Ringling Bros. by the numbers: History behind America's largest circus

Slumping ticket sales blamed for Ringling Bros. collapse

Ringling Bros. to shut down

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey is making a comeback after closing its curtains in 2017.

The world-renowned circus is set to return in the fall of 2023, according to its parent company – Feld Entertainment.

This time, the circus will have an all-human cast, which has been praised by animal rights groups, including PETA. The circus will make its upcoming debut with a contemporary logo, according to a news release.

RINGLING BROS. CIRCUS PLANS TO SHUT DOWN 'GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH' AFTER 146 YEARS 

Auditions for Feld Entertainment’s Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.  (Feld Entertainment)

"As passionate stewards of Ringling, we are committed to creating a lifestyle brand that connects with families and sparks real fun 365 days a year through live performances, digital content, consumer products, school curricula, youth circus arts programs and more," said Kenneth Feld, the chair and CEO of Feld Entertainment. 

Feld went on, "We are innovating all aspects of the live show and modernizing the franchise to create an engaging property that is built for today’s families and will last another 150 years."

While fans await the return of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, here are 10 number-based facts about the circus.

History of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus

1872 – American businessman James A. Bailey became a partner in the James E. Cooper’s Circus in 1872. The circus was renamed to Cooper, Bailey and Co.’s Circus four years later, according to Britannica. By 1881, it merged with the P.T. Barnum’s "Greatest Show on Earth," a traveling circus that eventually became the world-famous Barnum & Bailey Circus.

1882 – The "Ringling Brothers" – Albert, Otto, Alfred, Charles and John Ringling (formerly Rüngeling) – were a family song-and-dance troupe that got its start in 1882 in Wisconsin. Over time, their shows evolved into a traveling one-ring circus. Within eight years, the group grew to include monster shows, a menagerie, a caravan and a double circus, according to Britannica.

RINGLING BROS. AND BARNUM & BAILEY CIRCUS GEARING UP FOR FIRST TOUR IN FIVE YEARS 

1919 – The Ringlings purchased the Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1907, following Bailey’s death. The brothers reportedly paid $400,000 for the competing circus, according to an archived article from Princeton University. By 1919, the brothers merged the Barnum & Bailey Circus with their namesake circus – which created the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

1927 – John Ringling moved the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ winter headquarters from Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Sarasota, Florida, in 1927, according to Ringling.org. The circus continued its traveling performances.

1929 Ringling went on to purchase the American Circus Corporation in 1929 for $1.7 million. The purchase absorbed the five circuses that were owned by the corporation, which added to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ monopoly on the American circus business.

1936 – John Ringling North – the son of Ida Ringling, the only Ringling daughter, took over after the death of his uncle John. North was credited with modernizing the circus with theater and movie aesthetics, according to Britannica. 

NEW YORK CIRCUS PERFORMER RESCUED DURING PHOTO SHOOT ON BRIDGE

1956 – North partnered with concert promoter Irvin Feld in 1956, who helped to move the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performances indoors with his management and booking expertise, which ultimately saved money on operation costs.

1967 – Feld purchased the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus after spending more than a decade working with the circus. It reportedly cost Feld $8 million, according to Forbes. He went on to create Feld Entertainment, a live show production company, based in Palmetto, Florida. His children, Kenneth, Alana, Juliette and Nicole continued the family business after his death in 1984, which included running the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

1971 Toy giant Mattel purchased the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from Feld Entertainment in 1971 for $40 million, and allowed the Feld family to manage it. The Feld family purchased the circus back 11 years later.

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2017 The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus gave its final performance on May 21, 2017, in Uniondale, New York, Fox News Digital reported. 

Feld Entertainment cited declining revenue as the reason for shuttering the historic circus. At the time, the entertainment group’s chief operating officer Juliette Feld said they had observed a "dramatic drop" in ticket sales after it retired its circus elephants in 2016.

"We know now that one of the major reasons people came to Ringling Bros. was getting to see elephants," she said. "We stand by that decision. We know it was the right decision."

2023 – The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus tour will kick off in 50 cities around the U.S. beginning September 2023. The company will be putting together a cast of 75 performers with scouts already launching open auditions in Mongolia, Ethiopia, France, Las Vegas and Argentina over the last month.

Fox Business' Daniella Genovese contributed to this report.

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