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Water for Elephants - THE CIRCUS DURING the 1930s

Major circus performances, during the 1930s, were often held inside "the big top" - a very large tent suitable for traveling troupes.  This photograph depicts the interior of a circus tent, c. 1930.  Image online, courtesy U.S. National Archives.

 

Before radio broadcasts were commonplace, and television was invented, the circus was the greatest entertainment industry in the world.  Stars of the big top were some of the world's most famous celebrities.

It wasn't just big-name circuses which lifted the spirits of Depression-era people.  Independent shows, traveling by rail or road, would set up their tents and roll out their attractionsResidents of small towns and large cities, alike, lined the streets to welcome the visitors.

Posters, plastered on sides of buildings, announced when the circus would arrive.  Promoting various skills, from contortionists to lion tamers, those ads - viewed decades later - allow us to step back in time.  With them, we can assess the impact of a circus visit on the lives of people sorely needing a break from a seemingly non-ending financial downturn.

Let's take a look at some of the circus posters maintained by the U.S. Library of Congress:

  • Lion Tamer - Predatory Cats as a Circus Main Attraction

Now that we've seen examples of the posters advertising traveling circuses, let's meet some of the performers from the 1930s.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5184stories and lessons created

Original Release: Apr 01, 2011

Updated Last Revision: Jul 15, 2019


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