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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Ringling Brothers Circus (Historic Marker Erected 1956)


 Hwy. 12, 1.5 mi. S of Baraboo, Sauk County

"The Greatest Show on Earth" was born and grew to maturity in Baraboo. When the five Ringling brothers gave the first performance of their "Great Double Shows, Circus and Caravan" May 19, 1884, the main tent was 45 by 90 feet. There was no band wagon, no menagerie. The menagerie was started in 1886, with a hyena advertised as the "Hideous Hyena Striata Gigantium, the Mammoth, Midnight Marauding, Man-Eating Monstrosity." After traveling in horse-drawn wagons for six seasons, the circus became the "Ringling Bros. United Monster Railroad Show." Until 1918 the circus wintered in Baraboo, where many of the winter quarters still stand. From humble beginnings, a little hall room show became the mightiest and most spectacular organization in the entertainment world.

[Source: Source: McBride, Sarah Davis. History Just Ahead (Madison:WHS, 1999).]

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