Originally published in The American Circus, edited by Susan Weber, Kenneth L. Ames, and Matthew Wittmann. Published by the Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture, New York. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012. 55–86.

From the exhibition: Circus and the City: New York, 1793-2010.

Although the development of the circus in the United States during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was an uncommonly transnational affair, its history has largely been delimited by national boundaries. A better understanding of the evolution of the early American circus requires a broader framework, one that emphasizes how transnational circulations animated the incipient industry. The circus in the United States was initially dominated by European entertainers and impresarios. However, the pattern shifted in the 1820s and 1830s with the ascendance of native­-born showmen and performers, and the circus developed in a distinctively American fashion, defined by its cultural syncretism and, most significantly, by the almost exclusively itinerant mode that was adopted. This, combined with the robust domestic market, paved the way for the success of the American circus abroad.

After a brief review of its international roots and dynamic growth in United States, this essay focuses on the contemporaneous emergence and export of a recognizably American form of the circus in the late 1820s. In the decades that followed, the transnational scope of American circus activity extended throughout the hemisphere, across the Atlantic, and eventually into the Pacific. Tracing this transnational trajectory offers new insights into the antebellum U.S. entertainment industry and the broader circulatory patterns it influenced. American showmen skillfully adapted the cosmopolitan cultural form of the circus for both domestic and foreign audiences. Their success was an early indicator of the extraordinary reach and appeal of U.S. popular culture.

Before the spring of l793, when English equestrian John Bill Ricketts opened the first circus in Philadelphia, commercial entertainment in the United States was limited to a few venues in urban centers and a small number of touring shows of acrobats, musicians, and other performers, as well as sundry scientific and animal exhibitions. By the mid-nineteenth century, many of these entertainments were integrated into circus repertories or museums, both variegated forms of popular culture.1 While little is known about early itinerant entertainers in the United States, most of them came from abroad, principally from the British Isles.2 In the same vein, nearly all of the initial circus managers and performers also came from overseas.

The English equestrian John Bill Ricketts formed his pioneering circus company from a motley crew of European performers, augmenting it with American apprentices and talent, most notably acrobat and dancer John Durang.3 Four years after Ricketts’s arrival in1792, a rival Swedish equestrian, Philip Lailson, opened a circus in Boston with a company of fourteen performers whose surnames betray a mix of French, German, Irish, and Italian backgrounds.4 Ricketts and Lailson toured the principal American cities over the next few years, but following their departure in 1800, and despite efforts by some of their performers and local entrepreneurs, there was a lull in circus activity.5

This lasted until the arrival of Victor Pepin and Jean Breschard in 1807. Pepin was born in Albany but moved to France with his father at a young age. He returned to the United States in partnership with Breschard and they advertised themselves as the “First Riding Masters of the Academies of Paris” when they debuted in Boston in late December.6 Over the next decade, Pepin, Breschard, and the Italian equestrian Cayetano Mariotini were the principal circus impresarios in the United States, culling together performers from prior companies, some American-born talent, and occasional newcomers from abroad. In November 1816 James West, a celebrated equestrian with the Royal Circus in London, landed in New York with a large circus company that performed widely and profitably throughout the growing nation.7

The evident success of these foreign managers prompted native impresarios to try their luck in the circus business. The most notable of these were New York City’s most prominent theatrical entrepreneurs, Stephen Price and Edmund Simpson, who jointly managed the Tony Park Theatre.8 When James West’s circus opened on Broadway in February 1822 for an extended season, Price and Simpson set about conniving ways to dispatch the unwanted competition. After luring Sam Tatnall, who was the first distinguished American-born equestrian, away from West, they set him to breaking horses in a lot behind the Park Theatre and spread rumors about building their own arena. West agreed to sell his operation, which included a stud of horses and circus properties in several other cities, for a “handsome fortune.”9 As the Park Theatre opened its fall season in 1822, Price and Simpson sent their new circus company to Philadelphia, where it was joined by James Hunter, a recent arrival from Astley’s Amphitheatre in London. Hunter was the first rider in the United States to perform on what advertisements described as “a horse in a rude state of nature”-bareback-and this novelty, coupled with his graceful style, made him a star.10 He was also the first foreign circus performer specifically contracted for an American tour, and his success ensured that even as American showmen took over the business, they would continue to recruit international talent to enrich receipts.11

In 1824, the appearance of the first American­-born circus proprietor, James W. Bancker, marked the beginning of a transformation in the circus business in the United States.12 The number of circuses increased exponentially, from just two in 1822 to some seventeen companies six years later.13 Moreover, by the late 1820s all of the early European impresarios had either retired or moved on, leaving the field to ascendant American showmen such as Aaron Turner, George F. Bailey, and Rufus Welch.14 Although foreign performers continued to be featured in American circuses, there was a proliferation of native-born talent. But it was not simply the growing number of shows or personnel changes that heralded the arrival of the American circus.

The most significant development was J. Purdy Brown and Lewis Bailey’s use of a canvas tent or “pavilion” during their 1826 season.15 The tent altered almost every aspect of the circus industry in the United States, from the character of the performances to the circus’s logistics and financing. The advantages were readily apparent, and the innovation was adopted so swiftly that a decade after its introduction, every American circus was performing under canvas, with the exception of a few remaining permanent venues in New York City and other urban centers.16 Tents were more cost effective than the structures that circuses had typically relied upon and, most importantly, they offered an unprecedented degree of mobility. The shift to canvas was transformative for the American circus, as it vastly expanded its audience throughout the nation and beyond.

The rise of native-born showmen occurred amid a surge of cultural nationalism in the United States. The burgeoning show trade drew on vibrant vernacular forms, and the new types of commercial entertainment were intimately connected to issues of national identity.17 James Fenimore Cooper, Edwin Forrest, and a cohort of other popular writers, performers, and artists were intent on demonstrating that the United States was not a cultural backwater. They were part of a broad effort to celebrate a uniquely American culture in the arts, incorporating patriotic themes and vernacular characters such as the Yankee, the backwoodsman, and the minstrel. The circus was a particularly democratic form of entertainment, and its promoters shaped the content to ensure it had mass appeal in the “era of the common man.”18

Overlapping demographic, geographic, and economic developments also provided expanding audiences for the new American circuses. In just two generations the population of the United States more than tripled. It exploded from five million at the turn of the century to over seventeen million in 1840, pushing westward through the Ohio River Valley and beyond the Mississippi. These new markets in cities, towns, and provincial backwaters welcomed the kind of traveling entertainment that the new mobile circus business offered. The decades bracketed by the Panic of 1819 and the Panic of 1837 were also economically prosperous, encouraging a wave of entrepreneurs to try to make their fortune with a touring show.

American showmen dominated the related business of traveling menageries. The profits realized from the first elephants drove the expansion of animal exhibitions, and by the 1820s, a dozen or so menageries—ever larger and more exotic—toured the country. Their mobility assured almost limitless audiences, and a great variety of animals was supplied by a transnational network of European dealers and Yankee traders. At the center of the menagerie business was a loose confederation of showmen from New York’s Westchester and Putnam Counties who were inspired by the profits that an enterprising local farmer named Hachaliah Bailey garnered from touring the elephant Betty (also called Old Bet). The circus and the menagerie were initially distinct forms of entertainment that were more often seen separately but in the 1830s this group played a defining role in the evolution of the American circus by combining the two.19

The spectacular growth and merger of the circus and menagerie business played a formative role in the rise of U.S. culture industries and was a dimension of an ongoing and intersecting set of social, economic, and technological developments that historians have characterized as the “market revolution.”20 Perhaps the best example of this dynamic was the Zoological Institute, a capital stock company created in January 1835 by a group of showmen and investors in Somers, New York. The conglomeration combined the resources of some dozen menageries and three circuses, whose appraised value in conjunction with cash raised from issuing stock gave the corporation $329,325 in total capital. A board of directors was put in charge of apportioning resources and proscribing routes for its constituent units, which included circus and menagerie combinations, and the Zoological Institute managed thirteen of the twenty shows that toured the United States during the 1835 season. As a purveyor of popular entertainment, it was unprecedented in its size and organization. Despite its initial success, the association foundered amid the Panic of 1837, but it stands as a good example of the ways American showmen capitalized on a robust market.21

Most important for this essay was how the growth and consolidation of the circus business enabled shows to become much more active in markets abroad. While the early history of the circus in the United States was largely about European management and absorbing foreign influences, there was a definite shift in initiative around 1830. As the industry burgeoned and the American circus evolved into its own distinctive form, its proprietors and performers became increasingly assertive both at home and abroad. Touring overseas demanded mobility and capital. The manner in which the circus developed in the United States ensured that American showmen had both. Initially, the expanding field of American circus activity was oriented toward the Atlantic world, extending from the Canadian provinces to the Caribbean and to Central and South America. By the mid-1830s American performers were starring in European circuses, but the established competition for the most part discouraged full American companies from venturing across the Atlantic. But the American circus flourished in markets that lacked comparable forms of popular entertainment. This was made abundantly clear in the wake of the California Gold Rush, when American showmen quickly moved in to capitalize on the emerging cultural markets of the Pacific world. By the mid-nineteenth century, when the American circus reached maturity, it was a global enterprise.

The career of Benjamin Brown in many ways epitomized the history of the early American circus. Brown was born in 1799 and, like so many of his fellow showmen, hailed from Westchester County. After working a variety of odd jobs, he entered the show trade in 1823 with his brother Christopher, managing a menagerie owned by Hachaliah Bailey, whose major attractions were an elephant known as Little Bet and a lion. Following a dispute over money at the end of the 1825 season, Brown left the concern to serve as an equestrian manager for a circus owned by his uncle, J. Purdy Brown, during its watershed 1826 season under canvas. By the following year he was managing a small circus in partnership with Christopher and another brother, Herschel, on a circuit through Virginia and the Carolinas. During the 1828 season, the Brown brothers’ circus traveled in tandem with a menagerie owned by Charles Wright, debuting the kind of combination that became standard among American circuses over the next decade.22 They continued to tour the southern states for the next two years, but the itinerant entertainment business was booming and competition was proving increasingly stiff.23

In the winter of 1830 the Brown brothers tried their luck abroad with a tour through the Caribbean. They were neither the first circus nor even the first American showmen to tour there. It is important to note how the initial American circuses touring abroad did so through already established transnational entertainment circuits. Star European performers and theatrical companies who toured the United States often also visited the principal Canadian and Caribbean cities and ports. Ricketts, Lailson, Pepin, and other European managers took their circus companies to Canada, the West Indies, Mexico, and Cuba during or after their time in the United States. In late 1826 Samuel McCracken took the Albany Circus Company to Jamaica for a season, inaugurating a pattern whereby American circuses traveled south to escape the slow winter months in the United States.24 American showmen also began to explore new routes and what were ostensibly more marginal markets. In 1829-30 a circus managed by Eman Handy and Rufus Welch toured through Cuba, St. Thomas, Cartagena (Colombia), and other locales.25

The dispersed nature of this American circus activity and scanty newspaper coverage makes these early effort s difficult to trace, but it is clear from U.S. sources that the pace and scope of overseas touring was expanding rapidly. It was in this context that the small circus managed by Benjamin Brown and his brothers departed Charleston in1830 for their initial venture overseas. Although their precise route remains unclear, they stayed abroad for fifteen months, a duration that suggests that the tour was a successful one.26 Their first stop was Saint-Pierre, Martinique, where a handbill for the Cirque Olympique, as they called it, offered a glimpse at the makeup of the company. Although all three Brown brothers traveled with the show, Benjamin was the only one to appear in the performance, serving as the ringmaster and appearing in a limited role as an equestrian. The principal rider was Napoleon Turner; three younger riders or apprentices—Andrew Levi or Levy, Frederick Hoffmaster, and a Master George—supported him.27 Jean Richer served as the clown and they traveled with six horses. The accompanying menagerie featured a lion, a “Brazilian tiger” (a jaguar) and a dozen monkeys, one of which, billed as Kapitein Dick, appeared in the ring as a riding act. A bill of lading from Berbice, Guyana, lists a “pavilion spar,” which indicated that they performed under canvas, although this might not have been necessary everywhere they traveled.28 A final piece of property carried by the company was a hot-air balloon, a novelty used to generate publicity for the show.29

Though the company was rather small, published programs from the Caribbean tour indicate that the entertainment offered was in line with other circuses of that era. A poster billing the show as the Royal Pavilion Circus in Barbados detailed a typical performance, which began with a “Grand New Entry” of costumed horses and riders that went through a variety of coordinated routines. This was followed by an equestrian act by the apprentice Master Hoffmaster, and then the whole company returned to the ring for a display of “running vaulting.” This consisted of equestrians leaping from the ground onto moving horses, while the clown Monsieur Richer mocked the performers, battled with the ringmaster, and generally kept the audience entertained. Next up was the principal rider Turner, who presented “The Dashing Horseman,” during which he changed costume and struck poses as his horse galloped around the ring. After a turn by the trained horse Kitty Clover, there was a “scene riding” display by Richer called “The Dying Moor,” which was a pantomime of a battle scene.30

The entire company again returned to the ring for a presentation of acrobatics billed as “Ground and Lofty Tumbling,” followed by a second principal riding act by Master Levi. As the horse galloped at full speed around the ring, he stood on the animal’s back and leapt through balloons, which were simply paper-covered hoops that made for a more dramatic display. Years later Benjamin Brown recalled the act:

The biggest card in my show was a boy named Levi, a Jew. He was a wonderful rider. We had a piece of canvas twelve feet wide, then a hoop eighteen inches in diameter covered with paper, a balloon it was called, and Levi held in his hand a hoop nine and a half inches in diameter. He’d jump over that banner, through the balloon and through the little hoop, all at the same time. That was called a big feat in those days.31

For the finale, the company presented a traditional comic piece called “The Hunted Tailor, or, Billy Button’s Unfortunate Journey to Bredford,” in which a hurried man struggles to ride a recalcitrant mount.32 While there is little evidence about how the circus was received, it was certainly a respectable show as it was patronized by colonial officials such as Sir Benjamin d’Urban in Demarary and Sir James Frederick in Bridgetown. Moreover, the duration of the tour and their approximately month-long stays in each location suggest that audiences were satisfied and that it was a profitable venture for the Brown brothers.

Letters and ephemera indicate that at the very least they visited the islands of Martinique, Jamaica, and Barbados and continental ports in Honduras, Suriname, and Guyana before returning to the United States in March 1831. Although they were not the first circus to tour the Caribbean, their travels were much more extensive than prior efforts and the tent seems to have afforded a great deal of flexibility in terms of potential venues. The tour also demonstrated how American circuses were able to move through linguistic and cultural barriers that hampered other forms of entertainment. The Brown brothers took their Pavilion Circus through Pennsylvania and Virginia during the 1831 touring season in the United States and then returned to the West Indies in the winter of 1832.

The winter sojourn south became a frequent pattern for American circuses and standout individual performers as the relative proximity of Caribbean markets offered opportunities to generate income when the weather or business in the United States was poor.33 But the islands were also targeted more intensively as the decade progressed. Cuba proved to be a particularly attractive locale. For a tour there in 1837 Joseph D. Palmer organized a large troupe of twenty performers and staff, which included a translator, an advertising agent, six equestrians led by George J. Cadwalader, and the famous tattooed man, James P. O’Connell.34 The company opened in Havana on June 1, 1837, and toured Cuba for the better part of a year, including a run through the inland towns under canvas. Although it was seemingly a financial success, dissension between Palmer and the performers led to Cadwalader being defrauded out of almost a year’s salary. The company was twice stricken with yellow fever, underscoring some of the risks that performers could face touring abroad.35 Even so, American circuses continued to extend their field of activity within the hemisphere. The American equestrian Charles Laforest, for one, established a successful circus in Buenos Aires during 1834-35, and other companies were frequenting major South American ports by the late 1830s.36

Following his time in the Caribbean, Benjamin Brown returned to the United States and worked in the circus and menagerie business as a ringmaster, horse trainer, and manager. Brown embarked on the most adventurous passage of his transnational career in 1838 as an agent for the large menagerie conglomeration of June, Titus & Avengine. He was dispatched to Africa in an effort to secure some novel attractions for the show, including giraffes, or “camel leopards, “ as they were then known. Rival showman Rufus Welch and his partners imported two of the unusual-looking animals in June 1838, and they proved an extremely popular feature.37 After securing letters of safe conduct with the help of the American consul George Gliddon in Cairo, Brown organized a party of over a hundred men for an expedition up the Nile and into the Nubian Desert in early 1839. He spent a year in the hinterlands gathering animals, including four juvenile giraffes, and judging by a sketch made in Cairo, was well adapted to local ways.

Brown transported his haul to London, where the animals were variously shipped to the United States or sold off to British buyers. Isaac Van Amburgh, the American animal trainer who was also in the employ of June, Titus & Avengine, was then starring in Britain, and Brown stayed on to manage him. Over the next few years he looked after the conglomeration’s interests there and managed a variety of American performers and companies on British tours.38 His career aptly illustrated the extent to which the circus business, strung together by a transnational network of agents, performers, and touring shows, had become a global enterprise and the increasingly prominent role that Americans were playing within it.

Benjamin Brown’s story also offers a useful pivot on which to turn to the transatlantic dimensions of the expansive American circus industry in the 1830s and 1840s. Given their relative geographic proximity and a general lack of competition, the transnational markets in the colonies and countries south of the United States were frequently exploited by American showmen. Cracking into established European markets was a much trickier proposition. Nevertheless, a broad array of American entertainers, ranging from groups such as the Hutchinson Family Singers and the Virginia Minstrels to singular performers such as T.D. Rice and General Tom Thumb found success touring Great Britain during this era.39 While there were a few isolated examples of individual American performers in British and continental circuses before the 1830s, the first American circus performers to become stars across the Atlantic were Levi North and Isaac Van Amburgh.40 North, born on Long Island in 1816, served his apprenticeship with Quick and Mead’s Circus, then toured Cuba in 1829 with the aforementioned Welch & Handy show and rose to prominence as a principal rider for J. Purdy Brown’s circus during the early 1830s. Regarded as the father of American equestrianism and known as the North Star, he was an excellent overall athlete and the first performer to throw a somersault on moving horseback, a feat he initially accomplished in England with Batty’s Circus in 1839.41

North had left the United States with the clown Joe Blackburn, who was celebrated as “the American Grimaldi,” when the circus business crashed amid the Panic of 1837. Despite the rapid development of the industry in the United States, Astley’s Amphitheater in London remained the center of the transatlantic circus world and North was intent on proving his skill on its famous boards. After much haggling with manager Andrew Ducrow over terms, Blackburn and North debuted at Astley’s on June 30, 1838.

As North needed time to adjust to a new horse, his initial appearances were confined to vaulting, which generically included two distinct acts. In the first, performers ran down a specially constructed wooden ramp that ended with a crude trampoline or springboard from which they leaped into the air over animals or other obstacles, impressing the audience with the height and distance of their jumps.42 The other act utilized a short springboard rather like a diving board that the performer would bounce up and down upon while performing acrobatic feats. North was adept at somersaulting on this short springboard, and his performance simply consisted of doing as many consecutive backward somersaults as possible. In a letter to his family soon after their debut, Blackburn described the scene:

We made our appearance at Astley’s Amphitheatre two weeks since in the vaulting—North, as the American champion, vaulting against Mr. Price, the champion of all Europe, having two spring boards in the ring at once, and two parties, American and English, with the colors of each country on the heads of their horses; myself playing clown to the American party. You may well imagine my feelings the first night, as well as North. I must say I was frightened dreadfully; not for myself, but for North. I thought he would be so excited that he might get beat; but the trial came, and such a brilliant audience I never had the honor of making a bow to before….When the finish of the vaulting came, the Champion of England (Price) went on to do his row of somersets, and only threw twenty. Then came the applause; they were certain North could not beat it; but the little Yankee went on and beat him scandalously, doing thirty-three. Such a shout I never heard; I thought the house would come down. If I ever felt well, it was just about that time….So you see Uncle Sam is ably represented, for we have truly astonished the natives. North rides next week, and they will be more astonished then, for they have no rider to compete with him in this country; and I think I can beat any of them playing clown.43

The letter captures the intense cultural nationalism that inflected the era’s popular entertainment, and, though undoubtedly somewhat biased, North, Blackburn, and the wave of other American circus performers that followed were clearly having an impact in Britain. The vaulting competition between North and Price was essentially a matter of endurance, as each man in turn would perform a continuous string of “somersets” until they either missed a landing or became exhausted. Their rivalry drew huge crowds over the month that followed and North won every evening except, ironically, on July 4th.44

A financial dispute with Ducrow eventually led Blackburn and North to join another circus managed by William Batty, but North’s popularity was unabated as his riding created a sensation. In early April 1839, North became the first performer to throw a somersault on a moving horse when the circus was at Henley, and even a reluctant British press was forced to acknowledge that he was “without exception the most graceful and accomplished rider of the day. There are none that we have seen who can approach him.45 Over the next few years, North would shuttle back and forth across the Atlantic, appearing with a variety of prominent shows on both sides of the ocean. In the summer of 1845 he starred in Paris at the famed Cirque­-Olympique established by the Franconi family and performed by royal command before King Louis­ Philippe.46

The same week in 1838 that Levi North was making his debut at Astley’s, a menagerie under the management of Lewis B. Titus departed New York in what was perhaps the boldest effort yet to break into the British market. The star of what was billed as the “Mammoth American Menagerie” was Isaac Van Amburgh, the young animal trainer who was gaining renown for his daring exploits with wild beasts.47 Like North, Van Amburgh made his debut at Astley’s Amphitheatre, where two massive wooden cages containing a mix of lions, tigers, and leopards were placed in the arena. He entered the first cage and after some playful fondling with the big cats, proceeded with his act. He pried open the mouth of one lion with his hands and rode about on the animal’s back. The leopards were more exuberant, and one perched on his head and shoulders while the others leapt over his extended arm. Van Amburgh, who wore a plain white tunic and held only a small whip, gave the appearance of complete mastery over the animals as he went through a series of routines. One of the highlights was when he maneuvered the lion into a prone position and placed his head in the animal’s mouth. For the finale, he made real the biblical phrase that “the lion shall lie down with the lamb,” and casually reposed among the seemingly dangerous cats with a young lamb.48

Although Van Amburgh was not the first wild animal trainer to perform these sorts of feats, he did so with a fearlessness and command that inspired widespread admiration. He proved so popular that he starred in a series of dramatic vehicles at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, where Queen Victoria came to see him on a number of occasions. She was fascinated by his mastery of the animals, writing in her journal, “It’s quite beautiful to see, and makes me wish I could do the same!”49 When the noted painter Sir Edwin Landseer began a large canvas depicting Van Amburgh lying with the lamb, Queen Victoria visited his studio and arranged to purchase the work. Though critics Charles Dickens and William Macready sneered, his thrilling performances and the seal of royal approval ensured that he was a sensation in London.50 In the summer of 1839, Van Amburgh crossed the channel and his dramatic displays likewise captivated Parisian audiences.51 Despite his evident success, Benjamin Brown lamented that he was “too big of a fool” to take full advantage of the opportunities he was presented with in Europe.52

Levi North and Isaac Van Amburgh heralded the arrival of a veritable wave of American talent in the decade that followed. But perhaps the greatest impact was made by the first complete American circus company to cross the Atlantic, which arrived under the management of Richard Sands in 1842. Sands was a versatile performer and appeared in a wide variety of equestrian acts during the tour, including an impressive Roman riding act on four horses. He was also a very capable manager and his “Great American Circus Company” introduced a number of novel features to British audiences. The most notable was simply its set up, namely a canvas tent. When the show opened in Liverpool in early March 1842, a local newspaper marveled at the “splendid and novel Pavilion, made after an entirely new style, with the most costly interior decorations and appointments forming at once a magnificent spacious Roman Amphitheatre and Arena of the Arts, the whole of which is erected in a few hours; and capable of holding several thousand persons.”53 The Sands company also advertised the show with a daily parade that featured two dozen caparisoned horses and a colorful wagon with a full brass band drawn by a team of eight cream-colored horses. The show itself featured a typical mix of circus acts and Levi North, by then a star on both sides of the Atlantic, was the principal rider during its first season in Britain.

While the performances ostensibly differed little from a traditional circus, the musical entr’actes by blackface minstrels were a novelty that garnered widespread notice. At different times, two of the most important early American minstrels, Joel Walker Sweeney and Daniel Emmett, performed with the company and their effect was electric. Joseph Cave, an Englishman who became one of the country’s leading minstrels, recalled years later that Sweeney’s playing was such that “I shall never forget how my ears tingled and my mouth watered when I heard the tum, tum, tum of that blessed banjo.”54 Though blackface minstrelsy had first been introduced by T. D. Rice a decade earlier, the popularity of minstrel shows surged in the 1840s and ultimately made a lasting impact on British popular music.55

After a successful inaugural season, Sands joined forces with Van Amburgh and presented a combined show in 1843 that also involved Benjamin Brown. Reinforcements from the United States were brought in for the following season, and the show’s success abroad was a point that Sands exaggeratedly capitalized on for publicity when the circus returned to the United States.56 Sands & Co.’s American Circus appeared in a mix of permanent venues and tents during its extended time abroad and two of the leading contemporary British circuses, Batty’s and Cooke’s, were soon experimenting with tents. A London correspondent for the Spirit of the Times reported that William Batty learned about managing a show under canvas from Benjamin Brown. The correspondent opined “there is no man living who understands every branch of business connected with an extensive Circus establishment so well as Mr. Brown,” but in the end the American-style tent show was simply not well suited for British conditions.57

Transnational relationships were necessarily reciprocal, and one of the most significant developments that emerged out of Van Amburgh and Sands’s time abroad was the ornate circus parade wagons they introduced when the returned to New York. In England they had witnessed spectacular parades by Edwin Hughes’s circus that featured elaborately carved and gilded wagons, most notably his “Burmese Imperial Carriage,” which was brightly decorated with large wooden animals and pulled by two elephants. In April 1846 Sands and Van Amburgh jointly opened their season in New York City with a procession of 150 horses and 50 carriages, highlighted by a dazzling new “Triumphal Car” that was more or less a copy of Hughes’s design.58 Other shows were quick to follow suit and the use of decorative parade wagons became a characteristic feature of the American circus.59

While Richards Sands was the first American showman to cross the Atlantic with a complete circus, his success abroad ensured that others soon followed. In 1843 Rufus Welch chartered a ship and took a company on an extended tour of the Mediterranean ports, playing at Cadiz, Gibraltar, Malacca, Algiers, the Balearic Islands, and Genoa.60 Still, outside of France, American circuses largely eschewed the Continent, though standout individual performers were often featured in European circuses. Britain remained the most important destination for American showmen and British historian George Speaight described Sands as the vanguard of an “American Invasion.”61 The strength of the domestic market in the United States meant that the foremost American circuses were much larger and better capitalized than many of their European counterparts. When Howes & Cushing’s Great United States Circus arrived in Liverpool in 1857, the British press marveled at the size of the “stupendous moveable circus,” and its tents and transport “excited upmost astonishment” among the public.62 Among the most noted features were a troupe of Native American performers and the Apollonicon, a musical chariot that housed an organ and was drawn by forty cream-colored horses. The show was so big that it was split into separate units and the managers refreshed their talent during their seven-year sojourn through a combination of local performers and new personnel brought over from the United States.63 What Howes & Cushing’s circus made clear was that the terms of the transnational relationship that animated the American circus were shifting. American showmen were among the most influential players in a circus business that was now a global enterprise, a point perhaps best substantiated by looking at how they exploited the opportunities that opened up around the Pacific in the wake of the California Gold Rush.

The pioneer of the American circus in the Pacific was Joseph Andrew Rowe. He was born in North Carolina in 1819 and, after being orphaned at a young age, joined Asa T. Smith’s circus as an apprentice, becoming a proficient equestrian. By the time he was eighteen and in line with the southward expansion of American circus activity, he was touring the Caribbean in partnership with Mariano Perez, an acrobat and tightrope dancer. Rowe afterward put together a “small but good performing company” in New Orleans and in 1846 embarked on a tour through Cuba and Central America. Driven by “a continual thirst to see this portion of America” and the fact that the untapped markets of South America invariably received the show “with delight and astonishment,” Rowe traveled overland through Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.64 By May 1849 the company was performing in Lima as news about the gold findings filtered down the Pacific Coast. They packed up and headed north immediately, however the crush of gold-seekers was such that it took the troupe almost five months to secure passage on a ship to California. On October 12, 1849, the company finally arrived in San Francisco on board the bark Tasso, and just over two weeks later Rowe’s Olympic Circus made its debut in a hastily constructed amphitheater.

The demographic and economic boom that accompanied the California Gold Rush created lucrative markets for U.S. entertainers in California and facilitated access to the emerging cultural markets of the larger Pacific world. The enterprising Rowe was among the earliest entertainers to arrive in San Francisco, but also possessed the wherewithal to recognize opportunities opening up farther afield.65 Rowe was the manager and principal rider of the small company and his wife, Eliza, was an equestrienne in the show. W H. Foley performed as both a clown and rider while a Master Rafael served as Rowe’s apprentice. Signor and Signora Levero, rope-dancers and acrobats, supplemented the equestrian acts.

Although a rather small company by contemporary standards, on November 1, 1849 they debuted to “frequent and uproarious bursts of applause” from the amusement-starved public of San Francisco, who proved willing to pay three dollars for a ticket to see the show. The Alta California described it as a “comfortably fitted up” amphitheater that accommodated fifteen hundred people. The show featured a typical mix of equestrianism, clowning, and acrobatics. The reviewer was particularly excited about the female performers, praising the “pleasing merit” of Mrs. Rowe’s riding and “the fearlessness and grace” of Signora Levero on the slack rope.66 Despite the company’s initial success, Foley abruptly left the circus after a month in a dispute over salary and soon after opened a rival amphitheater.67 Over the next several months, “Rowe’s and Foley’s circuses would divide the patronage of the community; each of the producers would make his spurt, would be obliged, before long, to close down, and would then manage to work up a reopening.”68 Apparently conceding defeat, in December 1850 Rowe packed up his circus and embarked for Honolulu.

Honolulu was a bustling port that was a center of transpacific commerce and home to a relatively large native and haole (foreign) population of merchants, missionaries, and sailors. Rowe arrived there in late December and opened his circus in a specially constructed pavilion on January 10, 1851. His was the first circus to grace the islands. An illustrated broadside produced for the occasion shows that it began with a “Grand Waltz and Star Entree,” which culminated in a dance number starring the horse Adonis. The apprentice Master Rafael followed with leaping and vaulting and the first part of the performance was brought to a close by Rowe in a scenic riding act billed as “Montezuma and His Wild Charger.” A similar display opened the second part of the show as Walter Howard appeared in a riding act called “Red Man of the Woods” and then Henry Ellsler, a “French Herculean and Gymnastic Professor,” performed assorted “feats of strength.” In the principal riding act, Rowe represented three different characters: “first, a Pantaloon; second, an athletic combatant Gladiator; third, the Flight of Mercury.” The show concluded with the traditional comic afterpiece “Billy Button’s Unfortunate Journey to Branford.” Although no individual act was specified, Dave Long served as the clown throughout the proceedings and Howard doubled as the ringmaster.69

Honolulu’s main newspaper, the Polynesian did not publish a review of the show; this reflected concerns by community members and the Protestant missionaries in particular, about the morality of this kind of popular entertainment.70 Yet it was plainly a great success as a broadside for the performance four days later noted that Rowe was erecting private boxes for families. A copy of this broadside has some contemporary notations in pencil by Emma Rooke that indicate the royal family was in attendance as one reads: “I walked with the King into His box, Mother & John followed and then the boys Lot, Alex, & Bil[l], the band struck up ‘God Save the King.”’ 71 That Rowe was able to secure royal patronage was significant as it essentially legitimized the new circus as a respect­able form of entertainment. The broadside did warn that “an efficient police will be in attendance to preserve order,” which suggests there might have been some rowdiness at the debut performance, but this was hardly surprising given that sailors were likely a large part of the audience. Although Rowe was successful in establishing the circus as a popular form of entertainment in the islands, reservations remained. When his erstwhile protégé W. H. Foley arrived in Honolulu with a company the following year, his application to open a circus was denied by the Privy Council due to petitions from concerned residents.72

These continuing struggles over popular entertainment in the Hawaiian Kingdom seemed to have little impact on Rowe’s show, which was buoyed by royal support and extremely popular with kanaka or ordinary Hawaiians. In mid-March a correspondent for the Alta California reported that the circus was “quite the rage here,” as it “happened to hit the fancy of the Kanakas, who are all hard riders.” The letter moreover suggested that Rowe was clearing the exorbitant sum of “$1200 to $1400 a night,” and these impressive earnings kept Rowe in the islands for eleven months.73

The collection of broadsides advertising Rowe’s Olympic Circus in the Hawai’i State Archives, several of which include annotations by Emma Rooke, offer insights about the versatility and character of the performances. Rooke was particularly taken with the “Indian Entrée” by Rafael and the Rowes, which featured the elegantly costumed performers “riding around as fast as they possibly can” and “screaming out as Indians do.” In February, Mrs. Rowe debuted her solo riding act and the trick ponies Bobby and Billy were introduced. Walter Howard performed a spectacular-sounding “Grand Trampolening” act in early March that involved “somerseting over 8 horses, and through a Fire Balloon.” Comments scribbled on a broadside for a March 21 performance also underscored the dangers performers faced. Master Rafael fell off his horse three times in the course of his principal riding act and Walter Howard fell hard doing his Spanish Reaper routine when the horse “went too fast.” He attempted it a second time, fell off again, and was unable to continue.74

In May and June, the company visited the islands of Maui and Hawaii and reinforcements were brought in from California for the fall season as news of the Victorian gold rush in Australia started to float across the Pacific.75 Rowe, seemingly ever well attuned to new opportunities, quickly made plans to make the long journey to Melbourne. He purchased a 200-ton brig, the General Worth, and advertised a grand farewell benefit for the evening of December 6. A broadside celebrating the occasion contained an interesting mix of Hawaiian and English text and was an apt indication of the way Rowe had effectively fashioned his circus to appeal to a transnational audience.76 After a successful finale, the company departed for Tahiti on December 12, 1851.77

The Society Islands had become a French protectorate in 1842 and the circus set up in the port of Papeete. Rowe later described it as a “very poore place,” but the company was apparently graciously received as they performed there for several weeks before continuing on to Australia.78 They encountered a violent storm soon after leaving Tahiti and were forced to put into port at Auckland for repairs. Though largely by accident, Rowe’s circus was the first to visit New Zealand and gave a series of performances there before embarking for Victoria and the goldfields.79

When Rowe reached Melbourne in May 1852, he found that the circus was already well established in the Australian colonies. Launceston, Hobart, and Sydney all possessed amphitheaters, though they only hosted circuses intermittently. More pointedly, he had been preempted by John Sullivan Noble, an American circus manager and performer who had brought a small company to Australia in 1851 via Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town. Noble visited Adelaide and Sydney, and then took his Olympic Circus to Melbourne in February 1852 as its population exploded amid the gold rush.80 Rowe auctioned off the General Worth and made plans to construct a canvas-roofed amphitheater, but ran into trouble as the City Magistrates were reluctant to grant a license for another circus. In the ensuing controversy, the Melbourne press sided with Rowe and the application was eventually granted. On the evening of June 28,1852, Rowe’s American Circus opened to an overflowing house.81

Even with the “glories of Astley’s fresh in our memories,” the reviewer for the Argus newspaper was impressed with the new circus, and left wondering why “opposition should ever had been offered to Mr. Rowe.” Mrs. Rowe was feted as an “elegant and accomplished equestrian,” and the clown Yeamans “succeeded throughout the evening in keeping the audience in roars of laughter.” The greatest praise was reserved for Master Raphael, who was described as “jumping though hoops, leaping over garters, and standing on his head as if it were the easiest thing imaginable.”82 It was a wild success and for the next two-and-a-half years Rowe’s circus was a premiere attraction in the booming city. The well-appointed amphitheater accommodated upward of a thousand people and the boom times allowed Rowe to maintain inflated prices.

During that time, the performances were kept fresh through frequent changes in the program and personnel. Rowe courted a wide public by reserving Thursday evenings for families and by giving liberally to many charitable causes. The amphitheater also hosted civic meetings, theatrical performances, and a series of “Grand Promenade Concerts” by local favorites like the soprano Madame Sara Flower, the “Australian Nightingale”.83 The net result was that Rowe made an unprecedented amount of money for a circus manager, despite some intermittent competition. He further buttressed his business by constructing a large building on a neighboring lot that served as an “American bar, supper, oyster, and refreshment” house.84

In early 1854 Rowe returned to California to invest in property and engage new talent, leaving his wife Eliza in charge of the circus. It continued to prosper despite a challenge from a company led by W. H. Foley, whose Cirque National boasted an elephant and camels.85 In San Francisco, Rowe told the press that he had cleared 40,000 pounds over the last year and a half and promptly spent 56,000 dollars on a ranch and other properties near Los Angeles.86 He arrived back in Melbourne in October only to auction off the horses and properties a week later, and the Argus bemoaned that Rowe left “a gap which will with difficulty be filled up.”87 Joseph Andrew Rowe and Eliza returned to California reputedly laden with “over $100,000 in cash and numerous chests of treasure.”88

The exceptional profits Rowe reaped in Melbourne were due to a combination of factors. First and foremost, his success was owed to his uncanny ability at finding and exploiting new cultural markets. Melbourne was the most remunerative of a long line of successful moves that were only possible because of the mobility and efficiency of Rowe’s operation. Rowe went to great lengths to ensure that his show was seen as a respectable one and was consistently able to secure elite patronage.89 He also maintained good relations with the local press and he endeared himself to the public by holding frequent benefits for a variety of local charities and benevolent institutions.90 In short, Rowe was an effective entrepreneur and showman, and his spectacular success in Melbourne was abetted by the gold-fueled economy, in which commercial entertainment flourished.

Rowe was the first in a parade of American showmen that brought progressively larger and more grandiose circus companies to tour around the Pacific during the nineteenth century. They were part of a diverse mix of international circus performers and managers who plied the Pacific show trade, including luminaries like the French equestrian Louis Soullier and the Italian Giuseppe Chiarini.91 One of the most fascinating figures that followed in Rowe’s wake was Richard Risley Carlisle, popularly known as Professor Risley. Risley was an excellent all-around athlete and gymnast, but what made him famous was his foot-juggling ability. Using his feet to manipulate various objects while on his back, he performed both on the ground and on horseback. Risley’s major innovation was to juggle young assistants who were invariably referred to as his sons. The boys flipped between his hands and feet in quick succession, among other feats. The highlight of the act was when the boys rolled tightly up into a ball and were rapidly spun about and repeatedly launched into the air. It was an act that would prove popular the world over.

Risley first appeared with a circus in 1841, and pursued a peripatetic career that took him through the Caribbean and then to Britain, where he joined the influx of American talent in the 1840s.92 After his initial success in London in 1843, Risley visited principal European cities such as Paris, Brussels, and Rome, even traveling as far as St. Petersburg and Moscow. The French critic Theophile Gautier described an 1844 performance at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin in Paris:

There appears a great devil of a genie, perfectly constructed, with magnificent pectorals, muscular arms, but without the enormities of professional strongmen; he is costumed exactly as his children, whom he throws at once some twenty-five feet in the air, as something of a warming-up or preparatory exercises. Then he lies on his back … [and] begins a series of tours de force the more incredible in that they betray not the least effort, nor the least fatigue, nor the least hesitation. The two adorable gamins, successively or together, climb to the assault of their father, who receives them on the palms of his hands, the soles of his feet, launches them, returns them, throws them, passes them from right to left, holds them in the air, lets them go, picks them up with as much ease as an Indian juggler maneuvers his copper balls.93

As Gautier makes clear, Risley was a tremendously skilled performer and earned a fortune abroad before returning to the United States in 1847.94

Risley traveled to the Pacific Coast in 1855 and opened in San Francisco with a small company that also featured contortionist Mons. Devani, the “Indian Rubber Man”; rider A.V. Caldwell; and the Coroni family of rope-dancers.95 His transpacific adventures began in the fall of 1857, when a pared-down version of the Risley Troupe performed in a “Tri-Colored Pavilion” at Honolulu. Risley carried an autograph book that included the signatures and testimonials from several American presidents and European personages that one local newspaper thought was “a sufficient passport, it might be imagined, to any audience in the theatre-going world.” A silk souvenir program produced for the troupe’s command performance before King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma bragged that he had “astonished and delighted three-quarters of the world” and their royal signatures were undoubtedly added to his book.96Following Rowe’s path, Risley next traveled to Australia via Tahiti and New Zealand. A reviewer there effused that his graceful “acrobatisms” were “undoubtedly superior to anything of the kind which has been exhibited in the colony.”97 After touring through Australia, he tried his hand at prospecting, but failing at that he put together a small circus company and headed to India and the Far East, visiting Singapore, Manila, Hong Kong, and Shanghai over the course of the early 1860s.

Risley landed in Yokohama, Japan, in March 1864 with a company often performers and eight horses. They erected a tent on a vacant lot in the area where foreign residents were quartered. On March 28 the first performance of an American circus in Japan was presented to an audience of about 250 native and 200 Western viewers.98 The show included a pair of Italian acrobats; Miss Lizzie Gordon, equestrienne; Mr. Eugene, dog act; La Petite Cerito, dancer; and a somersaulting rider, Mr. Rooney. The occasion was documented in a beautiful woodblock print by Utagawa Yoshikazu that depicts the various acts. Unfortunately for Risley, he was unable to present his show anywhere else in Japan as the authorities were strongly opposed to foreign entertainment and the company disbanded in May. Risley found life in Japan amenable enough to stay for the next few years. He went on to pursue a variety of idiosyncratic projects that ranged from importing a herd of dairy cows to building and managing the Royal Olympic Theatre in Yokohama, which on occasion hosted exhibitions featuring Japanese performers.99

Risley eventually decided to organize a Japanese troupe for an overseas tour and enlisted the U.S. consul George Fisher and American trader De Witt Clinton Brower to obtain the necessary permissions from the reluctant Japanese government and provide the financial backing for the venture. In December 1866 the eighteen performers were issued the first Japanese passports and they embarked with Risley for San Francisco. The Imperial Japanese Troupe made a sensational tour across the United States and then went on to Europe, where they competed with a grand Cirque American that was organized by a syndicate of American showmen to play at the Exposition Universelle in Paris.100 The company was so successful that it led to court battles over the profits and prompted an “international scramble” for Japanese performers.101 Risley thus not only introduced the American circus to Japan, but also inaugurated a cultural exchange that introduced Japanese performers to the world.

The amount of capital and level of organization that was required for the tour by Risley’s Japanese troupe demonstrated just how powerful and far-reaching the U.S. entertainment industry was in the 1860s. Although the Civil War initially dampened business, the tenting season of 1863 was likely the most profitable one in circus history to date. With the South closed off and competition in the North intensified, a number of circuses elected to tour abroad. The owners of the largest American circus at the time, Dr. Gilbert R. Spalding and Charles J. Rogers, purchased a ship, renamed the their show Spalding & Rogers Ocean Circus, and spent most of the war overseas in South America and the Caribbean.102 Despite the terrible cost of the conflict, the growth of the rail network and the postwar economic boom spurred the development of the massive American railroad circuses that dominated the late nineteenth-century entertainment industry.103

One of the best examples of the ongoing expansion of the American circus industry was the Pacific tour undertaken by Cooper, Bailey & Co.’s Great International Allied Shows, which was the first large-scale railroad circus to travel overseas. The show departed San Francisco in November 1876 and returned to New York City two years later, after an extended tour that was concentrated in Australia but also visited the Dutch East Indies, New Zealand, and South America. The show was run by James A. Bailey, the most outstanding American circus manager of his day. Cooper, Bailey & Co.’s show was an enormous operation that during the 1876 season employed a staff of over 125 personnel and included a full menagerie; hundreds of horses; and tons of advertising paper, properties, and equipment.104 The evolution of the circus toward these massive touring shows was, in Janet Davis’s characterization, a “cultural metonym for national expansion.”105 Cooper, Bailey & Co.’s tour was similarly an expression of the growing power of the United States in the Pacific.

The circus arrived in San Francisco in the fall of 1876, and Bailey charted a steamship at the re­ ported cost of 17,000 dollars to convey the circus across the Pacific.106 Cooper, Bailey & Co.’s Great International Allied Shows debuted in Sydney on December 18, 1876 under a massive main tent that was 500 feet long and 125 feet across and utilized a 150-foot main pole. There were two rings for performances and the seating accommodated upward of 6,000 people. Among the novelties the show introduced to Australian audiences was an extensive menagerie featuring a giraffe, a hippopotamus, and a herd of six elephants, a “museum of curiosities,” and a sideshow. All of these attractions were housed in separate tents. The advertising also “astonished the people” as press agent W.C. Crowley reported, continuing, “they are not used to long billboards covered with hug[e] and highly-colored posters, nor have they seen many lithographs.”107 In Sydney alone, twenty-five thousand heralds detailing the show’s varied acts were distributed. The star performer was James Robinson, legitimately billed as the “Champion Rider of the World,” and a large roster of equestrians, aerobats, clowns, and specialty performers like the “French Samson” Mademoiselle D’Atalie, who fired a heavy cannon balanced on her shoulders.

After an auspicious six weeks in Sydney, the circus traveled by steamer to Victoria. The Cooper, Bailey & Co.’s show was so large that it was only able to travel by steamship or railroad and the logistics, size, and efficiency of the operation consistently inspired awe, if not always admiration from its Australian audiences. A lithograph celebrating the arrival of the circus in Melbourne provides an idealized glimpse of the scene with a heading that boasted it was: “[t]he only show that ever had the nerve, brains, and capital to make a grand tour of the world”. The show gave two performances per day, except Sunday, for the next four weeks, and averaged a stunning 4,000 dollars per day in receipts.108 The inaugural season in Australia was a very profitable one, and Bailey triumphantly returned to New York to recruit new talent while the circus was split into separate units, with a pared-down company traveling as far as Batavia in the Dutch East Indies.109

Bailey returned with reinforcements in October 1877, and following a second successful season in Australia, he toured through New Zealand and chartered a ship for Peru, departing Auckland in early May. Although the circus ran into some difficulties in South America, a further reduced company visited its principal ports and then arrived in New York City in December 1878. Bailey used the proceeds from his extended overseas tour to purchase the Howes’ Great London Circus and fielded the best-equipped show in the country for the 1879 season, complete with electric lights and advertising that puffed the show’s overseas adventures.110 A spectacular four-sheet poster produced that year depicted the route of the tour and overlaid the show’s myriad attractions on a brightly colored globe. The poster reflected the enormous size of the contemporary railroad American circus, and the burgeoning globalization of U.S. mass culture.

The 1876-78 Cooper, Bailey, & Co.’s Great International Allied Shows’ tour represented the apogee of the transnational history of the early American circus. Over the preceding half-century, American showmen had transformed the circus and re-exported it to the world. Donald Sassoon postulated that the United States became a powerful exporter of culture because from the beginning “the production of culture was seen as an industrial enterprise” and a vast and diverse domestic market ensured that U.S. cultural forms were both scaled and tested for global consumption.111 This observation certainly rings true in terms of the circus industry in the United States, which absorbed manifold influences and developed in an innovative fashion guided by the demands of a geographically dispersed and diverse audience. The itinerant mode and exceptional capitalization of American circuses ensured that shows were well prepared to circulate abroad and these travels threw into sharp relief what was distinctive about the American circus.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the larger transnational circus business was its dynamism. At one moment it might serve as a forum for cultural exchange, at another a channel for cultural nationalism. Ultimately, the extraordinary development of the circus in the United States over the course of the nineteenth century and the progressively ambitious efforts of American showmen abroad influence popular entertainment around the globe and prefigured the ascendance of U.S. mass culture in the twentieth century.

© Bard Graduate Center, Matthew Wittmann.

1.Peter Benes, “Itinerant Entertainers in New England and New York, 1687-1830,” in Itinerancy in New England and New York (Boston: Boston University, 1986), 112-30; Richardson Wright, Hawkers and Walkers in Early America (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1927).

2.Theater was the most established form of entertainment in the United States at the turn of the nineteenth century, but here again plays and talent were generally imported. Hugh F. Rankin, The Theater in Colonial America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1965); Don B. Wilmeth and C. W. E. Bigsby, eds., The Cambridge History of American Theatre, Volume One: Beginnings to 1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

3.James S. Moy, “Entertainments at John B. Ricketts’s Circus, 1793-1800,” Educational Theater Journal 30, no. 2 (May 1978), 186-202. Durang was a versatile performer and celebrated dancer whose memoir provides a vivid picture of Ricketts and the early circus in the U.S. Alan Seymour Downer, ed., The Memoir of John Durang, American Actor, 1785-1816 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1966).

4.Of course surnames and the wide use of pseudonyms in the circus meant that names were often adopted by entrepreneurial design rather than by actual birth, but enough is known about the more prominent performers to establish that there was a diverse mix of nationalities involved. See William L. Slout, Olympians of the Sawdust Circle: A Biographical Dictionary of the Nineteenth-Century American Circus (San Bernardino, CA: Borgo Press, 1998).

5.For the authoritative account of the activities of Ricketts, Lailson, and other early American circuses, see Stuart Thayer, Annals of the American Circus, 1860 (Seattle: Dauven and Thayer, 2001). Also see R. W. G. Vail, Random Notes on the History of the Early American Circus (Worcester, MA: American Antiquarian Society, 1934). T. Alston Brown published an occasionally erroneous but still useful serialized history of the American circus in the New York Clipper between Dec. 20, 1860 and Feb. 9, 1861, “A Complete History of the Amphitheatre and Circus from Its Earliest Date to 1861,” edited and republished by William L. Slout as Amphitheatres and Circuses: A History from Their Earliest Date to 1861, with Sketches of Some of the Principal Performers (San Bernardino, CA: Borgo Press, 1994).

6.Stuart Thayer, “Victor Pepin’s Genealogy,” Bandwagon 36, no. 3 (May-June 1992), 31.

7.Thayer, Annals, 19, 39-52.

8.Price was a well-to-do lawyer and the first noteworthy American theatrical producer. Edmund Simpson was a British actor who started as the stage manager at the Park Theatre in 1810 and by 1821 was its acting manager: Don B. Wilmeth, The Cambridge Guide to American Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

9.Joe Cowell, Thirty Years Passed among the Players in England and America (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1844), 64. As part of the deal, West was barred from opening a circus in the United States. He returned to London and used the proceeds to enter into a long-running partnership with the famed equestrian Andrew Ducrow at Astley’s Circus: A.H. Saxon, the Life and Art of Andrew Ducrow & the Romantic Age of the English Circus (Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1978)

10.Only the most skilled equestrians were able to perform the assorted poses and acrobatics that principal riding demanded bareback. More commonly performers used modified saddles or a riding pad, which afforded better footing and also allowed the more skilled riders to perform feats that would be difficult, if not impossible, to execute bareback. Stuart Thayer, The Performers: A History of Circus Acts (Seattle: Dauven and Thayer, 2005), 65-75.

11.This was hardly a surprising move for Price and Simpson given that they have generally been credited with establishing the “star system” in the United States, which centered on importing English talent for American tours: Simon Williams, “European Actors and the Star System in the American Theatre, 1752-1870,” in The Cambridge History of American Theatre, Volume One: Beginnings to1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 303-37.

12.Bancker’s New York Circus seems to have been the first to use the term, circus as a noun to designate the traveling troupe. In earlier usage of the term, circus referred to the building, with “equestrian company” or some like combination being used to describe the actual troupe. Thayer, Annals, 66.

13.Ibid., 95.

14.The only major European circus that subsequently attempted a full-fledged U.S. tour in the nineteenth century was directed by Thomas Taplin Cooke, scion of the famous English circus family. He arrived in 1836 with a large company of performers and after opening in New York, visited Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Judging by contemporary accounts, it was an impressive show, but a calamitous fire in Baltimore killed most of the horses and the deleterious effects of the Panic of 1837 doomed the venture. T. Allston Brown, Amphitheatres and Circuses, 9-11.

15.The “pavilion” was first advertised for a performance in Wilmington, Delaware in late November 1825, but it was not until the following spring that Brown and Bailey used it regularly: Thayer, Annals, 75-77.

16.See the essay by Fred Dahlinger, Jr. in this volume.

17.For the seminal studies of the relationship between early American vernacular and commercial cultural forms, see Constance Rourke, American Humor: A Study of the National Character (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1931); Roots of American Culture, and Other Essays (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1942).

18.For an excellent analysis of this dynamic in a theatrical context, see, Bruce A. McConachie, Melodramatic Formations: American Theatre and Society, 1820-1870 (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1992).

19.Richard W. Flint, “American Showmen and European Dealers: Commerce in Wild Animals in Nineteenth­ Century America,” in New Worlds, New Animals: From Menagerie to Zoological Park in the Nineteenth Century, ed. R. J. Hoage and William A. Deiss (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 97-108; Peter Benes, “To the Curious: Bird and Animal Exhibitions in New England, 1716-1825,” in New England’s Creatures, 1400-1900 (Boston: Boston University, 1995), 147-63; Brett Mizelle, ‘“I Have Brought My Pig to a Fine Market’: Animals, Their Exhibitors, and Market Culture in the Early Republic,” in Cultural Change and the Market Revolution in America, 1789-1860, ed. Scott C. Martin (Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield, 2005), 181-216; Terry Ariano, “Beasts and Ballyhoo, The Menagerie Men of Somers,” Bandwagon 49, no.1 (Jan.-Feb. 2005), 23-30.

20.Charles Grier Sellers, The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991); James W. Cook, “The Return of the Culture Industry,” in The Cultural Turn in U.S. History: Past, Present, and Future, ed. James W. Cook, Lawrence B. Glickman, and Michael O’Malley (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 291-317.

21.Richard W. Flint, “Entrepreneurial and Cultural Aspects of the Early-Nineteenth-Century Circus and Menagerie Business,” in Itinerancy in New England and New York, ed. Peter Benes (Boston: Boston University, 1986), 131-49; Terry Ariano, “Beasts and Ballyhoo.” In his early autobiography, Barnum implies that the Zoological Institute was something of a fraud, intended to dupe unwary investors. He derailed a competing bid by some “speculators” for the American Museum in 1841 by reminding the public of its failure. While there might be some truth to his claim, the Panic of 1837 had a devastating impact on the entertainment industry in general and this was undoubtedly the primary reason for its demise. Life of Barnum (New York: Redfield, 1855), 219-20.

22.In 1829, Charles Wright was the first American advertised as entering a cage with a lion: Stuart Thayer, “‘The Keeper Will Enter the Cage’: Early American Wild Animal Trainers,” Bandwagon 26, no. 6 (Nov.-Dec.1982), 38-40.

23.The details of Brown’s early career were gleaned from a fascinating newspaper interview given toward the end of his life: “The Oldest of Showmen,” New York Sun, July 6,1879, 5. Also, see Stuart Thayer, “The Oldest of Showmen: The Career of Benjamin F. Brown of Somers, New York,” Bandwagon 50, no. 5 (Sept.-Oct. 2006), 10-16.

24.Thayer, Annals, 90.

25.Richard W. Flint, “Rufus Welch: America’s Pioneer Circus Showman,” Bandwagon 50, no. 5 (Sept. Oct.1970), 4- 11. For a lively account of the tour as later related by Levi North, a young rider with the circus, to the press agent and historian Charles H. Day, see “The Eventful Career of Levi J. North,” New York Clipper, March 6,1880, 393.

26.Most of the source material for this account of the Brown brothers’ Caribbean tour was derived from papers in the Benjamin F. Brown Collection at the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan.

27.Apprentices were children or young adults who traveled with the show and were trained in the circus arts in a kind of indentured servitude. Becoming a successful performer required training from an early age and they were popular with managers because they were essentially unpaid labor and thus provided a cost effective way of filling out programs. A litany of great performers, including James Robinson, James Nixon, and Tony Pastor, were brought up in this manner after coming to the circus from broken homes or through being orphaned. Although apprentices gained valuable skills, because of their vulnerable position and the dangerous nature of the work, they were sometimes abused and the turnover rate was high. One of the more fascinating documents in the Benjamin F. Brown Collection is a contract signed in Barbados on July 28,1830, between Frederick Hoffmaster and B. F. Brown & Co. that ended his apprenticeship and enlisted him as a full-fledged member of the troupe. It stipulated a salary of thirty dollars per month, included board and laundry, and allotted him one-third of the gross profit from his benefits, which were performances set aside to honor and remunerate individual performers. On apprentices in general, see Thayer, The Performers, 15- 20.

28.“Contract between Robert Temple and Co. and Benjamin Brown for the transport of Brown’s circus from Paramaribo to Berbice,” Nov. 19, 1830, Benjamin F. Brown Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan.

29.Balloon ascensions were a novelty that provided circuses a way of generating publicity. Originating in France, Jean-Pierre Blanchard brought the practice of ballooning to the United States in 1793. On their use in the American circus, see Bob Parkinson, “Circus Balloon Ascensions,” Bandwagon 5, no. 2 (Sept.- Oct.1964), 3-6.

30.“Scene riding” was a staple of the nineteenth-century circus. The performer rode around the ring and went through various exercises as one of a number of stock characters, such as the Dying Moor, the Roman Gladiator, or the Indian Hunter: Thayer, The Performers, 47-51.

31.“Oldest of Showmen,” New York Sun.

32.Popularly known as “Billy Button’s Ride to Brentford,” this piece was first featured at Astley’s in the 1770s and remained a standard with the circus for well over a century: George Speaight, A History of the Circus (London: Tantivy Press, 1980), 24.

33.According to circus historian C. G. Sturtevant, “So great was the demand for the Yankee Circus for over a period of years nearly all performers of reputation accepted engagements during the winter with these shows for at least one trip .”When the American Circus Went Abroad,” White Tops 12 (Nov.-Dec.1939), 5.

34.O’Connell was an Irish sailor who was shipwrecked on the Pacific island of Ponphei in the late 1820s and acquired a full-body tattoo during his time as a castaway. He made his way to New York in 1832 and was among the first circus “ freaks”: A Residence of Eleven Years in New Holland and the Caroline Islands: Being the Adventures of James F. O’Connell, Edited from His Verbal Narration (Boston: B.B. Mussey, 1836).

35.This account of the tour of Cuba was derived from the memoirs of equestrian John H. Glenroy, who was an apprentice to Cadwalader. Glenroy subsequently made a representative southern or winter tour with a circus under the direction of Alvah Mann. A ship was charted for the company of fifteen performers, departing New York City in October 1843. Their extensive itinerary included week- or two-week-long visits to Suriname, Guyana, Demerara, Trinidad, Grenada, Barbados, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, St. Thomas, St. Croix, and Puerto Rico, returning to the United States in April 1844 in time for the summer season. John H. Glenroy (narrator) and Stephen Stanley Stanford (compiler), Ins and Outs of Circus Life, or, Forty-Two Years Travel of John H. Glenroy, Bareback Rider, through United States, Canada, South America and Cuba (Boston: M. M. Wing & Co., 1885), 43-53.

36.Raúl H. Castagnino, El Circa Criollo: Datos Y Documentos Para Su Historia, 1757-1924 (Buenos Aires: Lajouane, 1953), 25-28.

37.Flint, “Rufus Welch,” 6- 7.

38.“Oldest of Showmen”, New York Sun

39.Dale Cockrell, ed. Excelsior: Journals of the Hutchinson Family Singers (Stuyvesant: Pendragon Press, 1989); W.T. Lhamon, Jump Jim Crow: Lost Plays, Lyrics, and Street Prose of the First Atlantic Popular Culture (Boston: Harvard University Press, 2003); James W. Cook, ed. The Colossal P. T. Barnum Reader (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005); Sarah Meer, Uncle Tom Mania: Slavery, Minstrelsy, and Transatlantic Culture in the 1850s (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2005).

40.George Speaight credited two Catabaw “Indian Chiefs” that appeared at Astley’s in 1796 as the first American performers in a European circus. He also noted that the first “white American circus artiste” was likely a woman who rode with William Southby’s circus company in Spain in1816. As there are doubts about whether a Mr. Blackmore who performed at Astley’s as the “young American,” was indeed from the United States, credit for the first American performer to receive star billing in Britain goes to equestrian Benjamin Stickney, who debuted at Astley’s in September 1830: Speaight, History of the Circus, 103-4.

41.Day, “The Eventful Career of Levi J. North.” Speaight, History of the Circus, 54.

42.Thayer, The Performers, 25-30. Also see Steven Gossard, “Frank Gardner and the Great Leapers,” Bandwagon 34, no. 4 (July-Aug: 1990), 12- 25.

43.The letter, dated July 18 and addressed to his parents, was printed in the Baltimore Sun, Sept. 4, 1838. Other details about Blackburn and North’s adventures abroad were culled from a serialized article that appeared in the New York Clipper in February1879 under the elaborate heading:” A Clown’s Log, Extracts from the Diary of the Late Joseph Blackburn, Chronicling Incidents of Travel with Circuses in the United States and England Forty Years Ago, with His Opinions of and Allusions to Professionals of the Period.” The circus agent and historian Charles H. Day compiled and added commentary to excerpts that were taken from eleven “passbooks” written in pencil by Blackburn that were then in Levi North’s possession. Although the originals have been lost, Day’s series was usefully collected and republished with additional material and commentary by William L. Slout as Joe Blackburn’s A Clown’s Log (San Bernardino, CA: Bargo Press, 1993).

44.Part of the appeal of the display was alluded to elsewhere in Blackburn’s letter, when he noted that it inspired “pretty heavy betting all over the house every night.”

45.The (London) Times, June 5, 1839, quoted in Speaight, History of the Circus, 64. When North returned to the United States in 1840, he commanded the unheard-of salary of 350 dollars a week with Welch & Mann’s Circus: Thayer, Annals, 189.

46.Day, “The Eventful Career of Levi J. North.”

47.Hyatt Frost, A Biographical Sketch of I. A. Van Amburgh: And an Illustrated and Descriptive History of the Animals Contained in this Mammoth Menagerie and Great Moral Exhibition (New York: Samuel Booth, 1862); Joanne Joys, The Wild Animal Trainer in America (Boulder, CO: Pruett, 1983) and Joanne Joys, ”The Wild Things,” PhD diss., Bowling Green University, 2011.

48.The (London) Times, Aug. 24, 1838; Bell’s Life (London), Aug. 26, 1838.

49.Quoted in George Rowell, Queen Victoria Goes to the Theatre (London: P. Elek, 1978), 4.

50.Stanley Weintraub, Victorian Yankees at Queen Victoria’s Court: American Encounters with Victoria and Albert (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2011), 18-22.

51.Le Figaro, Aug. 22, 1839;” Van Amburgh in Paris,” Spirit of the Times, Sept. 28, 1839, 360.

52.Among other things, Brown’s wife described him as a “a perfect boor in society”: “Oldest of Showmen,” New York Sun, 5.

53.Liverpool Mercury, Marc h 8, 1842, quoted in Speaight, History of the Circus, 43. While tents had traditionally been used by itinerant entertainers and on fairgrounds, Speaight notes that this was the first “substantial use of a tent for circuses in England”.

54.Quoted in Philip F. Gura and James F. Bollman, America’s Instrument: The Banjo in the Nineteenth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 35. On the intersection of blackface minstrelsy and the circus in the United States, see Stuart Thayer, “The Circus Roots of Negro Minstrelsy,” Bandwagon 40, no. 6 (Nov.- Dec.1996), 43-45.

55.Michael Pickering, Blackface Minstrelsy in Britain (Aldershot, England and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008). Also see the essay by Brenda Assael in this volume.

56.This poster was one of several that Sands simply had the New York firm G. & W. Endicott reprint when he returned to the United States. It was originally produced by G. Webb and Co., Lith. in London for the spectacle The Desert; or, the Imaun’s Daughter, which was performed at Drury Lane in 1847 and featured the circus of Edwin Hughes. A.H. Saxon, Enter Foot and Horse: A History of Hippodrama in England and France (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968), 110-11.

57.Spirit of the Times, July 26, 1845, 250.

58.The occasion was commemorated in a well-known print by Nathaniel Currier.

59.The American circus parade further expanded in the 1860s and 1870s when Seth B. Howes returned from his British tours with even larger and more ornate tableau wagons. Stuart Thayer, “Parade Wagons 1847,” Bandwagon 42, no. 2 (March - April 1998), 2-3. George Speaight, “The Origin of the Circus Parade Wagon,” Bandwagon 21, no. 6 (Nov.-Dec.1977), 37-39; Richard E. Conover, “The European Influence on the American Circus Parade,” Bandwagon 5, no. 4 (Jul.- Aug.1961), 3-9; Fred Dahlinger, Jr., ”The Barnum & London New York Tableaus,” Bandwagon 30, no.1 (Jan.-Feb., 1986), 26-28.

60.Louis E. Cooke, “Reminiscences of a Showman,” Newark Evening Star, Oct. 28,1915, 12; Flint, “Rufus Welch,” 6-7.

61.Speaight, History of the Circus, 103-8.

62.The Era (London), May 3, 1857, 10.

63.David Fitzroy, Myers’ American Circus (Prestwich: D.Fitzroy, 2002); Thomas Frost, Circus Life and Circus Celebrities (London: Chatto and Windus, 1881), 204-5; Sturtevant, “When the American Circus Went Abroad,” 4.

64.Albert Dressler, ed., California’s Pioneer Circus: Memoirs and Personal Correspondence Relative to the Circus Business through the Gold Country in the 50’s (San Francisco: H.S. Crocker, 1926), 1-6.

65.On the early amusement business in San Francisco, see George Rupert MacMinn , The Theater of the Golden Era in California (Caldwell, ID: Caxton, 1941); Helene Koon, Gold Rush Performers: A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Singers, Dancers, Musicians, Circus Performers and Minstrel Players in America’s FarWest,1848 to 1869 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1994).

66.Alta California (San Francisco), Nov. 1, 1849.

67.Foley claimed he could not live on a salary of 1200 dollars a month. While this might sound like exaggeration, the Gold Rush prices of goods and services in San Francisco were wildly out of control. Rowe was able to charge three dollars for a ticket that anywhere else in the United States would have cost twenty-five cents: Lawrence Estevan, ed., San Francisco Theatre Research 1 (1938), 85- 86. For comparison, the two leading actors in a dramatic company in Sacramento at the time were receiving 275 dollars a week: John H. McCabe, “Historical Essay on the Drama in California,” in First Annual of the Territorial Pioneers (San Francisco: W.M. Hinton & Co., 1877), 73-76.

68.MacMinn, Theater of the Golden Era, 474.

69.“Rowe’s Olympic Circus,” Jan. 10, 1851, Broadside Collection, M-485, Hawai’i State Archives.

70.Helen P. Hoyt, “Theatre in Hawaii - 1778-1840,” Annual Report of the Hawaiian Historical Society (1960). 7- 18; on debates about popular entertainments in Honolulu, also see Gavan Daws, Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands (New York: Macmillan, 1968), 162-67.

71.The king was Kamehameha III (1813- 1854) while Alex (Alexander Liholiho), Lot (Lot Kapauaiwa), and Bill (William Lunalilo) were respectively the next three rulers of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Emma married Alexander Liholiho and was queen from 1856 to 1863 during his reign as Kamehameha IV (1854-63).

72.Privy Council, Aug. 29, 1852, Hawai’i State Archives.

73.Alta California, (San Francisco), March 31, 1851, 5.

74.Rowe’s Olympic Circus,” Jan. 14 , March 6 and 21, 1851, Broadside Collection , M-485, Hawai’i State Archives. Emma Rooke’s notations quoted from Jan.14 and March 21.

75.Dressler, California’s Pioneer Circus, 13.

76.“Rowe’s Olympic Circus, “Dec. 6, 1851, Broadside Collection, M-485, Hawai’i State Archives.

77.Polynesian, Dec. 13, 1851.

78.J. A. Rowe to John Center, Feb. 7,1858, republished in Dressler, California’s Pioneer Circus, 92-93.

79.New Zealander (Auckland), March 24, 27 and April 17, 1852.

80.Although circuses had been seen elsewhere in Australia, Noble was “the originator of circus entertainments in Victoria”: Mark St. Leon, The Circus in Australia: Its Origins and Development to1856, vol.1 of The Circus in Australia (Penshurst, NSW: Mark St. Leon, 2005), 208. For a valuable general history on the subject, see Mark St. Leon, Spangles & Sawdust: The Circus in Australia (Richmond: Greenhouse Publications, 1983). On Melbourne’s spectacular growth see Jill Roe, Marvellous Melbourne: The Emergence of an Australian City (Sydney: Hicks Smith & Sons, 1974).

81.Argus, June 3, 9, and 28, 1852; E. Daniel Potts and Annette Potts, Young America and Australian Gold: Americans and the Gold Rush of the1850s (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1974). 148-49. It is unclear whether Noble and Rowe came to some sort of agreement or if he was simply unwilling or unable to compete with the new circus, but Noble’s company departed a few weeks after Rowe’s arrival.

82.Argus, June 29, 1852

83.Ibid., July 9, 1853, and Nov. 14, 1853.

84.It was known as the “The Crystal Palace Refreshment Saloon.” Argus, Aug. 8, 1853.

85.Foley refitted a venue known as Salle de Valentino and opened there on July 3. After a promising start, business slackened and Foley took his company to the gold diggings. Argus, July 3, 4, and Aug. 5, 1854.

86.Potts and Potts, Young America and Australian Gold, 149; Dressler, California’s Pioneer Circus, 21-22.

87.Argus, Oct.14, 1854. Rowe did not bring any new circus performers back from as planned, but the actors Edwin Booth, David Anderson, and Laura Keene arrived on the same vessel, which suggests that word of lucrative opportunities in Melbourne were circulating in the entertainment world. Ibid., Oct. 16, 1854.

88.Dressler, California’s Pioneer Circus, 15.

89.Rowe prohibited smoking and employed a “strong body of police” to deal with disturbances. Lieutenant­ Governor Charles La Trobe attended the circus soon after it opened and the Argus announced that it was “pleased to see entertainments of this nature conducted in such a manner that His Excellency and the better classes of society can patronize them.” Quoted in Estevan, San Francisco Theatre Research, 1 (1938), 96.

90.When Chiarini’s Circus, for whom Rowe had been working as an agent, abruptly discharged and stranded him in Melbourne years later, a weekly paper published an appeal for funds, noting, “When it is remembered that with one exception Mr. Rowe contributed the largest sum ever given by any single individual to the Melbourne Hospital, it will be confessed that he has some preferent claim upon the public of this metropolis.” Australasian, June 28, 1873.

91.Rowe came out of retirement in1856 and formed a new circus in an attempt to recreate his earlier success in California and across the Pacific. He followed the same route as before, but the venture foundered in Australia. For more about Rowe and other U.S. entertainers that toured around the nineteenth­century Pacific, see Matthew Wittmann, “Empire of Culture: U.S. Entertainers and the Making of the Pacific Circuit,” PhD diss., University of Michigan, 2010. On American circuses in Australia specifically, see Mark St. Leon, The American Century, 1851-1950, vol. 3 of The Circus in Australia (Penshurst, NSW: Mark St. Leon, 2007), 215-38.

92.Risley was part of the aforementioned company that Alvah Mann took on a winter Caribbean tour in 1843 (see note 35). In 1844 a correspondent to the Spirit of the Times noted that it was “somewhat singular that the two most popular objects of attraction in England at the present moment are American … namely, the beautiful and classical performances of the Risley’s” and “the tiny but symmetrical and interesting Tom Thumb.” April 27, 1844, 100.

93.Translated by and quoted in Marian Hannah Winter, “Theatre of Marvels,” Dance Index 7, nos.1-2 (Jan.-Feb. 1948), 26-28.

94.Risley was an inveterate gambler and made and lost several fortunes over the course of his career. The Era (London), June 21,1874,12; Aya Mihara and Stuart Thayer, “Richard Risley Carlisle, Man in Motion,” Bandwagon 41, no.1 (Jan.-Feb.1997), 12-14.

95.Thayer, Annals, 385.

96.Pacific Commercial Advertiser (Honolulu), Nov. 26 and Dec. 17, 1857, Jan. 7, 1858.

97.Daily Southern Cross (Auckland), May 11, 1858, 3; Argus (Melbourne), Oct. 12, 1858, 5.

98.Japan Herald, March 24, 1864.

99.Japan Times Daily Advertiser, Oct. 3, 1865; Mihara and Thayer, “Richard Risley Carlisle,”14.

100.The Cirque American was a large and talented company organized by several prominent American showman to take advantage of the crowds at the World’s Fair in Paris. Difficulties with local authorities prevented them from erecting a planned wood and iron pavilion on the Champs-Élysées, but they were able to perform at the Théâtre du Prince Impériale. Star equestrian James Robinson wrote a letter to the agent Frank Rivers that declared: “I am now able to let you know what the Frenchmen think of an American circus. They are stunned, although they dislike to own it.” New York Clipper, June 22, 1867, 86; William L. Slout, “The Recycling of the Dan Rice Paris Pavilion Circus,” Bandwagon 42, no. 3 (May- June 1998), 13- 21.

101.George Fischer filed a lawsuit against the other involved parties in March 1868. The court proceedings revealed that the troupe made over 100,000 dollars in just over fourteen months: New York Herald, March 12, 1868, 8; New York Clipper, March 21, 1868, 398. Aya Mihara has published a series of articles documenting the tour, including a fascinating translation of a diary kept by one of the performers: “Professor Risley and Japanese Acrobats: Selections from the Diary of Hirohachi Takana,” Nineteenth Century Theatre 18, nos.1-2 (1990), 62-74. On the “international scramble,” see David C. Sissons, “Japanese Acrobatic Troupes Touring Australasia, 1867- 1900,” Australasian Drama Studies 35 (Oct.1999), 73-107.

102.William L. Stout, Clowns and Cannons: The American Circus during the Civil War (San Bernardino, CA: Bargo Press, 1997).

103.Janet M. Davis, The Circus Age: Culture and Society under the American Big Top (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002).

104.W. G. Crowley (compiler), Route of Cooper, Bailey & Co’s Great International, Ten Allied Shows in One, During the Season of 1876 (San Francisco: Francis & Valentin, Printers, 1876).

105.Davis, Circus Age, 12.

106.Joseph T. McCaddon, Bailey’s brother-in-law, was the wardrobe manager on the Australian tour and later wrote an unpublished biography about him that included a detailed account of the tour: McCaddon ms., 14, Joseph T. McCaddon Collection, Bridgeport (CT) Public Library. For a full account of the Australian tour, see Mark St. Leon, “Cooper, Bailey & Co. Great International Allied Shows: The Australian Tours, 1876-78,” Bandwagon 36, nos. 5- 6 (Sept.-Oct. and Nov.-Dec.1992 ), 17-30 and 36-47.

107.Crowley went on to claim, “When these things appeared, the police had to clear the sidewalks because the people stopped to gaze at them so much.” New York Clipper, Jan. 27, 1877, 351.

108.“Cash book, Cooper and Bailey, Australia and South America tours, 1876-1877-1878,” McCaddon Collection of the Barnum and Bailey Circus, box 45, folder 8; Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

109.While much of the property, animals, and personnel was sent to winter quarters in Sydney, a small company under the sideshow manager George Middleton planned to tour through the Far East and India, but turned back after poor business and illness in the Dutch East Indies. W.G. Crowley (compiler), The Australian Tour of Cooper, Bailey & Co’s Great International Allied Shows (Brisbane: Thorne & Greenwell, 1877); George Middleton, Circus Memoirs: Reminiscences of George Middleton as Told to and Written by His Wife (Los Angeles: G. Rice & Sonsa, 1913), 40-41.

110.New York Clipper, Dec. 21, 1878, 31. Bailey’s only real rival by 1880 was P. T. Barnum’s Greatest Show on Earth, but after just one season of competition the two men agreed to combine their operations. Interestingly enough, their original plan was not to combine the shows, but to simultaneously operate one circus in the United States and another abroad. William L. Slout, A Royal Coupling: The Historic Marriage of Barnum and Bailey (San Bernardino, CA: Bargo Press, 2000), 205-8.

111.Sassoon argues that “the US domestic-consumer base was already culturally fragmented in a way that approximated the global one (126).” “On Cultural Markets,” New Left Review 17 (Sept.- Oct. 2002), 114.