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Spotlight on Circus: A Ticket to the Circus

Spotlight on Circus: A Ticket to the Circus

Spotlight on Circus collections share curatorial insights about connections between objects in the Circus collection and their significance to the history of the circus and allied arts. by Jennifer Lemmer Posey

Among my favorite objects in the reinstallation is the beautiful White Ticket Wagon made for the Ringling Circus in 1911. Once tucked into the Backyard gallery with the baggage wagons, this extraordinary example of circus craftsmanship is now visible from the moment visitors enter the building. Filling up the small center gallery, the wagon is juxtaposed with the ornate architectural arch and the Wisconsin Railroad Car. Creating this visual relationship helps highlight the beautiful craftsmanship, which is mirrored in the construction of 1904 Wisconsin.

Thinking about this gallery as the place to embark on an experience of the Ringling Family Circus story, the parallel with buying a ticket seemed like a natural theme. I realized this gave us an opportunity to bring out some special objects which have not been on view for decades – a set of ticket boxes. These boxes were stored in the Five Graces Bandwagon for years. Before the bandwagon was moved to the Tibbals Learning Center in 2010, the boxes were removed to safe storage. As they were cataloged, it was realized that all of the boxes were still filled with tickets. And better yet, the tickets are all dated to July 16, 1956 – the last day that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey performed under canvas!

Having these objects out in the galleries also gives a chance to build relations to other places in the circus galleries. The most attentive visitors will notice that the White Ticket Wagon is in the lower left corner of the enlarged image that frames the Wisconsin Railroad Car. They might also recognize the wagon from the Howard Bros. Circus Model.