Before TV, before the movies and before radio, the Circus was show biz. From acrobats to tattooed sideshows, and everything in between, circuses thrilled audiences from coast to coast. While the allure of the freak and magic might have died down, nothing can deny the rich cultural history left behind from one of America’s favorite entertainment outlets. Photographs, prints and broadsides. Objects of ephemera, like the massive rings giants gave to guests. All these work to bring thecircus of old alive. 

Taschen’s The Circus, 1870-1950 covers the golden era of American circuses. Written by Circus historians Linda Granfield and Dominique Jando, the book is devised in 9 thematic chapters. Photographs from the likes of Matthew Brady (famed for his civil war photography) and Weegee (famed for being a bit of a liar) are included. Also, there is little known circus work from Charles and Ray Eames and Stanley Kubrick. All of this works together for a comprehensive textual and visual account of the circus. A must for anyone interested in American folk life.

A few more images from the book after the jump.

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