Bailey had such success in presenting Old Bet to the local townspeople and farmers, he arranged to purchase additional exotic animals from other ship captains. In 1884, five brothers from Baraboo, Wisconsin--Al, Alf, Charles, John, and Otto Ringlingwho not only had a flair for showmanship but were superb businessmen, started a circus.When they took over the Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1908, they could stake a legitimate claim to the title "Greatest Show on Earth." Since 1919 the Ringling Bros.Larger posters came in multiple sheet sizes from 2 to 24.
Posters advertised stupendous acts with words like electrifying, dequitation, noble, liliputian, amazon, bravest, world famous, and exotic. Barnum, always the master showman, knew that the circus brought joy into the humdrum, and often sad lives of its patrons.
They promised showgoers snarling lions from darkest Africa and elephants from the exotic East, along with aerialists performing daring acts high in the air and lady equestrians in glittering tights. And circus posters reflected that in their bright, colorful illustrations and myriad of type styles. Circuses, as theyre known today, began as equestrian exhibitions, which later added tumbling, rope-dancing and juggling.
Many early posters, printed on bright white, medium- weight rag paper with oil-based inks, included the name of the show, with a date added later by the circus advance crew.
The invention of the lithographic printing process in the 1798 by Aloys Senefelder, a German map inspector, drastically changed poster production.
But its the latter, especially posters, that have become the hottest items sought by collectors.