When Howard Tibbals began work on his miniature circus collection, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus still operated under the big top.
While the “Greatest Show on Earth” moved from a tent to arena venues long ago, the Howard Bros. Circus Model, located in the Tibbals Learning Center on the campus of The Ringling, continues to depict the Golden Era of 1919-1938, when the circus traveled by rail and took over towns for a “Circus Day.” The size of the circus model shows how difficult the logistics were. The model includes eight main tents featuring more than 1,500 hand-carved and hand-painted circus performers. The model covers 3,800 square feet on a scale of ¾ inch : 1 foot. The actual circus would have covered 16-20 acres, and as Howard likes to note “They took it down and moved it every day.”
Howard’s passion for preserving the history of the American circus was recently the subject of a feature by WEDU Arts Plus, embedded below: