Howard Bros. Circus Model
“Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Step Right Up and See the Largest Miniature Circus in the World – the Howard Bros. Circus!”
The Howard Bros. Circus, complete with eight main tents, 152 wagons, 1,300 circus performers and workers, more than 800 animals and a 57-car train, is on permanent display in the Ringling Circus Museum’s Tibbals Learning Center. The Howard Bros. Circus is a ¾-inch-to-the-foot scale replica of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus when the tented circus was at its largest (circa 1919-1938), and occupies 3,800 square feet in the 30,600 sq. ft.-Tibbals Learning Center. The “largest miniature circus in the world” was created over a 50-year time span by master model builder and philanthropist Howard C. Tibbals of Tennessee and Florida.
Howard Tibbals Biography
Howard Tibbals saw his first circus as a three-year-old and at the age of five he watched with fascination, a circus through a telescope from a neighbor of his grandparents’ home as it set up on a nearby vacant lot, and the impression stayed with him for life. As a teenager, he read “Here Comes the Circus” by Clifford Hicks in a 1952 Popular Mechanics magazine that detailed the logistics of moving Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The article contained a schematic of the 79-car train; a cut-away layout of the circus grounds; and a diagram illustrating the rigging and set up of the Big Top tent. Tibbals was hooked, and by 1956, while a student at North Carolina State University, he started sewing a replica of the six-pole Big Top tent that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus used in 1938. His pastime turned into a life-long passion for accuracy when he met noted circus model builder Harold Dunn in 1958. After picking up tips on model building from Dunn, Tibbals began to create the greatest model circus in the world – the Howard Bros. Circus.