December 14, 2012

Ringling Circus Winter Quarters, Sarasota, Florida

John Ringling (1866–1936), one of the seven Ringling brothers who dominated the development of the American circus in the late 19th and early 20th century, moved the winter quarters of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from its original quarters in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Sarasota, Florida. Ringling’s vision, as recalled by Fred Bradna, equestrian director for the show, in his book The Big Top, was to “lay out the quarters like a zoo, and thousands of visitors will pay to see it. I’ll build an open-air arena exactly the size of Madison Square Garden, and on Sunday the acts can practice before an audience... Sarasota will become one of the most beautiful cities in Florida.” On Christmas Day 1927, the new winter quarters opened its doors to visitors. Families could see circus rehearsals as well as animals from all over the world at what was one of Florida’s top tourist attractions at that time. Sarasota became the center of the American circus, immortalized in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1952 Academy Award-winning film The Greatest Show on Earth, and the home to many circus artists and families, including the Concellos, the Wallendas, and Emmett Kelly. This 1933 photograph depicts a small boy with a circus zebra at the Sarasota quarters.

Pay Off of Spec—the Good Old Times

In the American circus, the spectacle, or “spec,” developed as 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 costumes created for specs were often exotic, representing cultures from all corners of the globe. The costumes also could be whimsical, transforming reality, such as the design shown here for the pay-off float of the 1952 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The pay-off float was the grand finale of the parade, and in this spec, elephants were costumed as lobsters and swans. The costume design is by Miles White (1914–2000), who was known as one of the most talented designers of circus costumes and who also designed costumes for ballets, ice shows, movies, and Broadway shows, including Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! and Carousel.

December 17, 2012

Minas and Rio Railway, Brazil: Atlantic Forest

The Thereza Christina Maria collection is composed of 21,742 photos assembled by Emperor Pedro II (1825-91) throughout his life and donated by him to the National Library of Brazil. The collection covers a wide variety of subjects. It documents the achievements of Brazil and Brazilians in the 19th century and also includes many photographs of Europe, Africa, and North America. The Atlantic Forest, or Mata Atlantica, extends along Brazil’s Atlantic coast from the Rio Grande do Sul to Minas Gerais. Isolated from other tropical forests, the area boasts remarkable biodiversity, even though less than ten percent of the original forest still exists. The forest was photographed in the late 19th century by Marc Ferrez (1843-1923), a Brazilian artist of French heritage who documented the development of Brazil as a nation. In the late 1870s, Ferrez worked with the Brazilian Geological Commission and traveled the country photographing landscapes. These photographs later were exhibited in the United States and Europe.

Minas and Rio Railway, Brazil: Mantiqueira Mountain

The Minas and Rio Railway, also known as the Rio Verde Railway, was opened for traffic on July 14th, 1884, in the presence of Emperor Pedro II (1825–91), his daughter Princess Isabel, and her husband, Prince Gastão de Orléans, conde d’Eu. The British-owned and constructed line ran from Cruzeiro in the interior of the state of São Paulo, across the Mantiqueira Mountains, and through cities and towns in the southern part of the state of Minas Gerais as far as Três Corações do Rio Verde. The line was only 144 kilometers long, but it played an important role in opening up the coffee-growing regions of southern Brazil and thereby contributing to the growth of the coffee economy. After the overthrow of the monarchy in 1889 the railroad faced financial difficulties, and in 1901 it was taken over by the federal government. Today the railroad is part of the main Brazilian rail company, Rede Ferroviária Federal S.A. and is used for cargo transport and by touristic steam trains from Soledade to São Lourenço in Minas Gerais. Marc Ferrez (1843–1923), a Brazilian artist of French heritage who documented the development of Brazil as a nation, photographed the Minas and Rio Railway in the early 1880s. Shown here is one of 37 photographs by Ferrez contained in an album that is part of the Thereza Christina Maria collection at the National Library of Brazil. The collection is composed of 21,742 photos assembled by Emperor Pedro II throughout his life and donated by him to the national library. The collection covers a wide variety of subjects. It documents the achievements of Brazil and Brazilians in the 19th century and also includes many photographs of Europe, Africa, and North America.

Minas and Rio Railway, Brazil: Partial View of the Mantiqueira Mountains

The Minas and Rio Railway, also known as the Rio Verde Railway, was opened for traffic on July 14th, 1884, in the presence of Emperor Pedro II (1825–91), his daughter Princess Isabel, and her husband, Prince Gastão de Orléans, conde d’Eu. The British-owned and constructed line ran from Cruzeiro in the interior of the state of São Paulo, across the Mantiqueira Mountains, and through cities and towns in the southern part of the state of Minas Gerais as far as Três Corações do Rio Verde. The line was only 144 kilometers long, but it played an important role in opening up the coffee-growing regions of southern Brazil and thereby contributing to the growth of the coffee economy. After the overthrow of the monarchy in 1889 the railroad faced financial difficulties, and in 1901 it was taken over by the federal government. Today the railroad is part of the main Brazilian rail company, Rede Ferroviária Federal S.A. and is used for cargo transport and by touristic steam trains from Soledade to São Lourenço in Minas Gerais. Marc Ferrez (1843–1923), a Brazilian artist of French heritage who documented the development of Brazil as a nation, photographed the Minas and Rio Railway in the early 1880s. Shown here is one of 37 photographs by Ferrez contained in an album that is part of the Thereza Christina Maria collection at the National Library of Brazil. The collection is composed of 21,742 photos assembled by Emperor Pedro II throughout his life and donated by him to the national library. The collection covers a wide variety of subjects. It documents the achievements of Brazil and Brazilians in the 19th century and also includes many photographs of Europe, Africa, and North America.

December 18, 2012

Geography

Claudius Ptolemaeus (circa 100–circa 170), known as Ptolemy, was an astronomer, mathematician, and geographer of Greek descent who lived and worked in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. In his Geography, Ptolemy gathered all the geographic knowledge possessed by the Greco-Roman world. He used a system of grid lines to plot the latitude and longitude of some 8,000 places on a map that encompassed the known world at the height of the Roman Empire. Ptolemy’s work was lost to Europe in the Middle Ages, but around 1300 Byzantine scholars began introducing copies of his maps and writings into Italy. In 1406, the Italian Jacopo d’Angelo translated the original into Latin. The first printed edition appeared in Rome in 1477, followed a year later by the edition presented here, which contains some of the earliest and finest printed copper engravings. The engravings were begun in Rome by the German Konrad Sweynheym, who, with his partner Arnold Pannartz, founded the first Italian press at Subiaco in 1465. Sweynheym died in 1477, and the engravings and the publication were completed by Arnold Buckinck. The work contains 27 maps, each printed on two separate, facing leaves. Ptolemy’s Geography included major inaccuracies, attributable in part to his miscalculating the size of the Earth, which he believed was smaller than it is. One effect of this miscalculation was to cause Columbus to underestimate the time it would take to reach what he thought was Asia by sailing westward. European explorers gradually completed and corrected Ptolemy’s maps, but the ancient geographer’s methods remained important as a basis for modern cartographic practice.