Circus: Ricketts' Circus, 1793-1800

First Circus in America

In his short American career John Bill Ricketts managed to establish the first American Circus, befriend President George Washington, tour the East Coast, Canada, and the West Indies with his company, and present America a new genre of entertainment that blended equestrian feats with theatrical performance. Ricketts’s abilities as a master-rider set the tone for the Circus’s immediately succeeding his own. He established equestrian acts as the highlight of the circus, and throughout the early 19th century most circuses followed his paradigm. Executing acts like “Flying Mercury” and “Egyptian Pyramids” thrilled voyeurs that appreciated daring horsemanship. While falling into financial ruin by 1799 Ricketts contributed a great deal to both American entertainment and culture. The common household names of Barnum and Bailey, Ringling Brothers, and Cirque de Soleil owe their success to the pathway Ricketts treaded. In America’s adolescent years, Ricketts offered an unprecedented spectacle that the American audience has loved ever since.

(John Bill Ricketts, proprietor, 1793-1800)

Alternative Names:
Sully Jr., Matthew
Schnyder, Master
Sully, Master
MacDonald, Mr.
Attitude of Mercury
Johnny Gilpin in Stile
Circus Type
Right Related People
Right Acts
Right Itineraries
   Pre-1793 | 1793-1800 | 1801-1824 | 1825-1871 | 1872-1905 | 1906-1940 |
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