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

Wallace and Company's Great Wrold Menagerie, Grand International Mardi Gras, Highway Holiday Hidalgo, and Alliance of Novelties, 1884
Wallace & Anderson's Circus, 1890-1890
Wallace Bros. Circus, 1909-1909
Wallace Bros. Circus, 1952-1953
Wallace Bros. Circus, 1937-1937
Wallace Bros. Circus, 1940-1944
Wallace Bros. Circus, 1961-1962
Wallace & Co.'s Circus, 1884-1889
Wallace & Co.'s Circus, 1891-1891
Wall and Ryan and Company, 1783
Walter L. Main Circus, 1918-1928
Walter L. Main Circus, 1948-1948
Walter L. Main Circus, 1944-1944
Walter L. Main Circus, 1939-1939
Walter L. Main Circus, 1935-1937
Walter L. Main Circus, 1930-1933
Walter L. Main Circus, 1886-1899
Walter L. Main Circus, 1901-1904
Walter W. Gentry Circus, 1938-1939
Waring & Co.'s Circus, 1839-1839
Waring & Co.'s Menagerie, 1846-1846
Waring & Co.'s Menagerie, 1837-1838
Waring & Raymond's Circus, 1838-1839
Waring & Raymond's Circus, 1942-1942
Waring & Raymond's Menagerie, 1942-1942
Waring & Raymond's Menagerie, 1838-1839
Waring, Raymond, Weeks & Co.,
Waring, Tufts & Co.'s Menagerie, 1833-1835
Warner, Henderson & Springer's Circus, 1874-1875
Washburn & Arlington's Circus, 1891-1892
Washburn & D'Alma's Circus, 1905-1906
Washburn & Hunting's Circus, 1884-1884
Washington's Circus, 1853-1853
Washington's Circus, 1826-1832
W. C. Coup's Circus, 1885-1889
W. C. Coup's Circus, 1878-1882
Webb Bros. Circus, 1928-1928
Webb Bros. Circus, 1946-1946
Welch & Bartlett's Circus, 1839-1841
Welch, Delevan & Nathans' Circus, 1848-1850
Welch, Delevan & Nathans' Circus, 1848-1850
Welch & Delevan's Circus, 1847-1847
Welch & Delevan's Circus, 1842-1842
Welch & Lent's Circus, 1854-1856
Welch & Mann Circus, 1846-1846
Welch & Mann Circus, 1841-1841
Welch, Mann & Delevan's Circus, 1844-1846
Welch, McCollum & Risley Circus,
Welch & Nathans' Circus, 1851-1851
Welch's National Circus, 1845-1853
Welch's National Circus, Raymond & Co. & Driesbach & Co.'s Menageries, 1852-1852
Welch's Parisian Hippodrome, 1853-1853
West & Wells Circus, 1907-1907
W. F. Kirkhart's Great American Circus, 1894-1894
W. H. Coulter's Shows, 1911-1911
Wheeler & Almond Circus, 1933-1933
Wheeler Bros. Circus, 1914-1914
Wheeler Bros. Circus, 1916-1923
Wheeler, Hatch & Hitchcock Circus, 1864-1864
Wheeler & Hitchcock's Circus, 1864-1864
Wheeler & Sautelle's Circus, 1931-1932
Whitby & Co.'s Circus, 1859-1859
Whitby & Co.'s Circus, 1867-1867
Whitby & Wambold Circus, 1861-1861
Wiedemann's Shows, 1906-1911
William and Company,
Wilson & Zoyara Circus, 1864-1864
Wintermute Bros. Circus, 1891-1913
Wintermute Bros. & Hall's Circus, 1914-1918
Wooten & Andrews' Circus, 1874-1874
World Bros. Circus, 1938-1938
World Bros. Circus, 1930-1930
World Bros. Circus, 1923-1923
World Bros. Circus, 1933-1934
W. W. Cole's Circus, 1871-1886

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