The Circus Comes to Town, 1871from: southcoasttodau.com
March 29, 2012
n June, 1871, Middleborough witnessed what was undoubtedly one of the largest and most unusual sights ever seen in the community - the arrival and performance of P. T. Barnum's Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan & Hippodrome in town.
Formed in 1871, at Delavan, Wisconsin, by P. T. Barnum, William Cameron Coup and Dan Castello, Barnum's operation was the largest circus yet seen in America, a deliberate objective of the famous showman who wanted his circus to be on a grand scale. "We ought to have a big show. The public expects it, and will appreciate it," Barnum emphasized. Based upon its immediate success and incomparable size, within a few years the Barnum circus would bill itself as "The Greatest Show on Earth", ultimately merging with James A. Bailey and James L. Hutchinson's circus in 1881.
The 1871 Barnum circus in Middleborough was heavily advertised locally, though the hyperbolic ad which ran in the Plymouth Old Colony Memorial appears to be the sole advertisement for the event which has survived.
"Coming. P. T. Barnum's Museum, Menagerie, Caravan and Hippodrome" (the ad reads). "This is the title of a Mammoth Show, which only the prince of showmen, P. T. Barnum, Esq., can organize and effectually keep on its legs. Having been out of the menagerie arena for so long a time, Mr. Barnum has had ample time to select the very best of everything, and his name alone ought to be sufficient guarantee that the exhibition he manages is first-class. In the course of a few days the "advance guard" of this monster exhibition, will arrive in town, to make arrangements for performing here. This grand traveling Museum and Circus combined, consists of seventy-five wagons; two hundred horses; one hundred and seventy-five people. Three mammoth tents, each larger than those used by any circus company, are required o accommodate this monster show. All to be seen for ONE price of admission. With all the energy and unlimited means possessed by Mr. Barnum, it required three years to organize this monster show — which will exhibit during the Spring and Summer throughout the Eastern and Middle States. At Middleboro', June 7th. At Plymouth, June 8th. "
During its first year of operation when it came to Middleborough the Barnum circus traveled by wagon. To transport its huge retinue of curiosities, the circus required some 250 men and nearly as many horses, as well as 95 wagons, carriages and cages. The vehicles were all of "exquisite workmanship and finish, no two being of the same color or design," and the spectacle of a long multi-colored train full of exotic sights and unusual sounds was thrilling for most residents. Many found amusement in standing by the roadside watching the procession make its way into town.