“The Show. John Robinson’s show exhibited in town Monday. The grand street parade took place at 10:20 and was witnessed by a large crowd. The performances in the morning were exceedingly fine. There was a good audience in the evening. The name of Robinson in connection with a circus is of itself sufficient to draw a crowd. He always has something new that is sure to be a winning card. The ballet presentation before Solomon and the Queen of Sheba was not only grand, but very impressive. The managers are very polite and attentive gentlemen and a visit to a town is a good advertisement for them if they desire to come again” (The Wellington Enterprise, 9-13-1893, pg. 5).
I haven’t been to a circus since I was a child. To be candid, I would probably never have thought to attend one again, except that now I have a little one of my own. Someone recently informed me that a circus was coming to town next week, and so we will be making a pilgrimage to the nearby county fairgrounds to see it.
Circuses have been coming through Wellington regularly for at least a century-and-a-half, due in part to the easy accessibility provided by the railroad since 1850. When John Robinson’s show descended upon the village in 1893, for example, it took thirty railroad cars to carry all of its performers, animals and tents.
In honor of the circus coming to town, and my own reconnection with my inner child, I decided to feature some of the wonderful newspaper advertisements designed to excite the public imagination in years past. I’ve chosen examples from three decades, the 1870s to the 1890s. To see the full-sized images in all their high-resolution glory, visit the Library of Congress “Chronicling America” online newspaper repository.
See you at the circus!