One hundred years ago, in towns across the country, circus day began with a parade that filled the everyday streets with hundreds of exotically costumed performers, some elephants, camels and zebras, and powerful teams of horses pulling beautifully carved wagons. The free show was just a taste of the wonders that could be seen under the big top and the whistling sounds of the calliope, which was at the end of the procession, beckoned audiences to come to the circus.
As early as the 1840s, circus impresarios understood the importance of the parade as a way to impress potential audiences. Shows invested in magnificent chariots and bandwagons with delicately carved and brilliantly gilded figures to create a stunning spectacle in the streets. As soon as there were circus parades, there was circus advertising to bill them. Enjoy a selection of posters dating from 1848 to 1920 and imagine the excitement of the “The Most Magnificent Street Spectacle Ever Seen,” the circus parade.
A Most Magnificent Sight will be on view in the Poster Gallery of the Tibbals Learning Center February 17 to May 15, 2017.
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Howard and Janice Tibbals, the Howard Tibbals Collection, and the Howard Tibbals Endowment.
Image: Strobridge Lithograph Co., ht2000324
The Barnum & Bailey Big Free Street Parade, 1913