Battle for the big top P.T. Barnum, James Bailey, John Ringling, and the death-defying saga of the American circus

Les Standiford

Book - 2021

"Millions have sat under the "big top," watching as trapeze artists glide and clowns entertain, but few know the captivating stories behind the men who shaped the circus. Battle for the Big Top is the untold story of the battles of the three circus kings--James Bailey, P.T. Barnum, and John Ringling--all vying for control of the vastly profitable and widely influential American Circus. New York Times bestselling author Les Standiford recreates a remarkable era when a community--wi...thout regard for gender, creed, or nationality--would be captivated by the spectacle created by three diversely talented individuals who transcended the ordinary. Ultimately, the rivalry of these three men resulted in the creation of an institution that would surpass all intentions and, for 147 years, hold a nation spellbound. Filled with details of their ever-evolving showmanship, business strategies, and personal magnetism, this Ragtime-like narrative will delight and enchant circus-lovers everywhere"--

Saved in:

2nd Floor Show me where

791.30922/Standiford
1 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 791.30922/Standiford Checked In
Subjects
Genres
Biographies
Informational works
Published
New York : PublicAffairs [2021]
Language
English
Physical Description
x, 255 pages, 16 unnumbered leaves of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 237-243) and index.
ISBN
9781541762282
1541762282
Main Author
Les Standiford (author)
  • World on fire
  • Before the big top
  • The periodic table of circus elements
  • On American shores
  • Pachyderm on the half shelf
  • Readying for takeoff
  • How they roll
  • What's in a name
  • Growing a stake
  • Clash of the Titans
  • A showman hits his stride
  • First tour of duty
  • Museum master
  • General Tom
  • Est arrive
  • Riches to rags, and back again
  • The circus comes calling
  • Mr. B, meet Mr. B.
  • On massive shoulders
  • The greatest show
  • Upstarts
  • The coming men
  • Punch and counter punch
  • Building a Leviathan
  • Terms of success
  • The price of love
  • Last man standing
  • Patriarch of paradise
  • The last race
  • After the ball
  • Out of the ashes
  • Rock and roll to the rescue
  • What remains.
Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Historian Standiford (Palm Beach, Mar-a-Lago, and the Rise of America's Xanadu) delivers a zippy history of Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus. He traces the roots of the modern circus to 18th-century England, and notes that "a truly indigenous American circus" emerged with the introduction of elephants in the early 19th century. After James Bailey joined his first circus as a 12-year-old orphan in 1859, he became the co-owner of a show in 1873, and a few years later lost nearly half his animals on a steamship journey to Australia and New Zealand. In 1880, P.T. Barnum, who had launched a traveling circus after displaying mermaids and other "natural curiosit" at his Manhattan museum, offered to pay $100,000 for a calf born to one of Bailey's elephants, and the two men eventually agreed to a merger. John Ringling and his brothers acquired the "Greatest Show on Earth" after Bailey's death in 1906 and oversaw its golden age before such challenges as the Great Depression, suburban development, television, and animal rights laws eventually led to its closure in 2017. Standiford packs the account with colorful circus lore, and ably sketches contemporaneous developments, such as the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Readers will relish this entertaining portrait of a bygone American institution. (June) Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"Millions have sat under the "big top," watching as trapeze artists glide and clowns entertain, but few know the captivating stories behind the men who shaped the circus. Battle for the Big Top is the untold story of the battles of the three circus kings--James Bailey, P.T. Barnum, and John Ringling-all vying for control of the vastly profitable and widely influential American Circus. New York Times bestselling author Les Standiford recreates a remarkable era when a community-without regard for gender, creed, or nationality--would be captivated by the spectacle created by three diversely talented individuals who transcended the ordinary. Ultimately, the rivalry of these three men resulted in the creation of an institution that would surpass all intentions and, for 147 years, hold a nation spellbound. Filled with details of their ever-evolving showmanship, business strategies, and personal magnetism, this Ragtime-like narrative will delight and enchant circus-lovers everywhere"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Tells the story of how James Bailey, P.T. Barnum and John Ringling fought to control the popular and influential American Circus and how their rivalry eventually resulted in the creation of the institution we know today. 30,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

“Les Standiford takes us under the big top and behind the curtain in this richly researched and thoroughly engaging narrative that captures all of the entrepreneurial intrigue and spirit of the American circus.” —Gilbert King, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Devil in the GroveMillions have sat under the “big top,” watching as trapeze artists glide and clowns entertain, but few know the captivating stories behind the men whose creativity, ingenuity, and determination created one of our country’s most beloved pastimes.In Battle for the Big Top, New York Times–bestselling author Les Standiford brings to life a remarkable era when three circus kings—James Bailey, P. T. Barnum, and John Ringling—all vied for control of the vastly profitable and influential American Circus. Ultimately, the rivalry of these three men resulted in the creation of an institution that would surpass all intentions and, for 147 years, hold a nation spellbound. Filled with details of their ever-evolving showmanship, business acumen, and personal magnetism, this Ragtime-like narrative will delight and enchant circus-lovers and anyone fascinated by the American experience.  

Review by Publisher Summary 4

'Les Standiford takes us under the big top and behind the curtain in this richly researched and thoroughly engaging narrative that captures all of the entrepreneurial intrigue and spirit of the American circus.' 'Gilbert King, Pulitzer Prize'winning author of Devil in the GroveMillions have sat under the 'big top," watching as trapeze artists glide and clowns entertain, but few know the captivating stories behind the men whose creativity, ingenuity, and determination created one of our country's most beloved pastimes.In Battle for the Big Top, New York Times'bestselling author Les Standiford brings to life a remarkable era when three circus kings'James Bailey, P. T. Barnum, and John Ringling'all vied for control of the vastly profitable and influential American Circus. Ultimately, the rivalry of these three men resulted in the creation of an institution that would surpass all intentions and, for 147 years, hold a nation spellbound. Filled with details of their ever-evolving showmanship, business acumen, and personal magnetism, this Ragtime-like narrative will delight and enchant circus-lovers and anyone fascinated by the American experience.