Circus World Museum is located in Baraboo, Wisconsin, because Baraboo was home to the Ringling Brothers. It was from Baraboo in 1884 that the Ringling Brothers Circus began their first tour as a circus. Over six seasons, the circus expanded from a wagon show to a railroad show with 225 employees, touring cities across the United States each summer. Baraboo remained the circus's headquarters and wintering grounds until 1918, when the Ringling Brothers Circus combined with the Barnum and Bailey Circus, which the Ringling Brothers had bought out in 1908. The combined entity, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, was very successful, and is the largest surviving circus company in the United States.

In 1954, John M. Kelley, a former attorney for the Ringling Brothers, incorporated Circus World Museum with the intent of forming a museum of the Ringling Brothers Circus and circus history in general. By this time the popularity of circuses and other live shows was declining in favor of new media, such as television. After an initial period of organization and fundraising, the museum acquired a large site in Baraboo that included the former wintering grounds of the Ringling Brothers Circus. This site was deeded to the State Historical Society of Wisconsin (now called the Wisconsin Historical Society) to be used as the museum's location, and Circus World Museum opened to the public on July 1, 1959.

Owned by the Wisconsin Historical Society, the museum sits on some of the land owned by the Ringlings, and includes eight of the ten remaining Ringling buildings on the grounds. Circus World Museum holds one of the largest collections of circus materials in the world, including circus wagons, posters, photography, and artifacts used by shows from all over the United States. The museum also has smaller collections of Wild West shows and carnival materials.


 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 



 

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