Deborah Walk, Curator of Circus, is proud to announce that The Ringling Archives received a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to digitize circus route books, dating from 1842-1969. Only 400 circus route books are known to exist. Similar to yearbooks, route books contain information about people, positions, events, and the show’s season.
Circus World, Baraboo, Wisconsin, Milner Library’s Special Collections, Illinois State University, Bloomington, Illinois also received grants, and through the CLIR’s Digitizing Hidden Collections program, these organizations will work together with The Ringling to digitize 315 circus books from their collections and create a single portal to access these important resources.
After digitization and upload, these route books will become a storehouse of data useful to historians, researchers, writers, teachers, and family historians all over the world. Published at the end of the show’s season, route books listed personnel by department, the circus route (cities and towns played), and many times included photographs and statistics, such as miles traveled, number of cities visited, or meals served daily. In some, a daily diary of weather, ticket sales, and unusual events was included.
CLIR is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning. CLIR is funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
An index of The Ringling Archives’ route books can be found here: