The Big Top

Tonight the circus leaves town.

Instead of going, I spent the evening looking through my beloved children's book "Great Days of the Circus". Who knew a little dumpy 60's pictorial could have such great original images?

I was a big fan of the circus as a kid. Not so much the ringmaster bit, but the popcorn and elephant rides. It was like a big glittery zoo with men in tights.

At the impressionable age of 8 I saw a PETA expose on the circus that soured the whole experience a bit. I cried. But I still love a bit of circus romance, especially an old timey circus.

You can't forget the sideshows. Here's Lambert, the giant baby.

Side note- Some of my favorite X-Files episodes of all time are the sideshow ones, oh so good!

The actual photos of the performers are just so heartbreaking. This sweet little girl makes me, the stay at home curmudgeon, want to run away with the circus.

So amazing.

And yes, I love a girl in a dainty white Edwardian dress with a whip and a handful of leopards.

You know she was a toughie.


  1. I too am a sucker for the X files and I always loved the circus episodes.

  2. WHAT A GREAT BOOK!!!!!!!! i need to find a copy for halligan! i love the idea of the circus, but now every time i think of shirley and solomon and i start to cry.

  3. When I was younger I decided to join PETA and promptly refused family outings to the circus.

    That book is really beautiful. If only the circus were still that glamorous!

  4. The circus is such a bittersweet subject.

    I'm all for the acrobats, tightrope walkers, strong men, trapeze swingers and fire eaters but the animals break my heart. Oh so sad.....

  5. Did you ever read those 1970s "A Very Young..." photo books by Jill Krementz? I finally got my own copy of A Very Young Dancer (behind the scenes at NY City Ballet in the late-Balanchine era!!!) but I bet you'd get a kick out of A Very Young Circus Flyer. It's the only one about a boy, and it was the first one with color photos. The kid is the youngest member of a long-time circus family and does a trapeze act w/ dad and brother. Mom does something with died-pink poodles and you get to see her coloring them pink. Awesome.

  6. Oh my gosh! I compulsively checked them out of the library as a kid!

    The circus one sounds amazing! I was completely obsessed with the actress, rider and dancer ones.

    Have you ever seen the documentary Children of Theater Street? Another 1970s kiddie obsession of mine.

  7. I'm in love with the circus. not so much the animal cruelty as you mentioned but like sideshows and the glitter and deathdefying stunts and the music! these pictures are amazing.

  8. I've been on a bit of a circus kick- planning a circus theme room for the kids and reading Water for Elephants (fantastic) and Modoc (not as fantastic but a good story). It's so intriguing, isn't it?!

  9. No!! I'll have to search for it.

    God, I loved those books--I, too, checked them out of the library all the damn time. I grew up in Oregon and I distinctly remember having a snobbish reaction to the local ballet company's production of Nutcracker when I was 7 or so because I was judging it against the NYC Ballet version. Not that I had seen it anywhere but in the book. Or....been to NYC.

  10. Whoa! I just looked on Amazon to see, and check out how cheap copies of the books are!
    I should start collecting them all.

  11. those pictures are great <3
    circuses are always so fun
    and interesting :]

  12. No mention of jojothedogfacedboy? How may times did we hear about that as kids.

    I remember seeing those heartbreaking, stomach turning pictures of circus animals... on the national mall, in from of the natural history museum, is that the time you were remembering?

  13. YES! That's the time! They lured us into their tent with free popcorn.

    And jojo the dog faced boy. I tried to work him into the post but couldn't. Oh dad.

  14. a great long while ago P.T. Barnum had a seemingly incredible museum in NYC, it burnt down in 1846 but I really think it must have been a dreamland. This little summary has been making me wish and wish I could just move time backwards... oh... just 160 years or so!!!

    From between the upper windows, giant paintings of animals drew stares from pedestrians. The roof was transformed to a strolling garden with a view of the city, where hot-air balloon rides were launched daily. To the static exhibits of stuffed animals were added a changing series of live acts and "curiosities", including albinos, giants, jugglers, magicians, "exotic women", detailed models of cities and famous battles, and eventually a menagerie of animals....

  15. Just found your beauty-of-a-blog and am absolutely captivated by it!!!!!! EGAD, such JEWELS!

    The X-files episodes involving the circus or their "freaks" will always be in the top 10 for me!

    A friend just lent me Carnivale. An HBO show from a while back. They only made 2 seasons and being an HBO show it's graphic at times (lots of eye shutting at the "cootch" dances.) but it is a small consolation for me now that the X-files is over. If such vulgarity doesn't offend your delicate sensibilities then do check it out. ;-)

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos with a girl stuck in a deserty valley in California. Your life is the thing that my dreams are made out of! Oh to be surrounded by so much GREEN!