All good things must come to an end. Such is the case with Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey. This May, the iconic circus group will be giving their final performance at the newly renovated Nassau Coliseum. It’s sad to see them go, but we also feel proud that they have chosen to do their last tour on Long Island. Luckily, we’ll get a chance to see their final hurrah - and you can too during your stay at the Allegria Hotel. Here’s a look back at their historic 146-year run.
The story of the world-famous circus starts with Phineas Taylor Barnum, or P.T. Barnum as he’s better known. A showman in every sense of the word, Barnum began his entertainment career displaying “curiosities” at the Barnum’s American Museum in lower Manhattan in 1841. Although many of the attractions would later evolve into the circus we know today, the traveling show didn’t start until he teamed up with the William Cameron Coup on Wisconsin for the “P.T. Barnum's Great Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Hippodrome.”
Meanwhile Barnum was taking his show on the road, James Anthony Bailey was running his own circus with partner James E. Cooper. The Cooper & Bailey Circus was especially taking off due to its star performer - the baby elephant “Columbia” who was billed as the first elephant born in the United States. Barnum wanted the elephant, but Bailey wouldn’t sell - so they merged their shows. And in 1881, the Barnum & Bailey Circus was born.
It was in this period that the circus garnered its worldwide fame. With exotic animals like elephants, camels, horses, and performers doing out-of-this-world tricks, the traveling circus was a huge sensation. It was so popular that Bailey took the show on a 5-year tour of Europe after the death of Barnum in 1891. Yet while they were touring Europe, another rising circus group from the Midwest was taking their place on the East Coast - The Ringling Bros.
The Ringling Bros. had garnered a loyal following in the East while Bailey was away. When Bailey returned from Europe, he took his show to the West Coast where he still managed to do well. It was only after Bailey’s death that Ringling Bros. bought Barnum & Bailey from Bailey’s widow.
Although Ringling Bros. were the owners of both shows, they continued to operate the circuses separately. That was until 1919, when operating both circuses at the same time had finally become too much. Nevertheless, the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey continued as “The Greatest Show on Earth,” billing acrobats, horse riders, dancers, and animal trainers across the country. Only now, 146 years since the first show, is it finally calling it quits. Come see the end of an era, starting May 12, 2017, and running until its final show on May 21, 2017.
Want to see this historic moment? Make a weekend out of it at the Allegria Hotel. Check our advance purchase specials here.