The Greatest Show on Earth

In this classic circus pose, three elephants take a seat on command. Brett and Cathy Carden are animal trainers in this edition of the circus, one of four on national tour. BY RON MACARTHUR
March 12, 2013

It's been a long time since I last attended a circus. But with twin grandchildren, visits to the circus are back on the schedule. We attended the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Wicomico Civic Center last week and enjoyed every minute of it.

Although the circus dates back to ancient Rome, the circus as we know it has European roots in the late 18th century. And the American circus can trace its beginnings to the same circus that still travels the country. In the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, the Ringling Brothers, James Bailey and P.T. Barnum bought up most of the small traveling circuses and eventually merged.

In 1881, Barnum and Bailey merged and then in 1907, the Ringling Brothers purchased Barnum and Bailey. Two circuses operated until they merged into The Greatest Show on Earth in 1919.

Although the circus has kept up with the times offering modern rock music and laser light shows, it still maintains a strong hold to the past. Many of the same acts are as popular today as they were more than 100 years ago. People are still thrilled by tight-rope walkers, acrobats, animal acts, elephants, clowns and knife throwers.


  • Ron MacArthur has lived and worked in Sussex County all his life. As a journalist for more than 40 years, he has covered everything from county and town meetings to presidential visits. He also has a unique perspective having served as an elected official and lived on both sides of the county.

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