Vintage circus posters from the 1890s-1930s: Come one, come all to the greatest shows on earth!

Old circus posters - Barnum Bailey - Ringling Bros and more

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Come enjoy the thrilling & awe-inspiring spectacle of vintage circus posters!

Filled with bright colors, CAPITAL LETTERS and exhortations of being magnificent and the world’s best, these vintage circus posters are supreme wonders of history that transport us back to a time when the circus was a major form of entertainment.

Ringling Bros' aviary and aquarium largest zoological exhibit on earth (1898)

Colorful and eye-catching, these expensively lithographed posters advertised the circus and all of the sensational and stupendous acts, from high-flying acrobats to daring animal trainers and cavorting clowns.

Many of these intricately-designed circus posters have become highly collectible over the years, with some dating back to the end of the 19th century. You will probably even recognize some of the names — in particular, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, which, amazingly enough, are both still around as a combined company. (Check them out at

The Barnum and Bailey greatest show on Earth, the world's largest, grandest, best amusement institution (1899)

If you’ve ever wondered what thrilled people back in the late 1800s and early 1900s — in particular, the days before television — these impressive pieces of art are a fantastic way to get a glimpse into the world of the circus and all its excitement.


Two biggest herds of trained elephants on Earth (1896)

At the Adam Forepaugh & Sells Brothers Enormous combined shows… Two biggest herds of best-trained elephants on earth! Original and only pyramids and supreme colossal acts.

Trained elephants (1896)

Circus poster: Giant Hippopotami (1896)

The only exhibited pair of giant, full-grown male and female hippopotami. For which a standing offer of $100,000 has been steadily refused

Heavier than the bulkiest elephants — The most prodigious of amphibious wonders — Shown in a huge African aquarium and loose upon the grand hippodrome track.

Giant Hippopotami (1896)

Idaletta and Wallace – Trapeze act (c1890s)

Idaletta and Wallace in their thrilling high trapeze triumph! Making a multitude of mid-air conquests at each performance of The Great New Pacific.

Idaletta and Wallace - Trapeze act (c1890s)

Ringling Bros World’s Greatest Shows (1899)

Last days of the Century, or the light of liberty — Tremendous, patriotic, triumphant, educational, moral, glorious, lavishly costumed 1000-character spectacular

Ringling Bros World's Greatest Shows - Last Days of the Century (1899)



The Great Costellos acrobats

The Great Costellos in thrilling mid-air performances on the aerial horizontal bars — with the Sells Brothers circus

The Great Costellos

Circus poster featuring William and Ella Orford and their horses (1897)

William and Ella Orford. First American appearance of these European champion wonders. Original and high-class principal bareback performances and sensational double jockey act.

The Orfords (1897)

Thrilling Roman Bareback Standing Races advertised on this vintage circus poster

Thrilling Roman bareback standing races. A realistic reproduction of imperial coliseum equestrian contests.

Thrilling Roman Bareback Standing Races

Imre Kiralfy’s Columbus show – Barnum and Bailey Circus poster

Grand romantic and picturesque ballet of 300 beautiful male and female dancers before the Moorish king in the famed Palace of the Alhambra in Granada.

A most entrancing terpsichorean interlude in the magnificent spectacle of Columbus.

Imre Kiralfy's Columbus show - Barnum and Bailey Circus

Walter L Main – Fashion Plate Show of the World – Circus horses

Over $50,000 of beautiful horses and gorgeous trappings. A feature of all-equestrian performance — Truly wonderful and just as advertised.

Walter L Main - Fashion Plate Show of the World - Circus horses

World-famous Silbons – the Monarchs of the Air

The world-famous Silbons! The masterly monarchs of the air in a series of most difficult, ingenious and startling aerial feats.

World-famous Silbons - the Monarchs of the Air

Sells Brothers Enormous United Shows circus poster

Magnificent three-ring circus, five continent menagerie, huge elevated stages, Australian aviary, African aquarium, Roman Hippodrome, spectacular pageants, Arabian caravan and Trans-Pacific wild beast exhibit.

A few of the vast multitude of features that crowd our mighty canvasses from centre to circumference and triumphantly establish superiority over all competitive shows on Earth. No lithograph or announce sheet is large enough to present more than the merest outline or our multitudinous attractions.

Sells Brothers Enormous United Shows - Circus

Ringling Brothers circus: The Field of the Cloth of Gold

Ringling Brothers circus: The Field of the Cloth of Gold

The miraculous Melrosas (1900)

The only marvelously magical mid-air riders of the standard wheel bicycle

1900-The miraculous Melrosas

Educated sea lions and seals

The great and only troupe of marvelously educated sea lions and seals trained by Captain Woodward and performed by his talented sons.

Every feat pictured above actually presented at each performance or money refunded. $5,000 will be given to anyone producing a similar act. All other shows claiming such a feature do so willfully and with intent to defraud the public.

Adam Forepaugh & Sells Brothers great shows consolidated

The frolics and amusing antics of twenty funny felt-crowned fools

A series of comical mishaps, ludicrous incidents, side-splitting laughable feats and apt burlesques on famous hits of the day occurring concurrently in the rings, stages, hippodrome track and aerial enclave.

Forepaugh and Sells Bros circus (1899)

The only clown women (1896)

The only clown women who wear the comic crown. See the new woman in a novel sphere! Introducing the three great equestriennes of the day. Leap year ladies of laughter! “Variable as the shade by the light quivering aspen made”

1896-Adam Forepaugh & Sells Brothers enormous shows combined

Champion Great Danes (1898)

Colonel Magnus Schult’s magnificent $25,000 troupe of champion Great Danes from the imperial kennels of Prince Bismarck.

The noblest and purest-bred canines in the whole world. Introduced in a performance absolutely unparalleled in the history of animal training.

1898-champion great danes

The Great Wallace shows (1898)

The renowned Stirk family, whose “fame folds in the orb ‘o this earth”, the glass of fashion and the mold or form. The highest of high-class acts, marvelous and original evolutions by adult and juvenile experts. An enormously expensive feature of the world’s best show.

1898-The Great Wallace shows

The Great Forepaugh & Sells Brothers (1899)

Phenomenal acts of contortion — The revival of the still vaulting act, first time produced in a quarter of a century, and heroic backward dives from extension ladders, three acrobatic numbers not seen elsewhere.

1899-Phenomenal acts of contortion

Madame Yucca: The Female Hercules! (1898)

The strongest woman on Earth. Handsome, modest and genteel, in the costume of the parlor she performs feats of strength never attempted by any other man or woman on Earth. Every feat on this illustration is actually performed at each exhibition.

Madame Yucca - the female Hercules (1898)

The Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth

The realistic jungle menagerie, as seen in the great palmaram at Olympia. A marvelous display of wild animals and living curiosities. No extra charge.

The Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth--The realistic jungle menagerie ...

Ringling Bros – The Field of the Cloth of Gold (1905)

Tremendous big new street parade at 10 o’clock am. Two grand complete performances daily, beginning at 2 and 8 pm. Doors open one hour eariler.

Ringling Bros - The Field of the Cloth of Gold (1905)

Hobart’s big united circus acts – Price Valley County Fair (1906)

Hobart's big united circus acts - Price Valley County Fair (1906)

Carl Hagenbeck Greater Shows – Triple Circus – East India Exposition (1906)

The most complete and coextensive educational and amusement enterprise ever organized.

Carl Hagenbeck Greater Shows - Triple Circus - East India Exposition (1906)

Daniel Curtis’ famous horse act (1910)

Daniel Curtis’ famous 61 horse act. Most colossal trained animal act of all times. 60 horses at complete liberty obedient to command of trainer mounted on golden fleece famous equine beauty.

Daniel Curtis' famous horse act (1910)

Barnum and Bailiey clown skits (1916)

MORE: The original Wizard of Oz Broadway musical from 1903 looked like nightmare fuel

Barnum and Bailiey clown skits (1916)

Dainty Miss Leitzel circus act (1925)

Dainty Miss Leitzel circus act (1925)

Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus (1928)

Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus (1928)

YouTube video

Beech nut gum – Circus clown and strong man (1937)

Beech nut gum - Circus clown and strong man (1937)

At the Beech Nut Circus (1937)

Rosie Rieffenach, premier bareback rider of Ringling Bros Circus, enjoys her Beech-Nut Gum

Beech Nut Circus - Gum (1937)

ALSO SEE: We restored 20 vintage clown pictures with AI, and the results were pretty creepy

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