Highlights from Ringling Circus Museum in Sarasota, FL

Community Highlights North America Highlights from Ringling Circus Museum in Sarasota, FL

The Circus Museum, established in 1948, is the first museum of its kind to document the history of the circus; I felt the museum was far too static and boring in documenting what is a form of entertainment - they needed more video and interactive elements

The Circus Museum, established in 1948, is the first museum of its kind to document the history of the circus; I felt the museum was far too static and boring in documenting what is a form of entertainment - they needed more video and interactive elements

These boots (1880) belonged to General Tom Thumb, who was an American dwarf who achieved great fame as a performer under pioneer P. T. Barnum; Thumb, who was almost 10 lbs at birth, was born to parents who were cousins and grew to only be 3 ft 4 in tall

These boots (1880) belonged to General Tom Thumb, who was an American dwarf who achieved great fame as a performer under pioneer P. T. Barnum; Thumb, who was almost 10 lbs at birth, was born to parents who were cousins and grew to only be 3 ft 4 in tall

John Ringling owned a private railroad car and used it from 1905 to 1917 to travel with his circus, take vacations, and conduct business trips; he named it after his home state of Wisconsin although it was later renamed the Carolina and used as a fishing lodge

John Ringling owned a private railroad car and used it from 1905 to 1917 to travel with his circus, take vacations, and conduct business trips; he named it after his home state of Wisconsin although it was later renamed the Carolina and used as a fishing lodge

The Wisconsin was among the highlights and I can still remember as a child when the circus train would come to Greensboro; the animals would have a procession from the downtown train station to the coliseum

The Wisconsin was among the highlights and I can still remember as a child when the circus train would come to Greensboro; the animals would have a procession from the downtown train station to the coliseum

When NYC banned wooden train cars from its tunnels, Ringling decided to sell the Wisconsin; a $417,240 federal grant awarded to the FL Dept of Transportation helped pay for the restoration of the exterior while an anonymous $100,000 covered the interior

When NYC banned wooden train cars from its tunnels, Ringling decided to sell the Wisconsin; a $417,240 federal grant awarded to the FL Dept of Transportation helped pay for the restoration of the exterior while an anonymous $100,000 covered the interior

The Pullman Company built the Wisconsin, using many recycled parts, and sold it to Ringling for only $11,325; prior to coming to this museum, it was owned and housed at the NC Transportation Museum in Spencer, NC

The Pullman Company built the Wisconsin, using many recycled parts, and sold it to Ringling for only $11,325; prior to coming to this museum, it was owned and housed at the NC Transportation Museum in Spencer, NC

Ringling Brothers merged with Barnum and Bailey in 1919 and operated until 2017; in 1967, Houston Judge Roy Hofheinz bought the circus before selling it to Mattel in 1971 and then buying it back in 1981 shortly before his death the following year

Ringling Brothers merged with Barnum and Bailey in 1919 and operated until 2017; in 1967, Houston Judge Roy Hofheinz bought the circus before selling it to Mattel in 1971 and then buying it back in 1981 shortly before his death the following year

This beautifully carved and painted Orchestral Band Organ, made by the Wurlitzer Company (ca. 1920), was a mainstay of carousels; the instrument has 164 wooden pipes and 16 bell bars as well as percussion instruments to add contrast

This beautifully carved and painted Orchestral Band Organ, made by the Wurlitzer Company (ca. 1920), was a mainstay of carousels; the instrument has 164 wooden pipes and 16 bell bars as well as percussion instruments to add contrast

The biggest highlight was the 3,800 sq ft Howard Bros. Circus Model, a 44,000-piece re-creation (at a scale of 3/4 inch to the foot!) of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey® Circus; Howard Tibbals has worked on this for 50  yrs

The biggest highlight was the 3,800 sq ft Howard Bros. Circus Model, a 44,000-piece re-creation (at a scale of 3/4 inch to the foot!) of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey® Circus; Howard Tibbals has worked on this for 50+ yrs

The first American circus street parade was held in Philadelphia in 1797; the parade was the most visible part of the circus' advertising campaign letting locals know the circus had come to town; the largest big top could seat 15,000

The first American circus street parade was held in Philadelphia in 1797; the parade was the most visible part of the circus' advertising campaign letting locals know the circus had come to town; the largest big top could seat 15,000+

Howard Tibbals, in his 3-ring miniature circus, captures every element of the experience; the Gilded Age circus typically traveled with 1300  workers and performers and 800  animals visiting 150 cities covering 15,000 miles annually

Howard Tibbals, in his 3-ring miniature circus, captures every element of the experience; the Gilded Age circus typically traveled with 1300+ workers and performers and 800+ animals visiting 150 cities covering 15,000 miles annually

There was an interesting video featuring Howard Tibbals and his wife Janice which described his fascination with the circus and why he's spent most of his life building this amazing miniature circus

There was an interesting video featuring Howard Tibbals and his wife Janice which described his fascination with the circus and why he's spent most of his life building this amazing miniature circus

This hand-colored engraving, ca 1806, depicts people seen as curiosities in the early 19th century; traveling in 'freak shows,' the performers were used to being stared at and were at least able to get paid by a society less informed than that of today

This hand-colored engraving, ca 1806, depicts people seen as curiosities in the early 19th century; traveling in 'freak shows,' the performers were used to being stared at and were at least able to get paid by a society less informed than that of today

An engraving, ca 1830, shows Chang   Eng Bunker who toured as the first famous Siamese twins; they became wealthy touring on their notoriety, married a pair of sisters and had 21 children; they died at 62 (a record not broken until 2012) just 2 hours apart

An engraving, ca 1830, shows Chang + Eng Bunker who toured as the first famous Siamese twins; they became wealthy touring on their notoriety, married a pair of sisters and had 21 children; they died at 62 (a record not broken until 2012) just 2 hours apart

Mademoiselle Lefort, the famous bearded lady, is depicted here in an engraving by RS Kirby, ca 1819; Frenchwoman Lefort came to profit off society's fascination with a body that did not conform to the stereotypical norms of the day

Mademoiselle Lefort, the famous bearded lady, is depicted here in an engraving by RS Kirby, ca 1819; Frenchwoman Lefort came to profit off society's fascination with a body that did not conform to the stereotypical norms of the day

This cannon would shoot daring performers through the air; the museum featured many 19th and early 20th century posters and props used by performers as well as a large collection of circus literature that included newspaper clippings dating as far back as 1816

This cannon would shoot daring performers through the air; the museum featured many 19th and early 20th century posters and props used by performers as well as a large collection of circus literature that included newspaper clippings dating as far back as 1816

Built in 1911, this ticket wagon would sell 10,000  general admission tickets on a typical day; in 1927, Ringling made Sarasota the winter home for the circus (in addition to his home) so much of the circus entourage also settled in the area

Built in 1911, this ticket wagon would sell 10,000+ general admission tickets on a typical day; in 1927, Ringling made Sarasota the winter home for the circus (in addition to his home) so much of the circus entourage also settled in the area

This featured blog entry was written by VagabondCowboy from the blog The frugal travels of a vagabond.
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By VagabondCowboy

Posted Tue, Dec 26, 2023 | Comments