The Circus is in Town
The Museum's first director, A. Everett (Chick) Austin, Jr., established the Circus Museum 1948. The intention was to display a collection of circus art and memorabilia--from posters and photographs to wagons and costumes to honor the Museum's founder, John Ringling.
Howard Tibbals has installed his magnificent model of the American Circus in the Circus Museum's Tibbals Learning Center. The massive undertaking took twelve full months to complete.
The model represents the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1919-38. To assure its historic accuracy, Tibbals collected almost one million photographs and measured historic wagons, train cars, and other circus equipment to construct his model at a scale of ¾-inch to a foot. While Howard has never counted all of the pieces, he estimates they number in the tens of thousands. The model covers 3,800 square feet, and to walk around it is approximately 450 feet, or the length of 1.5 football fields.
This final installation is the first time Howard Tibbals has ever seen his life's work completely assembled as he had so long envisioned it. It is truly one of the most exciting museum attractions to be seen anywhere in the world.
During the heyday of the American circus, young boys could earn a ticket to the circus by helping the staff with menial tasks, such as carrying water for the animals. The same spirit of volunteerism was evident for the set-up of the Howard Bros. Circus. Model. Local Sarasota circus fans associations donated countless hours assisting Tibbals with installing his miniature circus. Tasks such as spreading gravel and sawdust and painting props were accomplished through volunteer help. In the year it took to set up the largest miniature circus in the world, dozens of volunteers lent a helpful hand.
"Without the circus fans’ enthusiastic help, we would have never been able to set up the Howard Bros. Circus in one year," Tibbals said. "They carried on a rich circus tradition, and I feel personally indebted to each volunteer for his or her help".