Circus Spectacle Float


This photograph depicts an elaborate spectacle float in the “backyard” of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in September 1922. The spectacle, or “spec,” often opened the show and was a procession that took place around the hippodrome track inside the big top, or circus tent, featuring as many of the performers and animals as the circus director was able to costume. Traced back to the earliest circuses in America, the spec was originally a lavish performance of literary or historical tales intended to entertain and edify the audience. The photograph was taken by Charles Clarke (1878–1951), the catcher for the trapeze act The Clarkonians, who was also an amateur photographer who took hundreds of images documenting the behind-the-scenes activities of the circus.

Last updated: December 14, 2012