Battle for the Big Top: P.T. Barnum, James Bailey, John Ringling, and the Death-Defying Saga of the American Circus

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Whether you are of an age to remember when the circus came to town…or if you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing it, this lovingly detailed and well-written history will be of interest. The “battle” was not so much the various outfits competing against one another as they traveled throughout the land but rather their century-long efforts to keep the circus alive and thrilling. Barnum’s life is fairly well known, but most of us know little about his younger partner, Bailey, or the seven (!) Ringling Brothers, who later ran the show. The circus presented here was a uniquely American enterprise, combining animal acts with feats of daring and skill, so-called “freak” shows, and glorious entertainment. Full of surprising tidbits (why we say “jumbo fries”) and stark tragedies—the fire was the worst enemy of all—the saga of the circus features larger-than-life characters who continue to rise up against unbelievable odds. In many ways, they are the stars of this book: heroic, bombastic, and courageous. Includes black-and-white photos, interesting notes, and a thorough bibliography.

Reviewed By:

Author Les Standiford
Star Count /5
Format Trade
Page Count 288 pages
Publisher PublicAffairs
Publish Date 12-Jul-2022
ISBN 9781541762275 Buy this Book
Issue October 2022
Category Biographies & Memoirs