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Barnum & Bailey Circus Closes Its Curtain In Connecticut

Chris O'Meara
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Ringmaster Kristen Michelle Wilson performs Jan. 14, 2017, in Orlando, Fla.

The Greatest Show on Earth held its final Connecticut show in Hartford Sunday night. 

It started in the 1870s with Connecticut native son P.T. Barnum. The circus was basically a retirement gig for him. Barnum was in his 60s when he took his show on the road, and it was originally called – ready for this? P.T. Barnum’s Great Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan and Hippodrome.

Here’s how Kathy Maher of Bridgeport’s Barnum Museum described it.

“It was a wondrous thing. Communities would shut down because the circus was coming to town. Some of these tents would seat ten thousand people. They were enormous. There was always a fine arts tent, there was a museum tent with curiosities for people to see. There would also be menagerie tents where you could see smaller exhibits of animals, more zoo like.”

Barnum split his time between the circus and his role as mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut. He died in 1891 and his circus merged with Ringling Brothers in the early 20th century.

Attendance had dropped for the circus in recent years, and they’d been under decades of intense criticism from animal rights advocates for their use of circus elephants. The company removed elephants from its performances last year. And earlier this year, they announced they’d close up shop for good.

The Greatest Show on Earth may be over, but you haven’t heard the last of P.T. Barnum. There’s a biopic on the way this fall with Hugh Jackman as Barnum. The title? The Greatest Showman.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.
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