Stories from Wisconsin's circuses, 1850-1908

Wisconsin Circus Lore

Wisconsin became nationally known for circuses in the nineteenth century. Although the circus as a traveling organization had originated in the east, circuses proved especially popular in the west where professional entertainment was rare. In 1847, Edmund and Jeremiah Mabie, owners of the U.S. Olympic Circus, then the nation's largest traveling show, acquired land in Delavan, Wisconsin, and moved their headquarters west. Soon, over 100 traveling circuses wintered in Wisconsin, 26 in Delavan alone.

This publication was prepared by the Wisconsin Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration. The Writers' Project in each  state provided work for unemployed researchers, writers, and editors during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Only about 200 copies of this booklet were made. They  were printed by mimeograph, bound by W.P.A. workers in the Milwaukee Handicraft Project, and distributed to public libraries. A second edition was published ca. 1947 by Dorothy Brown, who had headed the Wisconsin Folklore section of the Writers Project a decade earlier.

Related Topics: The Progressive Era
Travel and Tourism
Creator: Folklore Section, Federal Writers’ Project, Wisconsin.
Pub Data: Madison, Wis.: Works Progress Administration, Wisconsin, 1937. Digitized from a copy in the rare book collection of the Wisconsin Historical Society Librar, call no. GV1815 F4.
Citation: Folklore Section, Federal Writers’ Project, Wisconsin. Wisconsin Circus Lore. (Madison, Wis.: Works Progress Administration, Wisconsin, 1937); Online facsimile at:; Visited on: 12/13/2019