“There are really two times when the circus means something to people. Once when they are children and see it through their own eyes and, again, when they have the opportunity to see it through their children’s eyes.”
“I love a circus. You ask me why I should love a circus. It’s the oldest form of entertainment that suits grandma and grandpa, ma and pa, and the kids. That’s why I love the circus.”
The first clown has been traced back to 3,000 B.C.
There are three types of clowns:
Clowning has a hierarchy, with the White Face Clown at the high end, and the Hobo at the low end. This understood hierarchy means that an Auguste Clown can never play a trick on a White Face Clown – but a White Face Clown can play a trick on anybody.
A clown’s face is his/her trademark, which cannot be copied by any other clown. However, the clothes and acts of a clown can be imitated.
To trademark a clown face, clowns send a photo of their face into the Clown and Character Registry, where the face is then painted on a goose egg and kept in the registry. The tradition of painting a clown face on a goose egg dates back to the 1500s.
Nothing says Circus like cotton candy. But until the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, few people knew what cotton candy was.
Ironically enough, a dentist invented the sweet treat in 1897 and sold it at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition as “Fairy Floss.” Although each serving cost 25 cents back then – a hefty price at the time and half of the price of a fair ticket – the spun sugar on a stick sold well.
However, it would take another 16 years for it to become commonplace for people to call the fluffy stuff “Cotton Candy.”
10. No one ever runs away from the circus and joins a home.
9. The human cannonball never worries about getting fired.
8. There’s calliope music instead of oldies radio.
7. Children who are afraid of the dark want to pet the lions.
6. The knife thrower is one of the good guys.
5. People who swing on trapezes get to be called artists.
4. Circus people can get an elephant to bow and kneel, but we can’t get the cat to stop scratching the back of the sofa.
3. The ringmaster is not a piece of exercise equipment.
2. When you spill things on a sawdust floor, no one worries about it.
1. You get to wear tights and sequins to work!
Although the modern day circus can trace its roots to the displays given in Roman coliseums, the more direct antecedent was the circus staged by Philip Astley in London on Jan. 9, 1768. A sergeant major in the cavalry, Astley had discovered that galloping in a tight circle while standing on the back of a horse enabled him to perform seemingly impossible feats.
In 1768, the audience watched Astley ride standing with one foot in the saddle and the other on the horse’s head, waving his sword. Later, it was discovered that a ring of 13 meters – or 42 feet in diameter – was the optimum size for such acts. It was from this ring, or circle, that the name “circus” originated in the 19th century.
The American circus dates back to 1793, when the John Bill Ricketts’ Circus performed before an audience in Philadelphia. The performances were enjoyed by George Washington and other founding fathers of our nation.
Horses, acrobats and clowns formed the foundation of the American circus. Throughout the world, the circus is primarily comprised of families handing down their art form from one generation to the next. Children in the circus are fortunate to grow up in a strong community environment, and exhibit a strong sense of self-esteem. As folks age, few retire and most stay involved with the circus.
Circus folks are hard-working, self-sufficient people who enjoy their unique lifestyle. Unlike other forms of entertainment, circus professionals are responsible for:
While the average income for a circus performer might sound enticing, when you factor in the above-mentioned costs and time – not to mention travel expenses – being a circus performer is merely an adequate way to make a living.
Unlike most professionals, however, circus people have not chosen their vocation because it will allow them “to get rich quick” or retire wealthy. Being part of the circus is to become part of a large family or small community. Circus people are passionate about their work and would not consider another way of life. They truly appreciate the family atmosphere and non-conformist lifestyle. Although the work is hard and the lifestyle very trying at times, overall, circus people are a very contented group.
The circus is open to all who might like to join it. But because of the lifestyle noted above, many of those who are not born into the circus way of life ultimately find it difficult once the initial excitement wears off. The few who do make a career out of the circus typically have attended a school that offers circus programs. Throughout the country, a handful of high schools and universities offer very good programs for circus skills.
The circus is mysterious to outsiders and has been romanticized in many movies. In addition, corporations and the U.S. government have been interested in how circuses can operate so effectively in such a mobile environment. Billboard magazine notes that in the early 1900s, a large American circus allowed U.S. Army generals to travel with it to study the logistics of railroad transport, field kitchens, moving a small tent city efficiently, and housing and feeding a large number of people daily.