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Reference - information on performers, staff, circuses

Slout, William L. Olympians of the Sawdust Circle. 1998. Biographical Dictionary of the 19th Century Circus, over 6,000 entries, premier biographical source for circuses and people. A valuable tool for circus historians and genealogists. Online on this website, click on our Virtual Library.

Parkinson, Robert L. Directory of American Circuses 1793-2000. Baraboo, Wisconsin: Circus World Museum, 2002. Parkinson worked on this volume for over 35 years, a result of the author’s interest in circus route books and just about anything circus. An important reference work.

Thayer, Stuart. Annals of the American Circus, 1793-1860.. The 3 volume edition is available for $55 postpaid from Stuart Thayer, 430 17th Ave. East, Seattle, WA 98112. Thayer's work is a comprehensive history of the American circus in the 1800s. He was painstakingly thorough, examining the existing soures, primarily newspaper advertising, editorials and reprots. His appendices list in chronologic order an encyclopedia of circuses and menageries, including rosters and routes, an invaluable reference for circus history.

Coxe, Antony Hippisley. A Seat at the Circus. An analysis of every imaginable circus act with historical background for each. In discussing the performance the author goes back to the 18th century and the origins of the modern circus and across every continent to trace the development of everything from aerial acts to zebra training. An update of Coxe's 1951 publication, see below. (Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1980)

Ogden, Tom. Two Hundred Years of the American Circus: From Aba-Daba to the Zoppe-Zavatta Troupe, Facts on File, 1993. An encyclopedic work, an reference for the circus fan or researcher.

Chindahl, George L. A History of the Circus in America. Caldwell, ID: Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1959. Also includes lists of circuses, circus acts and publications.

St Leon, Mark. Circus in Australia, the American Century 1851-1950. St Leon's third volume in his project to document the history of circus in Australia. Chronicles the history of interaction between the circus of Australia and that of the United States of America: Australian (and New Zealand) tours by American circus companies, American circus people who pursued careers in Australian circus, American tours by Australian circus companies, Australian circus people who pursued careers in American circus. Annotated, indexed, illustrated. Limited edition. More information. (Scroll down for the American Century information.)

St. Leon, Mark. Circus in Australia, Printed Ephemera, 1833-2007. St. Leon's project to document the history of circus in Australia. A collection of items of printed ephemera, about 200 images, that chronicle and summarise the history of Australian circus. Reproductions of images of Posters, Advertisements, Program covers, Handbills, Tickets, Letterheads, Business cards, Medals, tombstones. Describes Australia’s circus history within Australia. A number of images describe the activities of Australians overseas. Limited edition. St. Leon's website

St. Leon, Mark. Circus in Australia, May Wirth, The Bareback Queen. Biography of one of Australia’s finest contributions to the annals of international circus, the great bareback rider, May Wirth. Limited edition. St. Leon's website

St. Leon, Mark. Circus in Australia, An Index of Show Movements 1833-1969. A reference work for performing arts research, genealogy, local and economic history. Chronological listing of over 9,000 show movements (organised by date, location and name) over a period of 137 years, from 1833 to 1969, mostly throughout Australia and New Zealand, but also some other parts of the world. The majority of entries are 1850-1914, the golden age of the travelling show. More information

St. Leon, Mark. Circus: The Australian Story, was published by Melbourne Books in May 2011. Author Mark St. Leon presents a comprehensive, entertaining and visually stunning history of circus in Australia. His interest was sparked by his insatiable curiosity about his own family's celebrated past in Australian circus. Read how a colonial circus industry developed out of its own Old World roots; how the saga of circus is woven into the historical fabric of modern Australia; how circus in Australia absorbed influences from as far afield as America, Japan and Europe; how Australia has been visited by some of the world's major circus companies; and how Australia's circus people have coped with unrelenting social, cultural, technological and economic change. Also how Australia has been a significant developer and exporter of circus talent. The 'world's greatest bareback rider' May Wirth and the Indigenous wire walker Con Colleano although forgotten in Australia are regarded internationally as among the finest circus artists of modern times. The author shows how circus in Australia today, in both its traditional and comtemporary genres, is the outcome of a continuum that extends, not only over some 175 years of modern Australia's histoy, but back to its London, medieval and ancient roots. For ordering information contact Mark St. Leon, [Note: Mark is a CHS member.]

Toole-Stott, Raymond. Circus and Allied Arts: A World Bibliography. 4 volumes (5th a typescript at U. of California at Santa Barbara). Derby, England: Harput & Sons, 1958-71.

Saxon, A. H. Circus Language, A Glossary of Circus Terms, Fairfield, CT: Jumbo Press, 2000. 36 page pamphlet, concise but comprehensive.

Wilmeth, Don B. American and English Popular Entertainment: A Guide to Information Sources. A reference work that lists and often annotated almost 2,500 articles, books, periodicals and collections dealing with all aspects of popular entertainment from Tom shows to carnival, brulesque to showboats and circuses. The best bibliography since Raymond Toole-Stott's. Wilmeth includes references that Toole-Stott did not provide. (Detroit, MI: Gale Research Co., 1980)

Early History

Barnum, P. T. Circus Life and Celebrities. Struggles and Triumphs. The autobiography of this famous man and the story of his circuses. Several editions. Currently out of print.

Brown, T. Allston. Amphitheatres and Circuses: A History From Their Earliest Date to 1861, edited by William L. Slout. 1994.

Brown, T. Allston, History of the American Stage, New York: Dick & Fitzgerald, 1870. Show business biographies from 1753 to 1870. Out of print.

Chindahl, George L. A History of the Circus in America. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1959.

Dahlinger, Fred, Jr. & Thayer, Stuart L. Badger State Showmen: A History of Wisconsin's Circus Heritage. 1998.

Daniel, Noel (editor), The Circus: 1870-1950, Taschen, 2008. Brings to life the grit and glamour of the circus. Readers can experience the legend of the American circus in all its glory.

Day, Charles H. Ink From a Circus Press Agent: An Anthology of Circus History From the Pen of Charles H. Day, edited by William L. Slout. San Bernardino, CA: Borgo Press, 1995. Collection of Charles H. Day's recollections of circus life in the 19th century.

Durant, John & Durant, Alice. Pictorial History of the American Circus. New York: A. S. Barnes and Co., 1957.

Fox, Charles Philip. America's Great Circus Parade: Its Roots, Its Revival, Its Revelry. 1993.

Fox, Charles Philip & Parkinson, Tom. The Circus in America. Santa Monica, California: Hennessey & Ingalls, 2002 reprint. Originally published in 1969. Ten years in the making, the history of the circus captivated in 288 pages. The development of the circus portrays the change from yesterday's "mud shows" to today's mobile big top.

Frost, Thomas. Circus Life and Celebrities, Chatto and Windus, London, 1881). A very complete history of the early English circus. Out of print.

Hoh, La Vahn G. & Rough, William H. Step Right Up! The Adventure of Circus in America. Whitehall, Virginia: Betterway Publications, 1990. Provides insiqhtful information and photographs, based on personal interviews and research.

Jensen, Dean. Biggest, the Smallest, the Longest, the Shortest: A Chronical of the American Circus From Its Heartland. 1975.

King, Orin Copple. Only Big Show Coming. Philadelphia, PA: Xlibris Publications. Mr. King had long labored over its contents through his life long research which was regularly published in articles in Bandwagon, Journal of the Circus Historical Society. Following Orin’s death, his widow published this enlarged version covering circus & Wild West performances in Kansas during the period 1853—1878.

Koon, Helene Wickham, Gold Rush Performers: A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Singers, Dancers, Musicians, Circus Performers and Minstrel Players in America's Far West, McFarland & Company,1994.

Kunzog, John C. Tanbark and Tinsel: A Galaxy of Glittering Gems from the Dazzling Diadem of Circus History. Jamestown, New York: author, 1970.

May, Earl Chapin, The Circus from Rome to Ringling, New York: Dover publications, 1963.

Nelson, Hilda. The Ecuyere of the Nineteenth Century in the Circus. Cleveland Heights, Ohio: Xenophon Press. Careers of prominent Lady riders and four contemporary performers.

Reynolds, Chang. Pioneer circuses of the West, Los Angeles, CA: Westernlore Press, 1966. The arrival of Joseph Andrew Rowe Olympic Circus in San Francisco in 1849 and the invasion of the great northwest by the Ringling Brothers' World's Greatest Show in 1899 marked a period of fifty years of pioneer circus activity in the Far West. Describes this half century, includes efforts of John Wilson, Ryland, Montgomery Queen, Cooper & Bailey, Sells Brothers, John Robinson and many other proprietors.

Rowe, Joseph Andrew. Californias Pioneer Circus, H. S. Crocker & Co., 1926.

Slout, William L. Popular Amusements in Horse and Buggy America: An Anthology of Contemporaneous Essays. 1995.

Slout, William L. Theatre in a Tent. San Bernardino, CA: author. Study of tent shows from last half of 19th century into the Twentieth century. Popular amusements that incorporated aspects of the circus, moving pictures, vaudeville, Chautauqua and touring opera house companies.

Slout, William L. A Royal Coupling: The Historic Marriage of Barnum and Bailey. San Bernardino, CA: author, 2000. Events in the circus world that led up to the Barnum and Bailey partnership, the golden age of the circus.

Slout, William L. Clowns and Cannons: The American Circus During the Civil War. San Bernardino, CA: author, 2000 (reissue). American circuses during the Civil War. A detailed account of the survival of the American circus during the Civil War period, 1961—1865, marked a major transition for traveling showmen who were forced to adapt their routes and programs to wartime conditions. The number of circus proprietors reached its peak at the beginning of the outbreak, remained stable for another decade. Available from CHS: Merchandise

Speaight, George. A History of the Circus. London: Tantivy, 1980.

St Leon, Mark. Spangles & Sawdust: The Circus in Australia. Melbourne: Greenhouse Publications, 1983.

St Leon, Mark & Ramsland, J. Children of the Circus: The Australian Experience. Springwood, NSW: Butterfly Books, 1993.

Sutton, Felix. Big Show: A History of the Circus. 1971.

Thayer, Stuart. Annals of the American Circus, 1793-1860. Manchester, Michigan: Rymack Printing Co., 1976. The 3 volume edition is available for $55 postpaid from Stuart Thayer, 430 17th Ave. East, Seattle, WA 98112.

Thayer, Stuart. Traveling Showmen, 1997, published by Astley & Ricketts. 19th Century show management explained from raising the money to the daily movements to the effect of growth and change on the milieu. Available from CHS: Merchandise

Thayer, Stuart. Mudshows and Railers: The American Circus in 1879. Ann Arbor, Michigan: author, 1971. The author covers the circus season of 1879 when circuses were on the threshold of their greatest era.

Thayer, Stuart and Slout, William L. Grand Entree: The Birth of the Greatest Show on Earth. San Bernardino, CA: author, 1998. This collaboration of two leading circus historians celebrates the introduction of P. T.. Barnum into circus proprietorship. The six year period encompasses Barnum's association with William Cameron Coup and Dan Castello.

More Recent History

Albrecht, Ernest, The New American Circus. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 1995. Deals with such shows as Big Apple, Circus, Flora, Pickle Family, and Cirque du Soleil.

Brunsdale, Maureen and Schmitt, Mark, The Bloomington-Normal Circus Legacy: The Golden Age of Aerialists, authored by Maureen Brunsdale, Librarian (and CHS trustee), and Mark Schmitt, Senior Specialist, Special Collections and Rare Books Librarian, Illinois State University. Starting in the 1870s, the barns, icehouses, gymnasiums and empty theaters of central Illinois provided the practice sites for aerial performers whose names still command reverence in the annals of American circus history. Meet Fred Miltimore and the Green Brothers, runaways from the Fourth Ward School who became the first Bloomington-born flyers. Watch Art Concello, a ten-year-old truant, become first a world-class flyer, then a famous trapeze impresario and finally Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus's most successful general manager. The entire art of the trapeze-instruction, training, performance and management-became a Bloomington-Normal industry during the tented shows' golden age, when finding a circus flying act without a connection to this area would have been virtually impossible. All proceeds from the sale of this book go to the Circus and Allied Arts Special Collection at the Milner Library, Illinois State University. Published by The History Press, also available on

Dahlinger, Fred, Jr. Trains of the Circus 1872-1956. Filled with never before photos of show trains at their finest. Transportation techniques, shows to which cars belonged, and a journey into a bygone era. Compiled by one of America’s greatest Circus Historians, Fred Dahlinger Jr. Iconografix, 2000.

Dahlinger, Fred, Jr. Show Trains of the 20th Century. Show trains have been transporting their mysterious cargo across America for over a century. Rare photographs presented by the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, display the unusual construction and exotic cargo of show trains. Witness all types of eye-popping traveling show cars including carnival trains, Wild West show cars, Dog and Pony show cars, Theater and Magic show cars and more! Iconografix, 2000.

Hammarstrom, David Lewis, Inside the Changing Circus: A Critic's Guide (BearManor Media). The author has researched circuses from the old Soviet Union to the new Shanghai. Inside the Changing Circus explores the ever-evolving face of circus art, and illustrates how today's performances are scouted, produced, directed and ballyhooed. There's even a chapter on how to become a more discriminating circus goer - and practicing critic. "My aim is to broaden the reader's understanding of how and why the performance itself is forever in flux, responding to changes in popular culture and to the innovations that artists and directors bring to the rings." Hammarstrom is also the author of Behind the Big Top and Circus Rings Around Russia.

Hippisley Coxe, Antony D. A Seat At The Circus (Evans Brothers Limited, London, 1951, reprinted 1952). An excellent overview of the performance in modern times.

Kelty, Edward J. Step Right This Way. Traveling circus 1920-1930s, more than 100 photos documenting large and small shows. $30.00. Wordwise Press.

Nelson, Bruce, America's Greatest Circus Train, a new book authored by Bruce Nelson, a transportation professional and historian, this all color book brings back the days when the colorful Great Circus Train ran from the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, through both Wisconsin and Illinois. In text and photographs the book captures the color and excitement of the Great Circus Train, how it originated, its passengers, contents, loading and unloading of wagons, rail routes and planning, and finally how it faded away. Published by Heimburger House Publishing Company. Information

Powledge, Fred, Mud Show: A Circus Season, New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1975. Examines what a circus means to the people who work on it and what these people see as their place in it.

Sugarman, Robert, Circus for Everyone: Circus Learning Around the World, Shaftsbury, VT: Mountainside Press, 2001. Suganman is a scholar of youth circus programs. His research provides insights into circus schools, touring youth circuses, community circuses, circus camps, circus residencies, in-school programs, college circuses, and year-round independent circus programs.

Smith, Lady Eleanor, British Circus Life, London: George G. Harrap, 1948. A valid, carefully observed and honestly recorded account of a small traveling circus, the Reco Bros. A colorful, day-by-day account of life under the big top, crammed with exciting and memorable stories of clowns, freaks, specialty acts, animal performers and tent-followers.


Adams, Bluford, E Pluribus Barnum: The Great Showman & the Making of U. S. Popular Culture, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1997. Claims to be the first book to consider the career of P. T.. Barnum from a cultural studies perspective. Adams links the rise of Barnum to the emergence of a new U. S. society, one divided by conflicts over slavery, feminism, immigration, and capitalism. He considers Barnum’s career as a crucial moment in the ongoing struggle over the politics of U. S. commercial entertainment. The author is an assistant professor in the Department of English at the University of Iowa.

Bowbeer, Anne Aull, Felix Adler: King of Clowns, Clinton, IA: Clinton Publishing Company, Inc., 1999. A biography and a life chronology. A special photo gallery provided by clown Timothy Noel Tegge. Includes chapters on clowning and clown gags, animal performers, labor unrest, the disastrous Hartford, Connecticut fire, and the Greatest Show on Earth.

Bradna, Fred, The Big Top: My Forty Years With the Greatest Show on Earth, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1952. Covers day to day life on the circus.

Carlyon, David. Dan Rice, the Most Famous Man You've Never Heard Of. New York, NY: Public Affairs, 2001. A definitive biography of the great clown. Rice was a controversial figure during a life in which he served many roles — minstrel song—and-dance man, Shakespearean jester, circus comedian, politician, and proprietor of his own circus, Dan Rice’s Great Show. David Carlyon, a graduate of Clown College, toured three years with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. He holds a Ph.D in Theatre from Northwestern University as well as a Berkeley Law Degree.

Clausen, Connie. I Love You Honey, but the Season's Over, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1961. Covers day to day life on the circus, a love story on the circus.

Conklin, George & Root, Harvey W. The Ways of the Circus: The Memories and Adventures of George Conklin, Tamer of Lions, New York: Harper, c1921. Paperback reprint, Athena Books, 2004. Memoirs of a lion trainer and menagerie superintendant for "Pogey" O'Brien, W. W. Cole, and Barnum & Bailey.

Coup, W. C. Sawdust & Spangles: Stories & Secrets of the Circus. Reprint. Washington, DC: Paul A. Ruddell, 1961. Originally published in 1901 from famous showman Coup's notes on the circus before the turn of the century.

Davis, Janet M. Circus Queen and Tinker Bell: The Memoir of Tiny Kline. University of Illinois Press, 2008. This memoir follows the life and career of circus performer Tiny Kline (1891-1964) from the burlesque house to the circus tent, and on to Disneyland and the silver screen. While working for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Kline became well known for her slide for life and iron jaw act in which she slid to the ground while dangling from trapeze rigging by her teeth. Kline renewed her spectacular acrobatics at the age of seventy when she played Tinker Bell in the fireworks show at Disneyland. Documents twentieth-century changes in popular amusements, while providing fresh insight into circus personalities such as John Ringling, acrobat Lillian Leitzel, and big cat trainer Mabel Stark, as well as mainstream entertainers like Florenz Ziegfeld, John Philip Sousa, and others.

Fisher, Linda & Carrie Bowers. Agnes Lake Hickok: Queen of the Circus, Wife of a Legend. Norman: University of Oklahoma, 2009. Linda A. Fisher and Carrie Bowers have written the first biography of this colorful but little-known circus performer. Agnes originally found fame as a slack-wire walker and horseback rider, and later as an animal trainer. Her circus career spanned more than four decades. Following the murder of her first husband, Bill Lake, she was the sole manager of the "Hippo-Olympiad and Mammoth Circus." Agnes later traveled with P. T. Barnum and Buffalo Bill Cody, and managed her daughter Emma Lake's successful equestrian career.
Thayer Prize
Georgian, Richard A. Cossacks, Indians and Buffalo Bill, the Adventures of Georgian Riders in America. Follow the adventures, romances and tragedies of Georgian men and women who were seduced by the promise and opportunity of making a living in America. Their thrilling feats of horsemanship captured the imagination of the American cowboys and became the gold standard of trick riding through today. Stuart Thayer prize winner, awarded by the Circus Historical Society in 2012. Visit his website at for more information.
Harris, Neil. Humbug: The Art of P.T. Barnum. Boston: Little, Brown, 1973.

Henderson, J. Y. Circus Doctor, Boston: Little, Brown, 1951. Henderson was a veterinarian in Louisiana when he received a call from Sarasota to come and doctor the 700 animals in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Jamieson, David, Chipperfield's Circus: An Illustrated History, Aardvark, 1997. A record of the world-famous circus, from its beginnings to its rise to become Europe's largest traveling circus.

King, Orin C. Circus World of Willie Sells: With Accounts of Circus Performances in Topeka, 1858-1908. 1983.

Kunhardt, Philip B. Jr., Kunhardt, Philip B. III & Kunhardt, Peter W. P.T. Barnum: America's Greatest Showman. Illustrated biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.

McConnell, John H., A Ring, a Horse and a Clown: An Eight Generation History of the Hannefords. Detroit, MI: Astley & Ricketts, 1992.

North, Henry Ringling and Hatch, Alden, The Circus Kings: Our Ringling Family Story, with afterword by Fred Dahlinger Jr. The story behind "The Greatest Show on Earth." The best source for their history. Originally published in 1960, told by the nephew of the original Ringling brothers. University of Florida Press, 2008.

Plowden, Gene, Merle Evans: Maestro of the Circus, E. A. Seemann, 1971.

Robinson, Gil, Old wagon show days, Brockwell company, c1925.

Sanger, George. Seventy Years a Showman. London: J. M. Dent, 1938.

Saxon, A. H. P.T. Barnum: the legend and the man. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.

Thayer Prize Schodt, Frederick L. Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe, How an American Acrobat Introduced Circus to Japan - and Japan to the West. In 1864, when Japan was still semi-closed to foreigners, world-famous American acrobat and impresario "Professor Risley" introduced Western-style circus to Yokohama. Less than three years later, in 1866, he formed the Imperial Japanese Troupe and left with it to tour America and Europe. When Japan's feudal government issued its very first civilian passport to a member of Risley's troupe, it helped trigger a world-wide fever in Japanese acrobats, and all things Japanese. From San Francisco to Philadelphia, New York to London, Boston to Madrid, crowds could not get enough of performers like "Little All Right." Risley's Imperial Japanese Troupe tour thus fueled the West's first craze for Japanese popular culture - one that, unlike the better known and intellectualized Japonisme art movement, spread throughout all levels of society. Available from Stone Bridge Press

Slout, William L. Chilly Billy: The Evolution of a Circus Millionaire. San Bernardino, California: author, 2002. Biography of W. W. Cole. A few copies are still available, $25 postpaid, order from author: William Slout, 2995 Ladera Road, San Bernardino, CA 92405. William Washington Cole, a circus man from birth. The book is confined to his sixteen years as proprietor of his solely owned circus, that grew from a modest beginning into one of the leading arenic organizations in the United States and earned him the reputation of an astute and fearless tactician and a prudent financial manager. He never had a losing season during those years.

St Leon, Mark. The Silver Road: The Life of Mervyn King, Circus Man. Springwood, NSW: Butterfly Books, 1990.

St Leon, Mark. The Wizard of the Wire: The Story of Con Colleano, Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press 1993. The true story of one of the great circus artists, Con Colleano, king of the tight wire. A tribute to this artist, with more than 60 photographs.

St Leon, Mark & Cannon, J. Take a Drum and Beat It: The Story of the Astonishing Ashtons 1848 - 1990s. Sydney: Tytherleigh Press, 1997.

Wallace, Irving. The Fabulous Showman: The Life and Times of P.T. Barnum. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1959.

Wilkins, Charles, The Circus at the Edge of the Earth: Travels with the Great Wallenda Circus, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: McClellan & Stewart, Inc., 1998. The Wallenda Circus itinerary through Northern Ontario and the Plains of Manitoba to far into Northern Canada. Depicts almost 2,000 miles of travel in 1997 with the show owned by Ricky Wallenda, an injured survivor of two falls from the highwire.


Ballantine, Bill. Horses & Their Bosses, Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1964. "There's a horse for every man & a man for every horse and, in these pages, a writer who can tell about them with surprising wit & memorable descriptions. From Hollywood stunt horses, to police horses, and from beer haulers to Jake Posey's forty-four hitch, Bill Ballantine's book is a fresh bale of hay for all breeds of readers."

Gossard, Steve. A Reckless Era of Aerial Performance; The Evolution of Trapeze, Author, 1994. Circus historian Steve Gossard spent thousands of hours scrolling through 19th century periodical tracing the evolution of the various types of trapeze performances. What he uncovered is more than a historical study - an adventure and a mystery - as Gossard chronicles the exploits of dozens of long-forgotten aerial daredevils.

Thayer, Stuart. The Performers.. History of the best-known circus acts. When they started, who performed them, what they looked like. Available for $23 postpaid from Stuart Thayer, 430 17th Ave. East, Seattle, WA 98112.


A docudrama historical film, Chad Hanna depicts opposition between two wagon shows during the season of 1881. The shows were enroute in New York state, and played day-and-date at Syracuse, NY. Both shows paraded, the largest having an elephant, the smaller one acquired an elephant in the latter part of the season. The larger show paraded in Syracuse, with the small show coming in from a side street behind the big one. The smaller show came out ahead at Syracuse. Chad Hanna was played by Henry Fonda, who fell in love with a bareback rider, played by Dorothy Lamour. Chad Hanna manages to save the circus from financial ruin. Walter Edmonds, the author of the book upon which the movie was based, donated a portion of the royalties from the British sale of the book for war relief. White Tops, February-March, 1941 and online sources. The film is available on DVD.


New York Clipper, weekly newspaper carried various amounts of circus news, published 1852-1924. Only source of concentrated information before 1900. Has formed the basis of many articles by circus historians. Microfilm copies held at a variety of repositories. Online at
    Columbia University has the New York Clipper Annual for 1887, 1890, 1891, 1892 and 1893 online (downloadable pdf files): Clipper Annuals

Sporting and Theatrical Journal, circus news, 1880s (pdf files)

Billboard. Early 1900s issues online! Circuses, theatrical/variety, fairs, billposters news (Pdf files)

Circus Scrap Book, Index 1929-1932. Some issues online! (Pdf files)

Hobby Bandwagon, previously Hobby Swapper, now online! (pdf files)

Circus Report, Index 1972-1985

    1972-1975 (many issues online!)       1976-1979 (many issues online!)

    1980-1985       1986-1990

    In the 1970s to 1980s, Circus Report, American's Favorite Circus Weekly, carried current news/information and circus history. Especially useful for finding circuses, people, staff, performers, acts, animals, etc. It also carried some variety shows and carnival news, as well as some international circus news.

Back Yard, Cheri Valentine's publication, Back Yard, circus news & history (Pdf files).

White Tops, Partial Index 1927-1997:

Circus Fanfare,  Index 1971-2006   Circus Fanfare is the publication of Windjammers Unlimited, a historical music society dedicated to the preservation of traditional music of the circus. Fanfare has pictures and stories of circus bands and their musicians, stories of mud shows, traveling circuses, Shrine circuses, and more.

Sixty Years of the Circus, Magazine Article Index 1912-1972. An index of articles on the circus, circuses and people published in a variety of popular magazines (USA).


Bogdan, Robert. Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.

Davis, Janet M. The Circus Age, Culture and Society Under the American Big Top. University of North Carolina Press, 2002. Janet Davis is an Assistant Professor of American Studies and History at the University of Texas at Austin. She ties the emergence of the early twentieth century American railroad circus to historical change - the rise of big business, feminist movements, United States overseas expansion, urbanization, and racial issues.

Goldsack, Bob. A History of the Johnny J. Jones Exposition, Midway Museum Publications, 1990. The price is $21.95 plus $ 3 p&h. We take Visa-MC and AE credit cards or a check or money order can be sent to Midway Publications, 70 Dublin Ave., Nashua, NH 03063. Tel # 603-883-9405

Stencell, A. W. Girl Show: Into the canvas world of bump and grind, ECW Press, 1999. Seeing is Believing: America's side shows ECW Press, 2002. Both have information relating to circuses and circus side show operations as well as a lot of carnival history. Stencell owned and operated his own circus for 19 years. Always an avid collector, he has found thousands of photos and illustrations of circuses, and interviewed hundreds of ex-carnival people.

Stencell, A. W. Circus and Carnival Ballyhoo: Sideshow Freaks, Jaggers, and Blade Box Queens is Al Stencell's new book. An ex-circus owner and foremost authority on the subject of the world's oddest business. The book examines how the circus and midway developed and follows the evolution of the sideshow with interviews and stories from workers that explain for readers the role of freaks, working acts, managers, tattooists, and talkers - and explores how important grift was to circuses and how it became part of the sideshow. Fully indexed, and brimming with rare historical photographs, including many from Stencell's own private collection, it provides is a fascinating look at the inner workings of the circus and sideshows. Al Stencell, a CHS Past President and current Trustee, started his own Canadian tent circus in 1973; he and his wife toured 135 Canadian towns annually for 11 seasons. From 1983 to 1991 he operated an indoor circus, and has worked in almost all aspects of the circus business, including presenting his own horse and dog acts. Publisher: ECW Press, September 2010, available at bookstores and online booksellers.

"Route Books." Usually published yearly, contain daily record of where a circus played, mileage, accidents, deaths and other important events. Lists of performers and personnel in circus' departments, etc. Usually compiled by someone with the circus and published at the end of the season. Can be found at various repositories of circus material.


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Circus Historical Society, Inc.

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Last modified May 2013.