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

Gardner & Hemmings Circus, 1860-1867
Gardner, Hemmings & Madigan's Circus, 1860-1862
Gardner & J. Forepaugh's Circus, 1870-1870
Gardner, Kenyon & Robinson Circus, 1869-1869
Gardner & Kenyon's Circus, 1868-1868
G. B. Bunnell's Show, 1884-1884
G. C. Quick & Co.'s Menagerie, 1850-1853
General Circus Operating Co. Inc., 1974-1974
Gentrie's Circus, 1928-1928
Gentry Bros. and Sells Bros. Circus, 1964-1964
Gentry Bros.-James Patterson Circus, 1923-1925
Gentry Bros. Shows, 1887-1922
Gentry Bros. Shows, 1926-1934
Gentry Bros. Shows, 1941-1941
George A. Hamid's World's Fair European Circus, 1939-1939
George H. Adams' Co., 1882-1885
George Matthew's Great London Circus, 1972-1977
George W. DeHaven's Circus, 1860-1870
George W. DeHaven's Circus, 1880-1881
George W. DeHaven's Circus, 1887-1887
G. F. Bailey & Co.'s Circus, 1855-1874
Giles & Henry Pullman Circus, 1882-1883
G. K. Goodwin & Co.'s Royal Menagerie & Circus, 1860-1860
G. N. Eldred's Circus, 1856-1859
Golden Bros. Circus, 1938-1938
Golden Bros. Circus, 1923-1924
Gollmar Bros. Circus, 1923-1925
Gollmar Bros. Circus, 1891-1916
Gollmar Bros. Circus, 1922-1922
Gollmar Bros. & James Patterson Circus, 1917-1917
Golman Bros. Circus & Tiger Bill's Wild West, 1936-1936
Goodwin & Wilder's Circus, 1862-1862
Gorman Bros. Circus, 1934-1936
Grand Caravan of Living Animals, 1820-1829
Grand Circus Royal & English Menagerie & Astley's, 1881-1882
Grand Exhibition of Living Animals, 1818-1818
Grand Menagerie of Living Animals, 1834-1834
Gray & Macomber's Menagerie, 1829-1829
Great American Circus, 1978-1981
Great American Circus, 1985-1994
Great American Circus, 1875-1875
Great American Circus, 1886-1889
Great American Circus, 1896-1896
Great American Circus, 1929-1929
Great American Circus, 1939-1939
Great Carver Show, 1910-1910
Great Chicago Show, 1879-1879
Great Chicago Show, 1873-1873
Great Chicago Show, 1886-1886
Great Chicago Show, 1874-1874
Great Commonwealth Show, 1871-1872
Great Consolidation Circus, 1866-1866
Great Eastern Circus, 1878-1878
Great Eastern Circus, 1872-1874
Great Eastern Circus, 1881-1881
Great Eastern Circus, 1883-1883
Great Eastern Circus, 1886-1889
Great Eastern Circus, 1895-1897
Great Eastern Circus, 1899-1899
Great Eastern Circus, 1902-1902
Great Eastern Circus, 1904-1904
Great Eastern Circus, 1910-1914
Great European Circus, 1865-1871
Great European Circus, 1880-1880
Great European Circus, 1886-1886
Great International Circus, 1873-1874
Great International Circus & Harry Whitby's Arena, 1866-1866
Great London Circus, 1901-1902
Great London Circus, 1904-1904
Great London Circus, 1993-1993
Great London Circus, 1877-1881
Great National Circus, 1863-1884
Great New York Circus, 1868-1868
Great New York & San Francisco Circus, 1878-1878
Great Rocky Mountain Show, 1884-1884
Great San Francisco Circus, 1872-1872
Great Sensation Circus, 1870-1870
Great Syndicate Shows, 1900-1901
Great Syndicate Shows, 1894-1895
Great Trans-Atlantic Exposition, 1873-1873
Great Union Combination, 1865-1865
Great Union Combination, 1863-1863
Great United States Circus, 1857-1863
Great United States Circus, 1867-1867
Great United States Circus, 1877-1877
Great Van Amburgh Shows, 1896-1896
Great Wallace Shows, 1895-1906
Green & Bailey Menagerie, 1834-1834
Green & Brown's Menagerie and Circus, 1834-1834
Green & Brown's Menagerie and Circus, 1832-1832
Green & Waring's Mammoth Eagle Circus, 1836-1836
Gregory, Crane & Co.'s Menagerie, 1833-1834
Gregory, Crane, Waring, Tufts & Co.'s Menagerie, 1833-1833
Gregory, Washburn & Co.'s Menagerie, 1834-1834
G. W. Hall Jr.'s Circus, 1905-1912
G. W. Hall Jr.'s Circus, 1894-1903

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