in this case the tall, narrow proportion is quite different from today's usual 8.5 by 11-inch page. This handbill advertises the extraordinary variety and sheer quantity of performers, acts, and attractions that made Barnum’s circuses so famous. To entice people to purchase tickets, this promotional piece employs over-the-top, boastful descriptions--the kind of hyperbolic language that Barnum's circus promoter, R. F. "Tody" Hamilton, was known for, and possibly this is an example of his work. The show itself is described as “the most elaborate, stupendous and marvelous array of Circus Sensation, Arenic and Extraordinary Talent ever gathered in one mighty combination.” In addition to highlighting the Ethnological Congress of Savage Tribes, the handbill describes “a mazy net-work of Silvery Wires, Waving Ropes, Trapeze Bars, Flying Rings and Glittering Trappings for Mid-Air Acts [in the] Lofty Dome of the Great Tent.” Performers included jugglers, gymnasts, clowns, tumblers, bareback riders and others. Also featured in the show were chariot races, “ludicrous, comical obstacle races,” wrestling matches, boxing bouts, and “Gladiatorial Feats of Strength.” In addition to a variety of horse races there were ostrich races, and even pelican races. Human curiosities named as part of the Museum of Strange and Living Curiosities include Chang, the Chinese Giant, the Tallest, Largest, and most phenomenal big man since the days of Goliath; Major Atom, the Smallest Man Alive; Admiral Dot, the Midget Actor, Elfin Orator and Pantomimist; Living Skeletons; Fat Women; Armless Men; Men without Legs; White Moors; Tattooed Martyrs; and Wild Men. The illustrations depict the “savage tribes;” Leopold S. Kahn, a little person billed as Admiral Dot in various characters; a horse race; a battle in which warriors are astride giraffes rather than horses; and most notably in the center of the handbill, a scene in a park, in which people in a horse-drawn carriage are transported underneath a monumental “arch” which is a very large African elephant. Presumably this is meant to be Jumbo the elephant, although his name does not appear on the handbill. The handbill is two-sided, however the content from the front only is included in this record. The handbill was produced by James Reilley, Printer and Engraver, 12, 14, and 16 Spruce Street, New York. The date was determined by researching circus route books to find the year when Barnum & London was in Haverhill, Mass. on July 7. 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.
Handbill: "Barnum and London, Barnum Returns No More"
Handbill promoting “The Great and Ever Growing” Barnum and London, 9 United Monster Shows, to be presented at Haverhill, [Massachusetts] on Saturday, June 27, [1885]. The title also announces, “Barnum Returns No More,” and in a sub-heading, states that this show will be his “Greeting and Farewell to his American Patrons.” A handbill is similar in concept to a modern day flyer, although in this case the tall, narrow proportion is quite different from today's usual 8.5 by 11-inch page. To entice people to purchase tickets, this promotional piece employs over-the-top, boastful descriptions--the kind of hyperbolic language that Barnum's circus promoter, R. F. "Tody" Hamilton, was known for, and possibly this is an example of his work. The heading at the top of characterizes the show as, “Beyond the Scope of Vision or Description.” The illustration at the top center is a portrait of P. T. Barnum, and to the right, a “message” from Barnum explaining that the “amusement seeking people of Europe DEMAND” an opportunity of seeing his show, by way of explaining why Barnum & London will no longer be seen on American soil. The main illustration depicts Jumbo the Elephant with his keeper Mathew Scott. The headline above the illustration announces that both Jumbo and “Toung Taloung,” also known as the Sacred White Elephant, will appear. Columns on either side of the Jumbo picture tout the show’s innumerable features and promote four performers in particular: Jo-Jo the Dog Faced Boy (Fedor Jeftichew); Arda; Miramba; and Moung-Bok. Other attractions (“100 Acts” and “1000 Wonders”) such as museums, parades, bands, and hippodromes are all promoted as bigger and better than ever. The handbill was printed by Morrell Brothers Show Printers, 212 to 224 Carter St. Philadelphia. The handbill is two-sided, however the information from the front side only is included in this record. 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.
Handbill: "Barnum's American Museum, Christmas and New Year Holiday Bill"
Handbill for Barnum's American Museum, featuring the Christmas and New Year holiday entertainments possibly for December 1863 to January 1864. A handbill is similar in concept to a modern day flyer. Featured on the handbill are a great "living whale" from off the coast of Labrador; a "living hippopotamus" brought from the Nile River; 200 "educated" white rats; an aquarial garden; and the "happy family" of prey and predators; as well as "monster snakes", and a trained seal. The seal mentioned is likely Barnum's famous attraction, Ned the Learned Seal, who performed a wide variety of tricks. The handbill also promotes dramatic performances, and Odina’s Bower of Beauty, which was an elaborate set of automations and mechanical scenery. Illustrations include a beluga whale and a hippopotamus, along with the "Bower of Beauty" scene or "Home of the Fairies" depicting "Nymphs in the Air." The admission price is noted as 25 cents for adults, and 15 cents for children under ten years of age. The black and white handbill was printed by Wynkoop, Hallenbeck & Thomas, Book and Job Printers, 115 Fulton Street, N.Y. No date is printed on the paper, however the date 1864 is pencilled in at the bottom. Barnum's museum was located at the corner of Broadway and Ann Street in New York City. In December of 1841 he purchased what had been Scudder's Museum, and opened it as Barnum's American Museum in 1842. The displays in the museum ranged from dioramas of places such as Niagara Falls and the American plains; live animals including whales, seals, hippotami; wax figure tableaux; inventions; scientific specimens; artwork; and historical and curious artifacts. The museum also presented lectures and "people in the news," theatrical performances, and concerts. Among the thousands of displays, Barnum included a few of what were then called humbugs, or hoaxes, but always invited the public to decide for themselves if the displays were genuine or not. The most famous of these was the FeJee Mermaid. The American Museum and its contents were destroyed by fire in 1865, with Ned the Learned Seal being the only non-human attraction to survive. Barnum moved to 539-541 Broadway and reopened in the fall of 1865, but that building too was destroyed by a fire in March of 1868. Barnum did not attempt to open a third museum building, however, in his subsequent enterprises with traveling shows, he always included a "museum" in addition to the menagerie (wild animals) and circus.
Handbill: "Man in Miniature (General Tom Thumb), arriving in Great Barrington"
Two-sided handbill printed on thin blue paper promoting "Man in Miniature" Charles S. Stratton, better known by his stage name, General Tom Thumb. Stratton was a little person performer made famous by showman P. T. Barnum. Handbills, which are similar in concept to modern-day flyers, were used to publicize events from the 1700s into the early 1900s. This handbill announces Tom Thumb's appearances, called levees (receptions), at the Town Hall in GT [Great] Barrington Thursday and Friday, September 21 and 22. Though the handbill is undated, the year is calculated to be 1848, about two years after Stratton and Barnum returned from their successful three-year tour of Europe. Stratton then toured America, going as far west as St. Louis, Missouri. He performed various character roles, from Napoleon to Sampson, but was always promoted by his stage name, General Tom Thumb. The handbill illustration shows the boy with an admiring audience of men and women as he stands beside his miniature carriage and ponies, called by its French term "equipage." The reverse side features a lengthy biographical article that describes Charles Stratton's background, weight and height, physical appearance and character traits, and the various characters he portrays in his performances. This handbill is a very rare item, both because it was never intended to be kept long term, and because the paper is so thin and fragile. Charles S. Stratton (January 4, 1838 - July 15, 1883) was an entertainer who got his start with P. T. Barnum in the early 1840s. Stratton's parents signed him with Barnum when the boy was barely five years old. The family went to live in New York City where Stratton performed at Barnum's American Museum, located on Broadway at Ann Street. The little boy took quickly to performing, and on tours he entertained audiences worldwide, including royalty. Stratton's performances brought him renown, becoming one of the biggest celebrities at the time, and considerable wealth. In 1863, Stratton married fellow performer and little person M. Lavinia Warren; the two had a happy marriage, and continued touring and performing. On July 15, 1883, Stratton suffered a stroke and passed away. He is buried at Mountain Grove Cemetery in Bridgeport, Connecticut.​
Handbill: "Man in Miniature (General Tom Thumb), arriving in Great Barrington" (verso)
Two-sided handbill printed on thin blue paper promoting "Man in Miniature" Charles S. Stratton, better known by his stage name, General Tom Thumb. Stratton was a little person performer made famous by showman P. T. Barnum. Handbills, which are similar in concept to modern-day flyers, were used to publicize events from the 1700s into the early 1900s. This handbill announces Tom Thumb's appearances, called levees (receptions), at the Town Hall in GT [Great] Barrington Thursday and Friday, September 21 and 22. Though the handbill is undated, the year is calculated to be 1848, about two years after Stratton and Barnum returned from their successful three-year tour of Europe. Stratton then toured America, going as far west as St. Louis, Missouri. He performed various character roles, from Napoleon to Sampson, but was always promoted by his stage name, General Tom Thumb. The handbill illustration shows the boy with an admiring audience of men and women as he stands beside his miniature carriage and ponies, called by its French term "equipage." The reverse side features a lengthy biographical article that describes Charles Stratton's background, weight and height, physical appearance and character traits, and the various characters he portrays in his performances. This handbill is a very rare item, both because it was never intended to be kept long term, and because the paper is so thin and fragile. Charles S. Stratton (January 4, 1838 - July 15, 1883) was an entertainer who got his start with P. T. Barnum in the early 1840s. Stratton's parents signed him with Barnum when the boy was barely five years old. The family went to live in New York City where Stratton performed at Barnum's American Museum, located on Broadway at Ann Street. The little boy took quickly to performing, and on tours he entertained audiences worldwide, including royalty. Stratton's performances brought him renown, becoming one of the biggest celebrities at the time, and considerable wealth. In 1863, Stratton married fellow performer and little person M. Lavinia Warren; the two had a happy marriage, and continued touring and performing. On July 15, 1883, Stratton suffered a stroke and passed away. He is buried at Mountain Grove Cemetery in Bridgeport, Connecticut.​
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. 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.
Newspaper ad: "P. T. Barnum's New and Greatest Show on Earth," July 14, 1876
Newspaper ad for P.T. Barnum's New and Greatest Show on Earth, scheduled to be in Portsmouth [New Hampshire?] on Friday, July 14th, [1876]. The advertisement highlights giraffes, sea lions, a hippopotami, a live leopard, the tattooed from head-to-toe Captain Costentenus, and life-sized automatic marvels. An illustration of two hippos is featured at the top, and on the lower left hand side are the various animals and people who were attractions at the show. Oliver Wendell Holmes and four others are quoted for their rich description of Costentenus, included in the text. The ad patriotically makes note of the Centennial, the 100th anniversary of America's declaration of independence from Great Britain, and calls attention to a vast Centennial Museum and a portrait gallery. Barnum always included a museum as part of his circuses, retaining his passion for the venue that first made him famous, his American Museum in New York City. Barnum is best known for his involvement with the circus that still bears his name, but his circus ventures came about when he was in his 60s. The first show was called P.T. Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan and Circus. The use of the ever-expanding railroad system to transport the circus propelled it to success, because it was easier to reach audiences at a distance, and greatly shortened travel time compared to moving the wagons on roads. The train cars were also used as moving billboards to promote the circus and whet people's appetites to be amazed by the scale and performances. Barnum opened the New York Hippodrome with similar acts. In the 1880s, he encountered competition from other circuses. A merger between Barnum’s show the Great London Show of Cooper, Bailey, and Hutchinson formed the Barnum and London Circus. Negotiations in 1887 resulted in Barnum's partnership with James A. Bailey, which created his best known entertainment, Barnum & Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth. Ringling Brothers purchased the show in 1907, first operating it separately, then in 1919 combining the two to form the circus, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth. That circus gave its final performance on May 21, 2017.
Poster: "Barnum and Bailey Greatest Show on Earth"
Color poster advertising "Barnum and Bailey['s] Greatest Show on Earth", featuring the portraits of P. T. Barnum and James A. Bailey, who were business partners in the circus enterprise of that name. Their partnership began in 1887. This poster was created in 1897, six years after P. T. Barnum's death, but his name and image were so well-known that they were essential part of the advertising and promotion. The image of Barnum shows him as an older man with white, curly hair, a receding hairline, and deep set eyes. Bailey, who was 37 years his junior, is shown in profile, with brown hair and a full beard. The text appears on bright red banners in the upper left and lower right quarters of the poster, while the portraits in oval frames are in the opposite corners. The deep blue background, which comprises only a small area of the poster, has a red, bright blue, and yellow border. The 40-inch x 32-inch poster was produced by the Strobridge Lithographing Company of Cincinnati, Ohio. 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.
Poster: "Barnum and Bailey Parade Section 4, Performing Wild Beast Division"
Circus poster for the Barnum and Bailey Greatest Show on Earth showing Parade Section 4, the Performing Wild Beast Division, with a crowd of onlookers. Interestingly, the word circus does not appear on the poster. Barnum preferred to call his attraction the Greatest Show on Earth since it included much more than circus acts. The poster shows eight horse-drawn cage wagons circling around a fenced park that features a tall fountain. A band wagon is on the far side of the parade circle. Multi-story buildings in the background indicate an urban location, perhaps New York City. The cage "chariots" carry various beasts that include lions, tigers, panthers, leopards, and bears, as well as hyenas and wolves, along with their tamers and trainers. Life-sized carved figures decorate the wagons, and very likely represent the work of a well-known wood carver named Samuel Robb (1851-1928) who made figures for Barnum's wagons in the 1880s. The poster was printed sometime between 1888 and 1892 by the Strobridge Lithograph Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio. This date is based on the style of women's clothing shown, as the sleeves in particular reflect fashions of the late 1880s to early 1890s. Prior to the 1870s, advertising posters and handbills were relatively simple in design, and were printed in black ink. Advances in printing technology allowed the production of colorful, pictorial posters that excited people's interest. The new and ever-growing railroad system also 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 on the trains. 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 and London. 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. This circus gave its final performance on May 21, 2017.
Poster: "Coming with P.T. Barnum's Greatest Show on Earth, Captain Costentenus the Greek Albanian"
Color poster announcing one of P. T. Barnum's popular attractions of the 1870s and 1880s, Captain Costentenus, a man who was completely tatooed save for the soles of his feet. Barnum promoted him as having suffered the head to toe tattoing as a punishment at the hands of Chinese captors, but the story was fabricated. Costentenus was considered a medical curiosity in his day and was probably more heavily tattoed than any other person in his time period, though he was not the first tattoed person to exhibit himself. The medium-sized poster, dating to about 1876, is titled at the top, "Coming with P.T. Barnum's Greatest Show on Earth." It features a detailed upper body portrait of Captain Costentenus showing him with dark hair parted in the center and a very full beard, his skin covered in light blue tattoos of various wild animals, imaginatively drawn. The designs include lions and other wild cats, elephants, serpents, and various types of birds, with red dots creating patterns in the spaces between the animals. Beneath the portrait is the subtitle, "Captain Costentenus the Greek Albanian! Tattooed from head to foot in Chinese Tartary, as punishment for engaging in rebellion against the king." The poster was printed by H.A. Thomas Lithographic Studio, 865 Broadway, N.Y.
Poster: "Fifteen Trained Elephants in Towering Pedestal Pyramid"
Color poster featuring a pyramid of trained elephants and a generator for producing electric light. The poster is a promotion for The Great London Circus and Sanger's Royal British Menagerie, united with Cooper, Bailey & Co. Great International 10 Allied Shows. These combined circus shows represent P. T. Barnum's business endeavors, with several partners, in the early to mid-1880s, prior to the formation of the Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth. During this time period, color lithograph posters reached a zenith, with stunning graphic designs and brilliant color combinations. Barnum's posters typically include lengthy descriptions of the wonders people will see, and boastful statements noting the great expense involved in his shows. At the top of the poster is an illustration of the Brush Dynamo Electric Light generator, stated to produce pure white light with no danger of explosion, and costing $15,000. The heading claims this as the "Only Show in the World Lighted Throughout with Electricity." In the center of the poster are seven elephants standing on scarlet pedestals of different heights to form a pyramid. Beneath them, three young elephants balance on a see-saw, and in the foreground, five young elephants perform various tricks. The text on the righthand side of the poster describes a variety of elephant feats, including being drilled in military maneuvers, walking tight ropes, and being harnessed to golden chariots. 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.