Since 1793, when the renowned British equestrian John Bill Rickets presented the first circus in America in a wooden amphitheatre in Philadelphia, it is estimated that there have been more than two thousand circuses in this country.  The American circus did not have the upper-class distinction of the theatre, nor a distinctive British quality, which was a selling point to a newly independent people, but the growth and popularity of the American circus in the early years can also be attributed to a time when horsemanship and physical endurance were part of everyday living.

  In the early days, circus performers operated their own shows, but as these shows became successful businessmen took them over.  Farmers turned-menagerie-owners around Somers, New York, quickly realized that they could increase profits by combining the two most popular traveling attractions of the day, the menagerie and the circus.  With the realization that fortunes could be made, many jumped on the bandwagon.

  By the late 1870s, P. T. Barnum, who had semi-retired from a lifelong pursuit of spectacle, illusion, and marvels, realized the popularity and financial potential of the American circus. Together with his associates, William Coup and James A. Bailey, he elevated the circus to America’s favorite form of entertainment—the greatest, the grandest and the richest.  

Many circuses stand out in the history of the circus, such as the Ringling Bros., Barnum & Bailey, Adam Forepaugh, Sells Bros., Cole Bros., and Hagenbeck-Wallace, but hundreds others have been lost in obscurity.  Many circuses have disappeared over the years because of low attendance, retirements, weather, war, accidents, depressions, lack of money; those that weathered the storms besetting the circus were able to survive for years if not decades. 

Through our research we have selected several hundred Circuses and made them accessible in our database. Below are listed, in alphabetical order are a representation of the circuses in America. Click a circus to view a brief description, or alternative names, related people, circus type and itineraries. Links will be provided to additional information within the database, including images and a historical timeline.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 1

Bailey Bros. Circus, 1964-1968
Bailey Bros. Circus, 1917-1920
Bailey Bros. Circus, 1935-1938
Bailey Bros. Circus, 1944-1948
Bailey Bros. Circus, 1951-1951
Bailey Bros. Circus, 1953-1953
Bailey Bros. Circus, 1959-1960
Bailey Bros. Cristiani Circus, 1954-1955
Bailey & Brown's Circus,
Bailey-Howes Menagerie,
Barnet Circus, 1824-1824
Barney Bros. Circus, 1926-1926
Barney Bros. Circus, 1935-1938
Barnum & Bailey Circus, 1888-1918
Barnum & Bailey Ltd., 1899-1907
Barnum & Forepaugh Circus, 1886-1887
Barnum & London Shows, 1881-1888
Barnum & Nixon Circus & Menagerie,
Barnum's Acquarial Gardens, 1862-1863
Barnum's Museum,
Barnum & Van Amburgh Museum & Menagerie Co., 1866-1867
Bartlett's Circus,
Barton & Bailey's Circus, 1915-1915
Bassett & Peoples' Circus,
Batcheller & Doris' Great Inter Ocean Circus, 1879-1882
Benchley & Stone Circus, 1837-1839
Big United States Circus & Menagerie & New Great Eastern, 1882-1882
Bingley's Circus, 1888-1888
Bob Morton Circus Company, 1924-1945
Bond Bros. Circus, 1944-1947
Bond Bros. Circus, 1896-1896
Bostock's Circus, 1899-1899
Bostock's Circus, 1915-1915
Bostock's Circus, 1932-1932
Boston Lion Circus, 1836-1836
Bowery Amphitheatre Circus, 1839-1840
Bowery Ampitheatre of New York, 1840-1840
Breschard's Circus, 1815-1815
Broadway Circus, 1927-1927
Broadway Circus, 1820-1820
Broadway Circus, 1840-1840
Bronco Joe's Wild West, 1910-1914
Brown & Bailey's Circus, 1833-1833
Brown & Bailey's Circus, 1825-1826
Brown & Co.'s Circus, 1835-1837
Brown & Lent's Circus,
Brown's Coliseum & Great American Circus,
Bryan's Circus & Menagerie, 1868-1869
Buchanan Bros. Circus, 1908-1908
Buckley, Hopkins & Co.'s Circus, 1838-1838
Buckley, Hopkins, Tufts & Co.'s Mammoth Arena & Circus Co., 1838-1839
Buckley, Rockwell, Hopkins & Co.,
Buckley, Rockwell, Hopkins & Co.'s Mammoth Arena & Circus Co., 1838-1838
Buffalo Bill, 1886-1886
Buffalo Bill, 1873-1882
Buffalo Bill-Jess Willard Show, 1917-1917
Buffalo Bill's Wild West, 1983-1983
Buffalo Bill's Wild West, 1971-1971
Buffalo Bill's Wild West, 1883-1913
Buffalo Bill's Wild West, 1977-1980
Buffalo Ranch Wild West,
Bunnell Bros. Annex, 1873-1877
Bunnell, Morris & Ferren Circus, 1889-1889
Burr Robbins Circus, 1883-1887
Burr Robbins Circus, 1871-1881
Burt & Robinson's Circus, 1858-1858

   Pre-1793 | 1793-1800 | 1801-1824 | 1825-1871 | 1872-1905 | 1906-1940 |
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