Monday, May 20, 2013

Vintage Circus Art

Victorian Circus Posters

Victorians loved circuses. Back then, there was no TV or movies for entertainment. Circuses were a big draw for an entertainment-hungry audience.

Back then, there were hundreds of circuses that traveled around to fairgrounds everywhere. By the end of the 1800s, railroads made it possible to have very large circuses that carried all their gear on several cars. The large circuses toured to small towns across Europe and America.

Fun circus acts always included trick riding, jugglers, aerialists, elephants, equestrians, trapeze, and clowns, although there were specialty acts, too, such as the coney island water carnival put on by Barnum & Bailey.
Traveling circuses started out small -- in the 1700s, they involved a small group of entertainers--often a single family--and a single open air ring. Small circuses were often regular features of fairs. These early performances would include a couple of acrobats, clowns, tightrope walkers, and horses. Shows would be given several times a day, and they'd pass around a hat to collect money. At first, the circuses would travel with a few horses and wagons to carry their equipment from town to town. Audiences would stand and watch from the sidelines.

Eventually, the rings would be covered by canvas tents. By the 1820s, the traditional "big top" appeared, and seated a few hundred spectators.  By around 1880, when railroads carried the gear and large circuses evolved, the performances could seat thousands of spectators, and the big top grew even bigger.

Of course, colorful posters were placed around town to advertise the affair. These little art gems are highly sought by today's collectors of circus memorabilia.

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