At the turn of the 19th century there were more than 3,000 circuses traveling around the United States. The development of the tent and use of the railroads, the introduction and refinement of advertising, the circus parades, the use of elephants as attractions, and the side show are some of the themes that contributed to the distinctive American quality of the circus. In this lecture, Susan Weber will explore how the European circus was transformed in America into an immense multimedia phenomenon that was eventually billed as the “The Greatest Show On Earth.”

Susan Weber is founder and director of the Bard Graduate Center. She initiated the circus research project and is coeditor of The American Circus, a collection of essays about the history of the circus in the United States.