The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art: Circus Collection

Courier Co., Ringling Brothers: Giant Giraffes, 1903, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. RINGLING BROS. AND BARNUM & BAILEY™ image courtesy of Feld Entertainment, Inc. RINGLING BROS.® and THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH® are owned and used by permission of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows, Inc.

Artstor has collaborated with The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art to share approximately 4,800 images of posters and photographs that document the history of the circus from the Circus Collection. The collection of the Circus Museum includes a variety of memorabilia and objects related to the history of the circus in America. Performing props, meticulously crafted wardrobe pieces, and historic equipment comprise part of the artifact collection. Among the most unique pieces are the circus wagons and calliopes, decorated with finely crafted woodcarvings, dating from as early as 1878. Handcrafted models also help interpret the history of the American circus. The earliest archival materials include 18th and 19th century prints of circus related performances, personages, and wardrobe designs. Advertising posters in the Circus Collection, dating from the mid-19th century to today, illustrate both the changes in circus advertising and business tactics, as well as the evolving art of commercial lithography and offset printing. Other significant holdings are the collection of circus photography, including the works of Frederick W. Glasier and Edward Kelty. Artstor is also sharing approximately 1,300 images of works in the permanent collection of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

Established in 1948 on the grounds of the Ringling estate, the Circus Museum was the first museum to document the rich history of the American circus. John Ringling (1866 – 1936), circus promoter and best-known of the five siblings who started the Ringling Bros. Circus in 1884, first arrived in Sarasota, Florida in 1909. In 1926, John and Mable Ringling would complete their winter home, Ca'd'Zan, which is open to the public. Later, they would create The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. The museum of art houses a diverse, internationally renowned permanent collection of fine and decorative arts, formed around the core of the personal collection acquired by Ringling. In 1925, Ringling engaged architect John H. Phillips to design a museum to house his collection of art, which was officially opened to the public in 1931. At the time of his death, Ringling left his art collection and estate to the people of the State of Florida. In 2000, the State of Florida transferred stewardship of the Ringling Museum to Florida State University, establishing the Ringling estate as one of the nation's largest museum/university complexes.