It's lunch time for a Ringling Bros. Circus giraffe.
The Origins of Ringlingville 1884-1918
The Ringling Bros. Circus was founded in Baraboo in 1884 by five brothers: Al, Otto, Charles, John and Alf T. Ringling. Their circus winter quarters in Baraboo became known to locals as "Ringlingville." The surviving buildings standing along the north bank of the Baraboo River date from 1897 through 1916 and are the largest group of original circus structures in North America. There are also remnants of a footbridge that employees used to cross the river.
The world-famous circus wintered in Baraboo for a total of 34 years — through the winter of 1918. In that time period, the show grew from a very small operation employing a handful of people to a circus empire consisting of the three largest circuses in America, each employing over a thousand.
Their original winter quarters area is now a National Historic Landmark Site.
Circus World: 1959 – Present
As the heyday of the great railroad circuses began to fade, John M. Kelley, who for 33 years had been the personal attorney for the Ringling families, envisioned a place where the circus industry he knew and loved could be preserved for future generations.
At his retirement, Kelley and members of the Gollmar Family, first cousins to the Ringling Family and also circus owners, incorporated Circus World Museum as a historical and educational facility. Following their far-reaching fundraising efforts, Circus World was deeded debt-free to the Wisconsin Historical Society the day after it opened, July 1, 1959.
Zebras rehearse for a show outside the Ringling Ring Barn.
Circus World's original site was less than one acre of land and included the Ringling Camel House and Ring Barn. The properties were both acquired in 1957. Over the years, land and structures were added until the site now encompasses approximately 64 acres, with approximately 30 permanent structures, and includes eight original winter quarters buildings plus the original Ringling Bros. Circus Train complex.
Circus World's collection of circus artifacts is the largest in the world and includes more than 210 original wagons and vehicles once used by American, English and Irish circuses. Circus World houses an exceptional collection of circus ads and posters, with more than 8,650 multi-colored circus posters that range in size from half-sheets to a large 80-sheet Buffalo Bill Wild West poster measuring 9 feet high and 70 feet long. The collection also includes thousands of journals, manuscripts, business records, original fine art oil paintings, hand bills, heralds, programs, costumes, personal artifacts of circus performers, a collection of rare photographs, motion picture film and glass-plate negatives.
A baby elephant receives a bottle feeding at the Ringling Winter Quarters.
Lady Equestriennes practice their routine on the Ringling Winter Quarters in 1908.
The Ringling Wardrobe Dept. creates another new elephant blanket for the upcoming season.
The Ringling train facility includes the largest wooden railroad structure in North America.