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Saturday, September 16, 2006 

Somehow it seems only appropriate, on a circus lot this close to Philadelphia to say a few words about Adam Forepaugh and James A Bailey. While Barnum is the name we remember along with Ringling from the 19th Century circus in America, the men who made circus the most successful entertainment of the day were Bailey and Forepaugh. Adam Forepaugh was a Philadelphia meatcutter and real estate investor who put his first circus on the road in 1867. For the next twenty years Forepaugh shows would be as big or bigger than all their rivals, engaging in fierce battles over eastern routes, billing wars, and press campaigns that gave rise to the entire field of modern public relations. If not for 4Paw, Bailey might never have insisted that Barnum acquire Jumbo, a stunt that forever linked elephants to popular circus. James Bailey entered the circus business as an apprentice, an Ohio boy working as a billposter on the advance for a “flatfoot” show out of New York. Later, partnered with James Cooper, also of Philadelphia, Bailey would build a circus that toured coast to coast and abroad, when most American shows were still more than regional powerhouses. Bailey’s partnership with Barnum and the Barnum heirs would lead to the creation of the most successful circus of all time, truly The Greatest Show On Earth. Philadelphia was near a circus town, the way that Peru, IN, or Hugo, OK, or Baraboo, WI have been or still are circus towns. But Philly put out the really big ones.

Hey, BET. Can I interview you for the circus novel I'm writing? After you're off the road for the year? email me at momilies@susabelle.com.

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About me

  • I'm B.E.Trumble
  • From Everywhere, United States
  • Ben Trumble works in circus, carnival, and media relations
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