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

Sam Lathrop Circus, 1852-1852
Sam MacFlinn's Circus, 1884-1889
Sands & Astley's Circus, 1895-1895
Sands & Chiarini Circus, 1854-1854
Sands, Lent & Co.'s Circus, 1841-1849
Sands, Nathans & Co.'s Circus, 1855-1861
Sanger's Circus, 1919-1922
Sanger's Circus, 1911-1913
Sargent Tufts Circus,
S. B. Howes Circus, 1864-1867
S. B. Howes Circus, 1854-1855
S. B. Howes Circus, 1846-1849
S. B. Howes Circus, 1840-1840
Schell Bros. Circus, 1929-1936
Sells & Andress' Circus, 1890-1890
Sells Bros. Circus, 1962-1963
Sells Bros. Circus, 1871-1895
Sells' Circus, 1891-1891
Sells & Downs Circus, 1902-1905
Sells-Floto Circus, 1906-1932
Sells & Gray Circus, 1900-1901
Sells & Gray Circus, 1960-1978
Sells & Rentfrow's Circus, 1892-1893
S. H. Barrett & Co.'s Circus, 1881-1887
Shelby, Pullman & Hamilton's Circus, 1881-1881
Shelby's Circus, 1888-1888
Sheldenberger's Circus, 1871-1871
Sheldenberger's Menagerie, 1871-1871
S. H. Nichols Circus, 1838-1843
Sloat & Shepard's Circus, 1857-1857
Southwestern Circus, 1850-1850
Southwestern Circus, 1849-1849
S. O. Wheeler's Circus, 1863-1868
Spalding & Rogers' Circus, 1849-1865
Spalding's North American Circus, 1844-1848
Spangles Continental Circus (New York City), 1943-1943
Sparks & Allen Circus, 1890-1892
Sparks Circus, 1894-1931
Sparks Circus, 1946-1947
Sparks Circus, 1889-1889
Sparks & Cole's Circus, 1893-1893
Springer's Circus and P. T. Barnum's Living Wonders, 1873-1875
S. P. Stickney Circus, 1868-1869
S. P. Stickney Circus, 1874-1876
S. P. Stickney Circus, 1843-1849
S. Q. Stokes Circus, 1862-1863
S. Q. Stokes Circus, 1872-1872
S. Q. Stokes Circus, 1849-1852
Standard Oil Circus (Chicago World's Fair), 1934-1934
Steam Calliope,
Stickney & Buckley's Circus, 1844-1844
Stone & Madigan's Circus, 1852-1852
Stone & McCollum's Circus, 1846-1850
Stone & Murray's Circus, 1868-1872
Stone & Murray's Circus, 1914-1914
Stone, Rockwell & Madigan's Circus,
Stone & Rosston Circus, 1864-1866
Stone, Rosston & Murray's Circus, 1867-1868
Stone, Rosston & Murray's Circus, 1862-1862

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