After more than a century, “the Greatest Show on Earth” is coming to and end. Recently it was announced that in May, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will end after 146 years in business. The news comes after years of declining sales, animal rights protests and rising production costs. In modern times, this 100+ year old traveling act had to compete against the movies, Netflix, Hulu and every other form of entertainment. While I haven’t been to an actual circus in years, I’ve always thought there was something magical and romantic about it.
So to celebrate the final days of the circus, I wanted to share some pictures from this magical world.
Equal parts mysterious and creepy, I’ve always thought the circus, and particularly vintage circus photos from the 1800-1950s, are so interesting!
And from a graphic design standpoint, I absolutely LOVE many of the vintage circus posters. I could dedicate an entire post to them!
And of course the ICONIC Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus posters.
I was so inspired by the circus, and I designed an entire project around this theme during my Pratt MFA years.
Inspired by the book Invisible Cities, I designed a double-sided poster, voter card and currency for the fictions city “Sophronia.” I was inspired by vintage circus poster typography and images. To this day it’s still one of my favorite design projects.
So get to the circus while you can! Or look into what lives on in the digital world online, as we’ll all have to do after May. RIP to the Greatest Show on Earth!