Grateful American® Foundation

When did the circus come to America?

April 22nd

450px-Ricketts_CircusApril 22, 1793 — This afternoon in Philadelphia, President George Washington attended the opening of the first circus in the United States.

Circus owner Bill Ricketts had recently acquired horses in Pennsylvania and traveled to New York City to erect a stage on Broadway, near the Battery. As in Philadelphia, this first arena was roofless, and the performances were given in daylight, at 4 p.m. The weather must have been clement that year, since Ricketts kept the Circus open until November 4, before moving south to Charleston, South Carolina.

Young and good-looking, talented and enterprising, Ricketts’ Circus was a sensation. The star equestrian, born in England, formed his company in 1791 in partnership with John Parker, a dancer turned “equestrian manager” (aka: circus manager). They established themselves at the Circus Royal in Edinburgh, then toured in Scotland and Ireland before venturing to America two years later.

Words of Wisdom

Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.

— H. L. Mencken, (1880-1956), a German-American journalist, satirist, cultural critic and scholar of American English. Known as the "Sage of Baltimore", he is regarded as one of the most influential American writers and prose stylists of the first half of the 20th century.

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