Collection Items

  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Ciniselli Circus. The Ciniselli Circus (now the Bolshoi Saint Petersburg State Circus) opened on December 26, 1877. The first stone structure in Russia purpose-built for the circus, it was regarded by many as the most beautiful circus building in Europe. The building was designed by architect Vasily Kenel (1834--93), who also produced this watercolor, which has his signature in the lower right-hand corner. The building was...
    • Contributor: Kenel, Vasily Alexandrovich
    • Date: 1877
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Ciniselli Circus Water Pantomime. This poster by an unknown artist is devoted to the Ciniselli Circus water pantomime (probably The Four Elements). Produced in Berlin by the firm Dinse & Eckert, the picture is a colored lithograph with the letters written in gold. The water pantomime was performed for the first time in Russia in 1892. In The Four Elements, water rushed down in a cascade and fountains...
    • Date: 1890
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Sells-Floto Circus, 1924. This photograph of 1924 shows a group of female circus performers climbing onto tableau wagon number 83 of the Sells-Floto Circus, possibly in preparation for a parade. A large draft horse is hitched to the wagon. A baggage wagon with the Sells-Floto name can be seen in the background. The Sells-Floto Circus was formed in the early 1900s from a combination of the Floto...
    • Contributor: Atwell, Harry A.
    • Date: 1924
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Sells-Floto Circus, 1922. Elephants were not only an important part of the performance of a circus but were also very useful for providing heavy labor on the back lot. This image of 1922 shows an elephant of the Sells-Floto Circus pulling the canvas-covered cage wagon number 24 into position. Octagon cage wagon number 34 can be seen at right. The Sells-Floto Circus was formed in the early...
    • Contributor: Atwell, Harry A.
    • Date: 1922
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Circus Midway Scene. This 1935 photograph shows a crowd gathering on the midway of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, heading towards the entrance marquee tent. On the left is the painted banner line depicting freaks and attractions in the sideshow, an added fee attraction operating before the main show. On the right can be seen concession tents and ticket wagons. Visible behind the marquee entrance is the "free" menagerie...
    • Contributor: Atwell, Harry A.
    • Date: 1935
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    John Robinson's Circus. This 1929 photograph shows the interior of John Robinson's Circus during a spectacle, or "spec," performance of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba in Cincinnati, Ohio. In the American circus, the spec developed as a procession that took place around the hippodrome track inside the big top, or circus tent, featuring as many of the performers and animals as the circus director was...
    • Contributor: Atwell, Harry A.
    • Date: 1929
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Russell Bros. Circus, 1932. This photograph is an aerial view of the circus lot of the Russell Bros. Circus at Janesville, Wisconsin, in 1932. The availability of trucks following World War I led to a rapid growth of the trucking industry in the United States. Circuses quickly adapted to the new technology by creating "truck shows" or circuses that traveled overland via truck. Truck shows brought the circus...
    • Date: 1932
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Cole Bros. Circus. This 1935 image presents a scene from a typical moderate-sized 20th-century American circus. A crowd watches as baggage wagons from the Cole Bros. Circus are being pulled over flatcars. The railcars are marked Clyde Beatty and Allen King, who were two of the more notable animal trainers of the period. Behind the flatcars are stock cars that held elephants and baggage horses. This scene...
    • Contributor: Atwell, Harry A.
    • Date: 1935
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Group of Circus Performers. This December 1932 photograph shows the members of three world-famous trapeze acts posing in the safety net at La Scala in Berlin: The Flying Codonas of Mexico, The Flying Concellos of the United States, and Les Amadori of Italy. Shown from left to right are Genesio Amadori (Les Amadori), Art Concello (The Flying Concellos), Alfredo Codona (The Flying Codonas), Vera (Bruce) Codona (The Flying...
    • Date: 1932
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Circus Spectacle Float. This photograph depicts an elaborate spectacle float in the "backyard" of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in September 1922. The spectacle, or "spec," often opened the show and was a procession that took place around the hippodrome track inside the big top, or circus tent, featuring as many of the performers and animals as the circus director was able to costume....
    • Contributor: Clarke, Charles
    • Date: 1922
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    December 26 Program of the Ciniselli Circus. This one-page document is the very first program of the well-known Ciniselli Circus (now the Bolshoi Saint Petersburg State Circus) for a performance that took place on Monday, December 26, 1877. Four acts were by members of Ciniselli family. Nearly all other acts were by famous performers from abroad, for example, German equestrienne Oceana Renz and the Italian clown Tanti. Following a musical opening,...
    • Contributor: Ciniselli Circus
    • Date: 1877
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Interior of the New Ciniselli Circus. This lithograph of 1878 shows the interior of the Ciniselli Circus (now the Bolshoi Saint Petersburg State Circus), which opened on December 26, 1877. The decor of the auditorium of the circus was luxurious. The crimson velvet of the armchairs was complemented by gold, mirrors, and crystal chandeliers. The dome was covered with canvas showing floral ornaments and equestrian scenes. The boxes and stalls...
    • Contributor: Chamotte, S. - Zubchaninov, A.
    • Date: 1878
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Rules of Conduct for the Ciniselli Circus.
    Cirque Ciniselli: Règlement
    This placard contains the rules of conduct for the Ciniselli Circus in Saint Petersburg set by the management. Issued on January 10, 1891, the rules were published in two languages: French and German. The choice of languages, combined with circus programs of the period, demonstrates that nearly all the performers in the circus came from abroad. The 18 points regulated the lives of circus...
    • Contributor: Ciniselli, Scipione - Ciniselli Circus
    • Date: 1891
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Back Door Scene at the American Circus. In the American circus, the area directly behind the circus tent or arena where performers prepared for and staged their entrances through the "back door" came to be known as the "backyard." This glass-plate negative from 1928 reveals a typical backyard scene of an American circus just prior to performance of the spectacular production number. The spectacle, or "spec," was a procession that took...
    • Contributor: Atwell, Harry A.
    • Date: 1928
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Behind the Scenes of Typical Truck Circus, Downie Bros. Circus, 1932. This behind-the-scenes image is typical of a "truck show" in the American circus. With the growth of the trucking industry in the United States after World War I, many small circuses could easily mount their wagons and equipment on the back of trucks and travel across the country, reaching countless smaller communities previously inaccessible by circuses operating strictly from railroads. In this image, three...
    • Date: 1932
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Erecting the Big Top, Cole Bros. Circus, 1937. This image from the 1930s shows the Cole Bros. Circus setting the side poles in preparation for erecting the big top tent, a scene that was common at every American circus at that time. In the background can be seen another tent, already set up. Alternating United States and Cole Bros. flags are flying at the top of the six center poles. Cole Bros....
    • Contributor: Atwell, Harry A.
    • Date: 1937
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Ringling Circus Winter Quarters, Sarasota, Florida. John Ringling (1866--1936), one of the seven Ringling brothers who dominated the development of the American circus in the late 19th and early 20th century, moved the winter quarters of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from its original quarters in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Sarasota, Florida. Ringling's vision, as recalled by Fred Bradna, equestrian director for the show, in his book The...
    • Date: 1933
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Miss Baba the Circus Elephant.
    Elefantessa Miss Baba
    This poster concerns the exhibition by Monsieur Marc Le Cerf of a female elephant named Miss Baba. Although neither date nor place is given, it can be dated approximately to 1840. It appears to be a general advertising bill, as implied by the note at the bottom, which states that "the elephant can be moved anywhere against fair payment." This poster is very similar...
    • Date: 1844
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Free Street Parade of the Sells-Floto Circus. This colorful lithograph advertises the upcoming street parade of the Sells-Floto Circus, promoting ticket sales to the local residents for the twice-a-day shows. The artwork captures the grandeur of the American circus parade in the 1920s. The parade is led by a rider wearing an 18th-century costume and carrying a circus banner. Behind the rider is a group of mounted horsemen, elephants in costumes...
    • Contributor: Strobridge Lithography Company
    • Date: 1921
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Ringling Circus Clown Emmett Kelly in Sarasota, Florida.
    The Circus Comes Home
    Emmett Kelly (1898-1979), pictured here, portrayed the melancholy hobo-clown Weary Willie for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for more than a decade. His act differed from that of the typical jovial clown and made Weary Willie one of the most memorable components of the Ringling Brothers show. The Ringling Brothers built the show from humble beginnings in Baraboo, Wisconsin, into the...
    • Contributor: Steinmetz, Joseph Janney
    • Date: 1947
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Liberty Act by Gaetano Ciniselli. Italian-born Gaetano Ciniselli (1815-81) was a circus equestrian and horse trainer who in 1877 founded the Ciniselli Circus (now the Bolshoi Saint Petersburg State Circus). The circus was housed in the first stone structure in Russia purpose-built for circus. In this painting, Ciniselli is shown performing the liberty horse act, which was an invariable part of the circus program until his death in 1881....
    • Contributor: Martinik, E.
    • Date: 1877
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Liberty Act by Scipione Ciniselli. This black and white lithograph of 1900 depicts Scipione Ciniselli, director of the Ciniselli Circus (now the Bolshoi Saint Petersburg State Circus), and his twelve liberty horses in the final act of the performance. The term "liberty horse act" refers to an act in which the horses are directed with verbal commands and are not mounted or held by reins; the horses are "at...
    • Contributor: Kibell, T.
    • Date: 1900
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Garland Entry, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, 1930.
    Garland Entry
    This photograph shows horses and riders of the "Fete of Garlands" or "Garland Entry" assembling in the back yard of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus before going into the big top tent. Various tents and baggage wagons can be seen in the background. The image is a good example of the size and complexity of a "spec" performance in a large...
    • Contributor: Atwell, Harry A.
    • Date: 1930
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Gaetano Ciniselli. Italian-born Gaetano Ciniselli (1815-81) was the head of a large circus family, a circus equestrian, and a horse trainer who was taught by the famous French riding master François Baucher (1796-1873). He achieved fame throughout Europe and in 1877 founded and became director of the Ciniselli Circus in Saint Petersburg, which was housed in the first stone structure in Russia purpose-built for circus. He...
    • Contributor: Bergamasco, Charles
    • Date: 1870
  • Photo, Print, Drawing
    Great Olympic Circus with Brothers Luigi and Giovanni Guillaume.
    Gran Circo Olimpico fratelli Luigi e Giovanni Guillaume
    Presented here is an advertising poster for the performance of the equestrian acrobats of Luigi and Giovanni Guillaume's company Gran Circo Olimpico (Great Olympic Circus), dated May 24, 1846, and issued by Taddei, a local printer in Ferrara. The Guillaume family, hailing from France, was the most active dynasty in the Italian circus scene in the 19th century. No certain documentation on their origins...
    • Date: 1846