The Ringling Circus Museum (Florida State University)

Courier Co., Ringling Brothers: Giant Giraffes, 1903, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. RINGLING BROS. AND BARNUM & BAILEY™ image courtesy of Feld Entertainment, Inc. RINGLING BROS.® and THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH® are owned and used by permission of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows, Inc.

The Ringling Circus Museum, Florida State University, (Circus Museum) has contributed approximately 4,800 images of posters and photographs from their collection to the Artstor Digital Library.

The Circus Museum includes a range of memorabilia and objects related to the history of the circus in America. Performing props, meticulously crafted wardrobe pieces, and historic equipment comprise part of the artifact collection. The earliest archival materials include 18th and 19th century prints of circus related performances, personages, and wardrobe designs. Advertising posters, from the mid-19th century to today, illustrate both the changes in marketing tactics and the evolving art of commercial lithography and offset printing. The collection also includes circus photography, notably the works of Frederick W. Glasier and Edward Kelty.

John Ringling (1866 – 1936), leader of the family that started the Ringling Bros. Circus in 1884, first arrived in Sarasota, Florida in 1909. In 1926, John and his wife Mable completed their home, Ca'd'Zan, and in 1931 they opened The Ringling Museum of Art. Established in 1948 on the grounds of the Ringling estate, the Circus Museum was the first to document the rich history of the American circus. The initiative was not Ringling’s but A. Everett “Chick” Austin Jr.’s, The Ringling Museum’s first Director.

For related collections in Artstor, see The Ringling Museum of Art (Florida State University) and the Ringling Theatre Collection (University of Florida)