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  • Charles Clarke Circus Photos Collection

Photographs of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in the 1920s are especially scarce, so these images by Charles Clarke, a leaper in the world-renowned aerial act, The Clarkonians, are truly a rare window back in time.

Charles Clarke Circus Photos
  • Circus Films

Witness the tremendous movement of the circus and experience intimate, unscripted moments with some of the sawdust circle’s brightest stars in this unique historical footage.

Circus Films
  • Gamma Phi Circus Programs

Gamma Phi started life at Illinois State (Normal) University as a gymnastics fraternity in 1929 and it soon developed into a student organization that drew on Bloomington’s deep circus roots to entertain both campus and community. Since 1932, the Gamma Phi Circus has performed to a packed house every spring and this digital collection showcases the programs from those annual shows.

Gamma Phi Circus Programs
  • Historic Heralds and Handbills

Typically oblong and text-heavy, these posters were often tacked up on poles by advance men to announce coming attractions. They used colorful language and bold black-and-white images to whip up enthusiasm and attract audiences. Cheaply produced and quickly discarded, relatively few heralds survive to the present day.

Historic Heralds and Handbills
  • The Life and Legacy of Buffalo Bill

William Frederick Cody, more commonly known as "Buffalo Bill,” embodies the romance of an illusory Western frontier. This collection explores the enduring influence of Buffalo Bill on American culture and our persistent fascination with one its greatest showmen.

The Life and Legacy of Buffalo Bill
  • Musselman Family Photographs

This collection is comprised primarily of the cherished photographs of a family that traveled the world together as a working flying return trapeze troupe—much of what has been digitized has not been seen outside of the Musselman family until now.

Musselman Family Photographs
  • Passion for Circus: The Photography of Sverre Braathen

Images were captured in the saturated colors of Kodachrome slides and date from the early 1940s to the late 1950s as well as black and white film in the 1930s. Set within the context of the entire Braathen collection, these images provide insight to what happens just outside the canvas flaps of the circus tent.

Passion for Circus
  • Circus Route Books

Of the approximately 400 known distinct route books in existence, more than 300 are represented here, including well-known circuses such as the Barnum & Bailey Circus and The Ringling Bros. Circus and lesser-known circuses such as the Adam Forepaugh and Sells Brothers Circus. These route books trace the journeys of a number of circuses that traveled across mostly the U.S. and Canada between the 1840s and 1960s.

Circus Route Books
  • Ward Family Postcards

The Flying Wards were an aerial act playing circuses, parks, fairs, and vaudeville stages across America from about 1903 into the 1930s. The postcards in this collection offer a peek into Eddie and Jennie Ward's world as they wrote home to their beloved mother, Fannie and their brother Elza.

Ward Family Postcards

Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus Magazine Database

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Magazine Database contains all of Milner Library's holdings for this circus. The collection, which spans the years 1919 to 2009, includes multiple editions of each program published including Road Programs and Madison Square Garden Programs from 1919-1969 and Red Unit and Blue Unit Programs from 1970-2009. Over 4,000 articles have been indexed. These can be searched for by serial titles, issues, article titles, authors, article types, and index terms.

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Programs are full of incredible information about each year's circus. Subjects of the articles include biographical information about the performers and circus management, descriptions of acts, information about circus life, advertisements, historical information, and words of appreciation for the circus written by fans. Many famous writers, actors, and musicians contributed content to these programs including Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Bob Hope, Betty Hutton, Bing Crosby, Burt Lancaster, and many more."

Browse the Circus Magazine Database