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

Palace Amphitheatre & Grand Circus, 1874-1874
Palace of Wonders, 1955-1955
Palmer & Harrington Circus, 1834-1835
Palmer's Circus, 1832-1837
Palmer's Circus, 1865-1866
Paris Pavilion Circus, 1873-1873
Parks & Banks Circus, 1915-1916
Parson's Circus,
Patterson's Circus, 1922-1922
Paul Silverberg Circus, 1872-1873
Pavilion Circus, 1831-1832
Pawnee Bill's Wild West, 1888-1908
People's Circus,
Pepin & Barnet Circus, 1822-1824
Pepin, Breschard & Cayetano's Circus, 1812-1815
Pepin & Breschard Circus, 1806-1812
Pepin & Co.'s Circus, 1816-1822
Pepin & Co.'s Circus, 1825-1827
Perrine's Circus, 1902-1915
Philadelphia Caravan Circus, 1840-1840
Philadelphia Circus, 1833-1834
Philadelphia Circus, 1855-1855
Philadelphia Circus, 1840-1842
Philadelphia Zoological Garden United With New York Institute, 1843-1845
Potter's Circus, 1844-1846
Price & North's Circus,
Prof. Samwell's Show,
P. T. Barnum's Asiatic Caravan, Museum and Menagerie, 1851-1854
P. T. Barnum's Circus, 1871-1880
P. T. Barnum's Grand Traveling Exhibition, 1848-1849
P. T. Barnum's Great Roman Hippodrome, 1874-1875
P. T. Barnum's World of Wonderment and The Bizarre, 1996-1996
P. T. Barnum's World's Fair, 1875-1875
Pullman Bros. Great London Sensation Show, 1879-1879
Pullman & Co.'s Circus, 1879-1879
Pullman & Co.'s Circus, 1886-1886
Pullman, Dingess & Co.'s Circus, 1885-1885
Pullman & Hamilton's Circus, 1877-1880
Pullman, Mack & Co.'s Circus, 1884-1885
Purdy Brown's Circus, 1827-1834
Purdy, Carley & Bailey Menagerie of Living Animals, 1831-1831
Purdy, Welch & Co.'s Menagerie, 1833-1834
Purdy, Welch, Finch & Wright Menagerie of Living Animals, 1832-1832
Purdy, Welch, Macomber & Co.'s American Menagerie, 1833-1834
Purdy, Welch, Macomber & Co.'s Zoological Institute,

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