1. Bareback Riders by W.H. Brown
5. AL G. Barnes Trained Wild Animal Circus (Poster Art)
6. Ringling Bros. World’s Greatest Shows (Poster Art)
7. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows (Poster Art-Polar Bear)
8. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows (Poster Art-Tiger)
9. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows (Poster Art-Giant Clown)
10. Barnum & Bailey and Ringling Bros. Combined (Poster Art-Menagerie)
11. Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus (Poster Art)
“Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey—the Greatest Show on Earth”
Showing a small part of the video may help create a fun circus atmosphere before you begin!
This Packet contains several different types of art. Bareback Riders is an example of Folk Art. Lion Tamer is an example of Sculpture. The Circus, by George Seurat, was created using tiny dots of color. This style of art is called Pointillism. The Circus, by Louis Moilliet, focuses on GEOMETRIC SHAPE in its design.
The Circus Posters are Lithographic prints. These advertising prints use various art techniques such as Size, Placement, COLOR and MOVEMENT, to capture the attention of potential audiences. The posters are illustrations rather than Fine Art, but they are also an art form.
Your Presentation can focus on the paintings in this Packet or on the posters. You may also choose a combination of both. Many of the posters have very obvious examples of REPETITION, RHYTHM, MOVEMENT and EMPHASIS, which are basic artistic Principles of organization that are usually not as easy to see. The circus posters will give Volunteers with Grades 2-5 an important chance to introduce and review these important Principles of Art. There are many pictures in this packet, but remember, you do not need to use ALL of them—choose what interests you the most and what will best open student understanding for the Element(s) or Principle(s) you have decided to introduce or review with this month’s Presentation!
Be sure ALL 11 pictures and video are returned to the Packet Carrier after your Presentation is finished.
History of the Circus
The Early European Circus
No one knows just when or where the first circus act was performed. People have probably thrilled to displays of physical skill and animal training for many thousands of years. Some circus acts are so old that even the ancient Romans, who coined the word “circus”, did not know where these acts originated.
To the Romans, a Circus was an open-air arena. The largest and oldest was the Circus Maximus (meaning biggest circus). Chariot races, displays of horsemanship, wrestling and acrobatics were held there. Wild animals and even human captives were often cruelly exhibited in the ancient Roman circus.
Philip Astley (1742-1814), an Englishman and once a cavalry soldier, is credited as being the “father of the circus.” Astley was a larger-than-life character who loved spectacle. He was the first to demonstrate a variety of equestrian (horses or horseback riding) and acrobatic skills within a ring. In 1768, Astley founded a riding school in London. To advertise his establishment, he exhibited his own riding skills in an open ring enclosure. These skills included picking up handkerchiefs from the ground while cantering, doing headstands on his saddle, and riding astride two horses while playing a pipe. The shows were very successful and Astley gradually supplemented the equestrian acts with tumblers, acrobats, tightrope artists, even a dancing dogs.
In 1782, Charles Hughes (former member of Astley’s company) together with a dramatist named Charles Dibdin, organized a show similar to Astley’s and called it “The Royal Circus”. Hughes borrowed the word “circus” from the Latin word meaning “ring” which referred to the chariot races of ancient Rome. As a result, he gave Circus the name that it is known by today.
The circus began to be a popular form of entertainment throughout Europe. Christoph de Bach is believed to have introduced the first public circus to Russia, in about 1810.
The Early American Circus
Although animals had been exhibited in Colonial America, the Revolutionary War delayed the importation of the exciting new ring show that had taken Europe by storm. It was not until 1792 that the famous English horseman, John Bill Ricketts, produced the first real circus in the United States, building an amphitheater modeled on one designed by Philip Astley, in Paris. The show Ricketts presented was a great success, attracting many distinguished visitors, including George Washington.
As the new nation developed, the circus moved westward with the population. American showmen quickly broke away from the traditional European methods of presenting circuses. European circuses of the 1700’s were non-traveling shows, usually produced in a large, permanent building. American circus owners realized, however, that few cities in the U.S. were capable of supporting this type of show. To meet the demands of the mostly rural American population, circus entrepreneurs developed traveling shows that wandered in search of an audience. The early traveling shows were crude affairs, but with their menageries, thrills, and magic allure, they provided a break from the monotony of dull and uneventful lives so people flocked to them. For many years, the circus was the main form of amusement known to most Americans, especially in rural areas.
In 1826, Nathan Howe and Aaron Turner were the first to present their shows beneath a canvas tent. The mobility provided by the great portable tents helped give the American circus its peculiar character, which was unlike the circus shows in the Old World of Europe.
The circus parade was another institution that originated with the 1800 American circus. The first circus parade is believed to have taken place in Albany, N. Y., in 1837. Circus showmen were quick to realize the commercial benefits of spectacular street processions as advertisements and parades remained popular until the 1920’s. Colorful and elaborate parade wagons were constructed. The steam calliope, which was a boisterous musical instrument invented in 1855, rapidly became a familiar sight in circus parades and its loud music added to the festivity of the circus parade.
One of the best-known names in American circus history is that of P.T. Barnum. Before actually entering the circus business, he had become renowned for his exhibitions of strikingly unusual characters, such as the famous midget “Tom Thumb”.
In 1871, Barnum was induced by William Coup and Dan Castello to join them in organizing a circus. Thanks to Barnum’s prestige and Coup’s managerial brilliance, the resulting company was a great success. In 1881, Barnum combined with James A. Bailey, a clever and imposing competitor, to create the Barnum and Bailey Circus—a name that became a household word. The Barnum & Bailey Circus began in the era known as the “Golden Age of the American Circus”. This period began in the last decades of the 1800’s and lasted into the 1920’s. The number of great circuses that existed then has never been equaled.
In 1907, the Ringling Brothers, who had their own highly successful circus, purchased Barnum and Bailey’s greatest Show on Earth. The two great shows operated separately until the spring of 1919, when the combined Ringling Brothers-Barnum and Bailey Circus opened in New York City. This circus was so enormous that at one time it employed 1,600 people and traveled on 100 double-length railroad cars.
In the meantime, many American circuses had come into being. By 1909, there were 98 touring companies, including such famous outfits as Forepaugh, Hagenbeck-Wallace, Sells-Floto, AL G. Barnes, Sparks and John Robinson.
Today, only about a half dozen shows still exhibit under canvas, traveling by truck and tractor-trailer. In 1956, Ringling Brothers-Barnum and Bailey abandoned tents and began to play in buildings. This limited its tour to population centers with large arenas. Many other indoor circuses are staged throughout the U.S., but these generally consist of a program of acts contracted for one or more exhibition dates, with the performers furnishing their own wardrobe, rigging, or properties and transportation.
The American circus continues as a three-ring presentation and, whether performed indoors or underneath canvas, it is still well attended.
The Traveling Circus Poster
Literally, the traveling, tented circus was “here today’—gone tomorrow.” Since the show would usually be in town for only one day, and give only two performances, the circus management had to have an extremely successful way to advertise ahead of time.
Approximately two weeks before the show day, the Advance Crew of the circus arranged for the publication of advertisements in newspapers, along with mailing and distributing advertisements that let everyone know their show was coming to town! The most important tool used by the Advance Crew was the lithographed Circus Poster.
Posters of 1-sheet size (28” x 42”) or ½ sheet size were hung in store windows by the hundreds. Posters of larger sizes, such as 3-sheet (42” x 84”), 6-, 9-, 16-, 20-, 28-sheet and many other sizes, including the rare 100-sheet size, were pasted on sheds, barns, buildings, walls and fences. When appropriate space wasn’t available, the billposters simply went to the local lumberyard, purchased the necessary material, built a board fence around a vacant lot, and then pasted their posters on it.
The Circus Poster was used generously. The big railroad circuses thought nothing of using 5,000 to 8,000 sheets per town. If competition from another circus showed up, the quantity of paper used might easily double.
The fifty-year period between 1880 and 1930 was what might be called “the great days of the Circus Poster”. There were dozens of lithograph houses that turned out these beautiful posters. The circus, of course, was a subject that was colorful and exciting and it was easy for the lithographers to produce designs loaded with action and all the colors of the rainbow. The magnificence of their work—from artist to platemaker to pressman—is exemplified in the posters represented in this packet. These Circus Posters were seen from sidewalks, horseback, wagons or carriages, and later from streetcars and autos, and the color and artwork of these posters instantly caught the eye. The detail was exquisite, whether they were viewed from five feet or 50 feet away. Sometimes the subject was a beautiful lady on a prancing white horse. Sometimes a startling tiger would be charging right at you, or graceful aerial acts would attract your attention. These posters were designed to ingrain in the public’s mind the fact that the circus was coming to town (and nobody wanted to miss it).
On every poster, the name or title of the circus was clearly printed. Alongside the posters were conspicuous DATE SHEETS that told the name of the show town, the day of the week, and the date of the month—“Madison, Tuesday, May 27th”. This technique would cause the information to subconsciously sink into the public’s mind and increase the turnout. The reason for showing the name of the town on the date sheets was simple. Circus “Billers” would post in towns 15, 20 or more miles away, in every direction, from the community where the circus would put up its tents. The date sheets allowed the posters to be used any place the circus chose to travel.
The “Advance Crew” handled all of the advertising. If it was a small wagon circus, the Advance Crew also traveled in horse-drawn vehicles and stayed in town only one day so they could keep two weeks ahead of the show.
Railroad circuses used railroad cars to carry their Advance Crews. Depending on the size of the circus, from one to four railroad cars, each with a crew of from 20 to 30 men would be used. The first car would arrive in town about two weeks before the show. The second car would arrive a few days later and the second crew would cover additional territory the first crew had missed.
The men of the Advance Crew knew that their advertising had to do the job because the circus they worked for would usually be in town for a very brief time. Nothing was left to chance. The crew saw to it that these wonderful, colorful, and exciting Circus Posters were put up in every possible spot they could be seen.
On circus day, when people crowded out to the show grounds, jammed up in front of the ticket wagons and shoved their coins onto the counter to buy their tickets—only then did everyone know that these beautiful Circus Posters had done the job that they had been designed for!
Create a poster for a circus named after yourself. Images for the poster should include things typically seen at a circus—acrobats, balloons, circus ring, clowns, cotton candy, elephants, fire eater, horses, jugglers, lions, tigers, monkeys, popcorn, Ring Master, etc. Create a decorative design with the letters of your own name to advertise your circus on the poster (use first, last or entire name)—“Patty’s Perfect Circus”, “Simply Spectacular Smith Circus”, “Bobby Brown’s Terrific Circus”, etc. Use at least one great descriptive word on your circus poster advertisement: stupendous, spectacular, colossal, astonishing, astounding, amazing, surprising, breathtaking, fantastic, wonderful, out of this world, remarkable, marvelous or terrific to make your circus sound irresistible!
W. H. Brown
An equestrian team that took acrobatic riding to daring new heights inspired W. H. Brown, a painter who lived in Binghamton, New York in 1886. We know little about Brown—not even whether the artist was a man or a woman. Only four paintings signed by the artist have survived, two of which are circus scenes. In Bareback Riders, Brown captured the effects of theatrical lighting beneath the big top, from the clouds of smoky haze below the roof to colorful reflections bouncing off the cheerfully decorated tent. Through the contrast of scale and color, Brown focuses attention on an electrifying performance. The trick riders seem unusually large compared with the horse and the clown. Their outstanding balancing act is matched by the painter’s skill in balancing colors. Striped bunting in the background cheerfully echoes the red, yellow, and blue in the performers’ costumes. The ringmaster’s clothing and the black color of the horse add an air of formality to the lively spectacle.
Brown styled the costumes with elaborate details, sharply defined compared to the faceless audience. With fine brushstrokes the artist depicted gold embroidery on the man’s red suit, blue satin and lace on the woman’s tutu, and stars, stripes and zigzag ruffles on the clown’s outfit.
Paint or draw pictures of horses running. Horses could have acrobats doing tricks on them. For some kids this will be a difficult project. Many kids are very interested in horses and will want to try and draw them. Do a step by step demonstration on the chalkboard on how to draw a simple horse. Talk about ways to make the horse appear to be running. (Tail trailing in the wind, mane blowing backwards, how legs would be bent) Discuss the different ways the equestrians could be posed. What type of tricks they could do. Discuss ways to decorate their costumes and the horse.
Louis Moilliet (moy lay)
(Painted in 1914)
Moilliet was a Swiss-born painter. He was a close friend of Paul Klee, another famous Swiss painter. In 1914, Moilliet, Klee, and another artist named August Macke, visited Paris. While in Paris, Moilliet went to the circus. In this work, a colorful depiction of a circus performance, complete with exotic animals and costumed performers, led by a strangely charismatic clown, the GEOMETRIC SHAPES and fractured space of early Cubism can be seen. The clown is waiting backstage for his turn to perform. He is looking beyond the curtain to where a circus act is going on (top right—background). The two monkeys behind him are watching the action too. In this backstage picture the sad-faced clown is waiting for his turn to enter the arena.
Have you ever been to a circus? What sounds and colors and smells do you expect to find there?
Who is keeping the sad-faced clown company? A white bird (cockatiel), two monkeys & a second clown (far right corner)
Do you like this clown and his strange friends? Would you like to meet them? Is he just a little bit scary?
Do you think the clown is really sad? Why or why not?
Are the COLORS happy? Can you name the different COLORS the artist has used in this picture? Can you find any Color TINTS (color mixed with white)? Pink, pastel greens, pastel blue, pastel yellow—have kids point out the specific areas where they find these Color TINTS
Can you find any Color SHADES (color mixed with black)? Dark reds and greens—same as previous
LINE TYPES can you see in this painting? There are many lines. Across the center are two poles that form DIAGONAL LINE—a black and red striped pole and a tan and white striped pole. There are straight and curved lines in the curtain (point these out). CURVED LINE—bird perch, curtain, clown collars,
How many GEOMETRIC SHAPES can you find? Geometric shapes are squares, circles, rectangles, and triangles. Lines form many geometric shapes in this picture. The edge of the wall next to the curtain is a rectangle. The wall around the corner, next to this rectangle is a square. There is an orange triangle in the left top corner and the left bottom corner. Two square cubes are in front of the clown. The monkeys are standing on one of them. Next to the monkey there is a cone (probably the sad clown’s hat). Triangles decorate the clown’s outfit. The clown in the right corner foreground has what looks like a parasol above his head. It is a half circle with various colored triangles. This clown also has a very round collar. There are triangles on the floor cloth. Beyond the curtain, in the background, are round floating balloons. The background circus performers are standing in the corner of a large square shape. There seems to be a triangle shape under the performer playing the violin on the ladder.
This picture shows us what goes on with the circus performers, behind the curtain, before or after they work in the circus ring. The public watching the circus never gets to see this area of a circus. The view of the picture gives the impression that we are also circus performers waiting for our turn to perform. The curtain is open and we can look down into the main arena.
• Create a dance or pantomime that tells a story about the clown in The Circus and his strange friends.
• Write a story about the characters.
• Give the kids several GEOMETRIC SHAPES cut from colored paper. If your school has a die cutter, these may be easy to cut. If you don’t have access to one of these handy tools, create tag board shapes of circles, half circles, triangles, rectangles, diamonds and squares. Paint and glue the shapes to a background and create a circus scene. Add details with crayons or marking pens.
By Alexander Calder
From the Cirque (French word for “Circus”) Calder, created 1926-30
About the Artist
Alexander Calder earned his first money from art in 1924, when he became a freelance illustrator for the “National Police Gazette”. In 1925, in connection with this work, Calder received a two-week ticket for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus. That ticket sparked an interest in the Circus that lasted throughout the rest of his life. “I spent two full weeks there, practically every day and night. I could tell by the music what act was just coming on and used to rush to get some vantage point. Some acts were better seen from above and others from below. …I always loved the Circus… So I decided to MAKE a Circus, just for the fun of it!”
So, in 1926, Calder began his legendary “Cirque Calder”, his own miniature Circus created of wire, wood, metal, cloth, cork, leather and string. It took him four years to finish. Cirque Calder was an entire Circus, complete with a ringmaster, clowns, tightrope walkers, musicians, acrobats, elephants, animals, horseback riders and a lion tamer. This “Lion Tamer” is only part of the entire Circus he created. The figures in his Circus were moveable. Calder played with his Circus as if he was the ringmaster. He would sit in the middle of it and bring it to life with sounds, movements of the characters and background music. His interest in the miniature Circus lasted for over thirty years. The troupe eventually grew to 50 figures. The documentary film Cirque Calder, shot in Paris by Carlos Vilardebo, in 1961, shows the last performance of this Circus in Calder’s house in France.
In June of 1929, Calder was sailing back to New York from France. During the Atlantic crossing he got to know Louisa James (a relative of the writer Henry James), whom he married two years later. The husband-to-be introduced himself to his future parents-in-law as a wire sculptor artist. On the eve of his wedding to Louisa, on January 17, 1931, Alexander performed with his mini Circus at his in-law’s house in Concord, Massachusetts.
About the Art
Circus Wagons: In the heyday of the circus parade, circus owners took immense pride in their wagons. They painted some in bright and gaudy colors and covered others with pictures, carvings, mirrors and gold leaf. When circuses began to travel by railroad, they carried their handsome wagons on flatcars and unloaded them to give their traditional FREE street parades.
What materials did Calder Use for his circus wagon? Wood, wire, corks, bottle caps, chain, paint
• Create a diorama of a circus in a shoebox. Turn the shoebox on its side. Draw clowns, animals, acrobats and a ringmaster on paper. Cut out each shape and leave a tab at the bottom of each, to fold back and glue to the side of the box, so the characters will stand up. Draw the audience on paper and glue to the bottom of the box (which is now the back) as part of the background. To make the audience, draw several horizontal lines, the same distance apart, all the way around the box. Then fill each line with circles. Try to make them different sizes. The circles are the faces of the people. Draw in the facial features and color. Faces could also be cut from construction paper and glued above each row of horizontal benches.
• Collect miscellaneous scraps of cloth, yarn, bottle caps, jar lids, pompoms, toothpicks, string, nuts and bolts, corks, straws, Popsicle sticks, beads, buttons, etc. and let kids create a three-dimensional sculpted Circus scene. Be sure to include lots of florist wire or electrical wire, which can be used for people, people’s arms, animals, swings, wheels, etc. The class could create sculptures representing an entire circus, with each child creating a small part of the whole.
• Make a circus wagon from graham crackers and frosting. The wheels could be marshmallows or peppermint candies. The base of the wagon could be half a graham cracker. The bars of the wagon could be licorice. Animal crackers could be glued to the graham cracker with frosting. Decorate with gumdrops, Neccos, candy corn or M & M’s.
Georges Seurat (pronounced George suh-RAH)
(French Artist—Lived 1859-91)
About the Artist
Georges Seurat was born in Paris, France in 1859. He was fascinated by the new scientific theories of color and optics developed by the French physicist, Eugene Chevreul. Seurat was concerned with light, shadow and color. Through his studies, George developed a method of painting that was later called Pointillism: painting entirely with semi-uniform dots of color. Seurat found that if he placed unmixed colors side by side on the canvas, rather than mixing them first on the palette, the effect was a greater vibrancy of color. The tiny spots of pure, unmixed color blended in the viewer’s eye when seen from a few feet away. This method of painting took extreme skill, care and a great deal of time.
Seurat was strongly influenced by the works of Claude Monet and Camille Pissaro, two other French artists (Impressionists) who applied their paint in small dabs of delicate color layers in a similar way. The three men were fascinated with color theory, but Seurat was the one who developed a more controlled and scientific approach to translating color theory into a workable painting technique.
Seurat painted almost constantly but he finished very few paintings because it took so much time to carefully apply the dots (points). Georges was only able to complete seven large paintings during his ten-year career. He planned each painting with care and patience, giving them a more formalized look than his friend’s (Monet and Pissaro) Impressionist paintings. His masterpiece, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte is very large, almost seven feet by ten feet. It took years to finish and can be seen today at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Seurat became extremely ill and died suddenly, possibly from meningitis, two days after this painting was first exhibited in 1891. He was only 31. The painting was never completely finished. Seurat remained unknown to the general public for many years, but, in studios around the world, other painters who admired George Seurat’s new ideas, collected reproductions of The Circus.
About the Art & Suggested Dialogue
In this painting, the artist has created a fun feeling through curving, upturned LINES and SHAPES, with bright colors. All of the characters in the FOREGROUND (front) are made of LINES that sweep upward. The trick rider’s graceful arms curve upward in a half circle, just like her skirt. The horse’s tail also curves upward. The acrobat’s body, hair, hands and even his toes are curved. His mouth has a crescent shaped grin. The Ringmaster’s snapping whip is a line with many curves. A yellow banner curves into the picture over the Ringmaster’s head. The clown in the center (the one closest to us) has curved hair and the curtain he is holding curves to the right, off the corner of the picture.
If you follow all the circus people in the ring, you can see a circle that the artist wants our eyes to follow (MOVEMENT, EMPHASIS). Start with the bareback rider. Follow down to the horse’s curved front legs to the hand of the clown in front. When you move your eyes across the clown, to his other hand, the curve of the curtain leads us to the Ringmaster. The yellow banner, above the Ringmaster, leads our eyes towards the acrobat, whose toes lead us back to the trick rider again. The round shape that connects all the circus performers let’s us see there is RHYTHMIC MOTION. All of the circus characters are moving. The audience in the background is motionless. The first things our eyes notice is the action in the circus ring (CENTER OF INTEREST, Focal Point). The last thing is the audience.
Where can you see DIAGONAL LINE in the painting? The legs of the acrobat on the horse, the horse’s legs, the man with the whip, clown acrobat, bows of the violin players (above the doorway on far right)
HORIZONTAL LINE? Crowd benches, stairs, and upper doorway on far right
VERTICAL LINE? Baton of horse acrobat, edge of doorway on right
CURVED LINE? Whip, horse’s tail, foreground clown’s hat and collar, the yellow scarf he holds in his hand, the edge of the ring, the clown acrobat,
ZIG ZAG LINE? Foreground clown’s wrist and neck ruffles,
• Create pointillist clown faces using dots of felt pens for color.
• Create pointillist circus animals using tempera paint and cotton swabs (Q-tips). Cut them out to create a circus mobile.
The Ringling Brothers
The Ringling Brothers story began in the 1870’s, when August Rungeling, a harness maker in McGregor, Iowa, took his young sons to see a circus that traveled by riverboat. After seeing this performance, the boys made up their minds to be circus men.
The Rungeling family moved to Baraboo, Wisconsin. There the brothers held their first show in their father’s barn. When they were old enough, the boys took to the road with a sort of vaudeville show and soon changed their name to “Ringling”.
The first real circus owned by the brothers went out in horse-drawn wagons during 1884. In 1890, The Ringling Brother’s Circus, advertised as “the World’s Greatest Show”, went out in railroad cars.
Year by year these men bought other circuses. By 1907 they had purchased control of their largest competitor—Barnum & Bailey. It was then that they controlled so many major shows they were the unquestioned “Circus Kings” of the world!
Phineas Taylor Barnum (July 5, 1810 – April 7, 1891) was an American businessman and entertainer, remembered for founding the circus that became the “Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus”. His successes may have made him the first “Show Business millionaire”. Although Barnum was also an author, publisher, philanthropist, and sometime politician, he said of himself, “I am a showman by profession…and all the gilding shall make nothing else of me.”
Born in Bethel, Connecticut, Barnum became a small-business owner in his early twenties, and founded a weekly paper, The Herald of Freedom, in Danbury, in 1829. He moved to New York City in 1834 and embarked on an entertainment career, first with a Troupe called “Barnum’s Grand Scientific and Musical Theater”, and soon after by purchasing Scudders American Museum, which he renamed after himself. Barnum used the museum as a platform to promote hoaxes and human curiosities. By late 1846, Barnum’s Museum was drawing 400,000 visitors a year.
Barnum entered the circus business, the source of much of his enduring fame, at age 61, establishing “P. T. Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan & Hippodrome”, a traveling circus menagerie which, by 1872, was billing itself as “The Greatest Show on Earth”. Barnum was the first circus owner to move his circus by train, and the first to purchase his own train. Given the lack of paved highways in America, this turned out to be a shrewd business move that enlarged Barnum’s market.
Barnum died in his sleep at home on April 7, 1891 and was buried at Mountain Grove Cemetery in Bridgeport Connecticut, a cemetery he designed himself.
James Anthony Bailey
James Anthony Bailey was born in Detroit, Mich., on July 4, 1847. Left an orphan at an early age, he first joined a circus troupe and then was a sutler’s clerk during the Civil War. (A sutler is a merchant; somebody who follows an army and sells goods to the soldiers.)
After the Civil War, James returned to circus life. In 1872, he joined in organizing the Cooper & Bailey Circus, which toured the United States and Australia. Bailey’s show became the main rival of Phineas T. Barnum’s circus and in 1881, the two organizations merged to form the famous Barnum & Bailey firm. Bailey was responsible for the 1882 Barnum & Bailey purchase of the giant elephant, Jumbo, from the Royal Zoological Society in Britain.
After Barnum died in 1891, Bailey became sole owner of the firm. Shortly before his death, Bailey built a palatial home in Mount Vernon, N.Y., which housed his notable art collection. He died at Mount Vernon on April 11, 1906.
AL G. Barnes Trained Wild Animal Circus
This poster dates back to the 1920s, when there were some 50 men and women trainers presenting big-cat acts in 14 American circuses. In this poster, the artist has combined ALL of the routines the lions perform into a single picture. In an actual circus show, the trainer would put these big cats through their paces one trick at a time. This would avoid confusing the animals and keep each lion’s attention focused on the particular routine he was trained to do. The lion tamer would have all the lions out in the ring at the same time but they would all be sitting on their platforms until it was their turn to perform. Tigers and leopards were also used in big-cat circus acts.
Do you see MOVEMENT in this circus poster? Yes, lions are jumping, swinging, wrestling or interacting with the two lion tamers. Every lion is posed in a posture of MOVEMENT.
Is there REPETITION? Yes, the vertical bars of the cage (background), organic shapes of lions repeated 8 times, two lion tamers, red platforms
Is there RHYTHM in the poster illustration? Yes, bars are spaced in a repeating RHYTHMIC PATTERN
• Younger kids can make an easy lion puppet. Glue a Popsicle stick to the back of a small paper plate. Cut and glue ears to back of plate. Ahead of time, cut brown yarn into 2” pieces. Glue to back of plate, around the outside edge. Draw a lion face on the front (a cat with sharp teeth).
Ringling Bros. World’s Greatest Shows
All big circuses in the early 1900s carried a large menagerie of wild animals. This was a popular and highly educational feature. This poster of the 1900 era, by the Courier Lithograph Company of Buffalo, N.Y., calls the menagerie an “Exposition of Natural History.” The exotic beasts especially fascinated audiences in the small towns across America in 1900, which they had never seen before. Often, when the circus came to town, these animals would be displayed by parading them in cages or walking from the train station to the outskirts of town where the circus tent would be set up. Menageries have been credited with exhibiting the first giraffe, rhinoceros and hippopotamus seen on the North American continent.
What is the EMPHASIS or Dominant area of the picture—the FOCAL POINT? The circle with the tigers and lions, near the center
Is there REPETITION in the poster illustration? Yes, the portrait circles of the five brothers to the left side, the blue color of the portrait backgrounds, three giraffes, four elephants, two lions, repetition
How many COLORS are used in the poster? Red, yellow, orange, light blue, several VALUES of brown, several VALUES of green, black, white, pink
What is strongly similar about the five Portraits? Oval shape of each portrait, clothing, background, hairstyles and each man has a mustache
• Make a cupcake for each child and frost with yellow frosting. Cut off the tip of the bottom corner of an envelope for each child. Fill envelopes with a spoonful of chocolate frosting. Squeeze envelope to create chocolate lines around the edge of cupcakes, for a lion’s mane. Give out M & M’s or Skittles (one for a nose, two for eyes) and a short piece of extra thin licorice (mouth) for kids to create lion faces after kids have frosted the mane.
• Draw, paint or sculpt a walrus, Kangaroo, giraffe, rhino, hippo, zebra, tiger or camel (or other animal pictured on the poster)
Barnum & Bailey and Ringling Bros. Combined
In the winter of 1918/1919 the Ringling Brothers, who, since 1907, had owned the Barnum & Bailey Circus, as well as their own, decided to combine the two shows into one gigantic show. The inventory of circus posters, advertising Barnum & Bailey alone, didn’t get thrown away. The frugal brothers instructed their printers, the celebrated Stobridge Lithographing Company of Cincinnati, to find ways to use the poster inventory that was inherited with the purchase of the Barnum & Bailey Menagerie (me-NAJ-uh-ree). This poster had originally been used to advertise the Barnum & Bailey Menagerie since 1916. A menagerie is a collection of exotic animals. In 1918, when the Ringling Brothers decided to combine the shows and their names, Stobridge Lithographing printed and hand-pasted a sticker that read “Ringling Bros.” over the reference to “menagerie” that was already printed on this poster. Because the Ringling Brothers frugally recycled and didn’t waste the old posters, this is probably the only poster that advertised the names of the two shows backwards. The correct way to say it is Ringling Bros., Barnum & Bailey Circus.
The new Ringling Bros., Barnum & Bailey opened in the spring of 1919. This circus show still exists today. It is still called Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus. This circus show annually visits Portland every September.
What is the EMPHASIS or Focal Point of this poster? What do you notice first? The head of the elephant, in the very center
Can you find the Portraits of P.T. Barnum and J.A. Bailey? Upper left corner
What kinds of animals do you see? How many animals in all are pictured on the poster? 12
• Cut out a big elephant head, like the one in this poster, from large gray construction paper. Cut tusks from white construction paper and add details (such as eyes and the wrinkles on the trunk) with black crayon. Another variation would be to cut out a Rhino head and his horn (like the one in the bottom right corner).
• Draw or paint a circus animal.
• Make a puppet of a circus animal or a clown from an old sock, felt, pipe cleaners, buttons, fabric scraps, etc. Form small groups and create a circus puppet show.
• Make circus animals from salt dough or clay. They could be free formed or cut out with animal shaped cookie cutters.
Posters Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows
There are several different versions of these Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Posters in the packet:
• One of these posters shows a close up of a ferocious tiger about to pounce on us.
What type of MOOD does this poster create? The tiger appears to be fierce and angry, it might evoke fear, anticipation, or excitement and many little boys in the 1800’s probably held their breath for a few moments as they examined this “dangerous” looking animal! The tiger’s sharp claws and teeth were probably very successful advertising tricks to make sure that every brave little boy or girl would get mom and dad to take them to the circus!
• Another poster has a clown, a glamorous 1920’s equestrian beauty and a polar bear.
What is repeated in the poster? White COLOR (clown face and costume, equestrian’s glove, and fur of polar bear) and the yellow COLOR of the wording, outlined in red to make it stand out
• One poster displays a giant clown standing high above the tented circus. Many children probably believed they would actually see a clown that was this enormous size if only they could get mom and dad to take them to the circus that was coming to town!
Do you see any REPETITION in this poster? The red stripes are repeated on the clown’s socks and sleeves, the COLOR red is repeated in several places, the clown’s ruffles are repeated around his neck and several places on the rest of his costume What other types of objects are repeated? Flags are waving in the wind all over the tops of the many circus tents
How would you feel if you saw a giant clown like this at a circus? Do you think the artist got this idea from a dream (or maybe a nightmare)? Should the tiny people and animals (there are horses and an elephant at each foot) be afraid? Everything seems calm; a circus clown is fun and would probably be extra careful if one was ever this large in real life!
The slogans “100 Clowns—Count ‘Em—100” and “An Army of Clowns”, as on this poster of the 1920s, were commonly used to emphasize an important facet of any circus performance.
Circuses need clowns. Their antics relieve the tension of the performances in the rings. They also distract the audience while equipment is moved and allow other performers to get ready.
The art of clowning requires many talents. A clown must be a good actor and pantomimist. Clowns must be able to dance and do acrobatics. Skills like juggling might also be needed in their acts. Above all, clowns must spend many hours in training and rehearsal each day. It takes a lot of work and practice to be a good clown.
The most popular modern clowns are known as “Whiteface” Clowns. They paint their faces with white, creamy makeup. Brilliant colors are added to produce red noses and large mouths. Tight fitting caps make them look bald or they wear bright colored wigs. Another favorite clown is The Tramp. He used dark makeup on his chin and cheeks, suggesting that he needs a shave. His clothes include a long, dark coat, pants with multicolored patches, a battered hat and torn shoes. Character Clowns dress to imitate real-life figures such as policemen, firemen and cowboys.
Have you ever seen a real clown? Was he at a circus?
How many different types of PATTERN can you find in the various types of fabric used to create these many clown costumes? Stars, polka dots, various styles of stripes and plaids
Try pointing out the first PATTERNED clown costume to help kids understand what you mean by “types of pattern”. Let the kids find the rest.
Can you find any CHARACTER CLOWNS in the poster? Can you find any WHITEFACE CLOWNS?
Can you find a TRAMP? This type of clown is not pictured on the poster
How many different types of hats do these clowns have? How many different shoes? Which shoes are your favorites?
• Make clown dolls from old white socks. Stuff the toe of a sock with batting. Tie off at neck with yarn or ribbon or gather with a needle and thread. Stuff the remainder of the sock with bating, to make the body, and gather at the bottom or wrap with a rubber band. Glue on red pompom for nose, felt clown mouth, wiggle eyes and other felt facial decorations. Gathered ribbon or lace will make a ruffled collar. Colored pompoms could be glued to the front of the body. Large felt feet and a felt cone hat could finish off the clown doll.
• Create clown faces from cut construction paper and glue to black paper. Cut oval head from white paper. Eyes, nose, mouth, ears and facial decorations could be added from cut paper. A triangle cut from colored paper could be decorated, with cut dots, stripes, or stars, for his hat.
• Create decorated clown hats with tag board or construction paper cones. Use half of a circle for each cone. Decorate with glitter, cut paper, ribbon, lace, yarn, sequins, pompoms, stickers, glitter, or rubber stamps. Hats could be stamped before being glued into cone shape.
• While younger kids are working on their art project, they could take turns having their faces painted like clowns. Choose a simple project, one that doesn’t need too much instruction or supervision, because your time will be needed for face painting. You must check with the teacher ahead of time to be sure that this activity is okay. If it is, you will probably need to find a few other volunteer parents to help you. Bring in acrylic paint for face painting. These non-toxic paints dry to a rubbery coating that will easily peel off with a wet washcloth, which reduces the friction needed for removing it. Acrylics are also inexpensive and come in many colors.