Letter from Otto Ringling, October 26, 1907


Otto Ringling (1858–1911) was the son of a German immigrant who, with his brothers Albert, Alfred, Charles, John, August, and Henry, created the Ringling Bros. circus empire in the late 19th century. The brothers bought the competing Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1907. They ran the circuses separately at first, but merged them in 1919 to create the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which came to be known as “the Greatest Show on Earth.” This letter, written by Otto to his brothers in October 1907, details how the assets of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, including the menagerie, stock animals, flat cars, and cages, could be split among the shows owned by the Ringling brothers. The letter provides an interesting glimpse of Otto’s perspective on the economic crisis facing America at the time and its implications for the circus business. The letter, along with many other treasures, was found in the fabled, abandoned winter quarters of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Baraboo, Wisconsin, in 1932 by Sverre O. Braathen.

Last updated: May 24, 2017