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Victorian Era CircusIt’s 1899 and the Ringling Brothers Circus is in town. What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in July? Come out and watch “a tremendous spectacular free carnival” featuring famous mounted military companies of the world with bands. Section 21 of the Parade will display Warfare in the Punjaub complete with war elephants! And section 29 of the parade will feature a Caravan Crossing the Desert! Which comes right after the Children’s Fairyland Parade complete with tiny horses and elephants.

The fact that there were at least twenty-nine sections to this circus parade, is astounding. Sounds like it was an elaborate and extremely big circus parade.

This one had entire regiments of elephants! The emphasis on military pageantry for what was primarily a children’s entertainment is an interesting reflection on how our values have changed since then.

Nowadays most circuses have been driven out of business by changing values and emphasis on animal rights, which finds forcing tigers, elephants and bears to perform on stage to be cruel and exploitative. What few circuses remain tend to have just a few sad clowns and long in the tooth tigers.

Not to be outdone, their main circus competitors, Barnum and Bailey featured a menagerie of wild animals including a giant monkey!

the greatest show on earth

Wild Animals at the Circus

Although I understand the objections to circuses featuring animals, the child in me misses the old days and the sense of wonder that came from sitting under the Big Top.

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Victor Doppelt

Victor Doppelt

Victor Doppelt explores the world of yesterday through vintage photographs and informative articles.