RINGLING, JOHN NORTH
John was one of five brothers, Albert (1852-1916), Otto (1858-1911), Alfred (1861-1919) and Charles (1863-1926) who created the world's largest and best known circus. Getting their start by giving musical and dance performances in their hometown of Baraboo, WI and surrounding communities, the brothers soon expanded their repertoire under the name of the Ringling Brothers Classic and Comic Concert Company, with Albert's becoming an accomplished juggler, and John, a clown. They organized their first circus in 1884, traveling by wagon with a trained horse and dancing bear as their only animal performers. In 1888 the brothers acquired an elephant, after which their circus grew rapidly and, by 1890, it had become large enough to travel by train. By 1900, it had become one of the country's larger circuses, and the brothers began acquiring other shows. In 1906 they bought the Forepaugh-Sells show and, in 1907, upon the death of James A. Bailey, they bought the Barnum and Bailey show for $410,000, although they did not combine it with their own show until 1919. Charles directed the business affairs of the circus for many years, and was succeeded by John who was, for many years, one of this country's wealthiest men until he was wiped out in the crash of 1929. It is generally agreed that much of the Ringling brothers' success was due to Charles' keen business sense and organizational genius.