Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Memorabilia Auction  

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Memorabilia Auction

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Memorabilia Comes to Auction at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Just Before the Circus Closes May 2017

Circus Memorabilia
Circus Memorabilia
Circus Memorabilia

The Ringling Brothers’ circus is making its last stand in cities across the country, and Leslie Hindman Auctioneers will help carry on its legacy by selling memorabilia from the historic past time on May 4. The “Greatest Show on Earth” will close in May of 2017 after 146 years of entertaining.

 

Leslie Hindman Auctioneers is delighted to be auctioning one of the largest collections of circus memorabilia to come to auction from a private collection. Consigned by one of the few remaining friends of the Ringling family, Mr. Richard Bennett, the collection includes circus posters and broadsides, photographs, circus equipment and ephemera. The collection represents circuses such as the Cole Bros. Circus, Adam and Seils Circus, Tom Mix Circus, and Sells Floto Circus, but the majority of property is from the Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey, and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circuses.

 

As a young man, Mr. Bennett met Henry Ringling’s wife, Ida B. Palmer Ringling, at Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin where both families had summer homes. Born and raised in Elgin, Illinois, Mr. Bennett took an early interest in the traveling circus shows he attended as a young man. He struck up a friendship with Mrs. Ida Ringling while staying at the lake. The Ringlings owned what was once called “South Shore Lodge” and had a two story brown house on the south shore.

Circus Memorabilia
Circus Memorabilia
Circus Memorabilia

“I would visit her often, and we would talk about the old days in show business,” said Mr. Bennett. “I have all of her letters addressed to me stating the next time I was back to stop in because she had things from the circus for me.”

 

Eventually, Mr. Bennett spent time in Baraboo and worked at the Circus World Museum as a clown in 1964. He would go on to travel and perform on the east coast with various circus groups. His interest in collecting memorabilia inspired those he encountered to gift him with property from their outfits.

 

One major contribution to his collection came from a former Postmaster Assembly in Baraboo, William Kasiska, who personally knew the Ringling family and was allowed to take what he wanted from their collection before they moved the circus to Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1918.

 

“I was in show business for over 16 years and traveled with many circuses,” said Mr. Bennett. “My house looks like a circus museum, and many performers often stop to view the collection.”

 

Getting their start in Baraboo, Wisconsin, the Ringling Brothers have had close ties to the city since 1884. The seven Ringling brothers were born in Baraboo and remained in the city until they moved their growing circus operation to Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1918. Original Ringling Brothers buildings still stand, and the Circus World Museum was built at its former winter headquarters. The majority of the Ringling family is buried at Baraboo Walnut Hill Cemetery.

Circus Memorabilia
Circus Circus Memorabilia
Circus Memorabilia

P.T. Barnum also got his start in Wisconsin, creating his circus in Delavan, Wisconsin where he first gained notoriety as a promoter of the strange and exotic. He opened “P.T. Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan and Hippodrome” in 1871 and merged with James Bailey’s circus in 1881. The Ringling Brothers bought Barnum and Bailey from Mrs. Bailey in 1907.

 

The Feld family, along with Houston Judge Roy Hofheinz, purchased the circus in 1967 after it had already established its stadium model of permanent venues with ticketed seats, which started around 1957. They sold to Mattel in 1971 and bought it back in 1982. It has been a part of Feld Entertainment since Irvin Feld’s death in 1984.

 

The announcement of its closing came in January of 2017, stating the circus would close in May of 2017. The final Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey show will be May 21 in Uniondale, New York. CEO of Feld Entertainment, Kenneth Feld, cited dwindling ticket sales and the removal of elephants from the acts amidst criticism from animal rights groups as reasons for the circus closing its doors.

 

After decades of entertaining families across the country, the operation will leave behind a sense of nostalgia and reflection. While the spectacular and bizarre will live on, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus will become an enterprise of the past and a part of American history.

 

Leslie Hindman Auctioneers is pleased to bring this collection of memorabilia to auction, and to commemorate an icon of American entertainment. The catalogue will be available online starting in April with a preview of the collection opening Sunday, April 30 in Leslie Hindman Auctioneers’ Chicago headquarters. The sale will be conducted in the Chicago saleroom and online via LH Live and Bidsquare. More information: Circus Memorabilia Collection.

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