John Robinson's Circus
By ADRIENNE MCGEE STERRET
July 17, 2013
LIMA — When John Robinson's Circus came to town, everyone took notice.
"The event of the season, the Great World's Exposition of old John Robinson, will be in Lima on Wednesday, Aug. 4, and every man, woman and child within 100 miles is growing happy at the news," an Allen County Democrat story reported July 22, 1875. “Old John Robinson is a man of immense wealth, and he spares no money to make his Menagerie, Aquarium and Circus beyond even an attempt at rivalry.”
The story explained the circus included "40 cages of beasts," with a giraffe, elephants, a rhinoceros, ostrich, sea lions and seals and lions. It was an exhibition worth more than $1 million, the newspaper reported.
“On the day of each exhibition, a splendid holiday street parade will be given through the place, and none of our readers should miss seeing it, as it will be a moving panorama of dazzling beauty, entertaining chariots, cages of wild beasts, dens of strange animals, ears of triumph, performing animals loose in the streets, kept in obeyance by experienced male and female trainers, bands of music comprising 40 men and in fact such a show has never yet visited our city, and no one within 50 miles should fail coming to witness its grandeur," the Democrat continued.
It was also careful to note the spectacle was "fully indorsed by clergymen of every denomination.”
John H. Robinson was born in about 1800 in South Carolina. He essentially ran away from home and joined the circus — and later would build one of his own, according to the Circus Historical Society and Circus 4 Youth websites. The John Robinson Circus operated for years, with winter headquarters in Terrace Park, outside Cincinnati. It eventually sold to American Circus Corp. of Peru, Ind., which in turn sold to Ringling Brothers.