The circus comes to town
The Circus Comes to Town
June 2, 2014
Before television and movies, people had to rely on other forms of entertainment, and in the late 1800s, there was little that could create as much excitement as the circus rolling into town. In this photograph from the 1880s, a crowd lines South Michigan Street in South Bend to watch circus elephants parade by. People perch on the rooftops of local businesses for a better view, and on the street, women in bustled dresses and men in straw hats use umbrellas to shade themselves from the summer sun.
While the circus in this photograph is unidentified, touring circuses such as Van Amburgh & Co. Circus and John A. Forepaugh’s Circus Royal often passed through South Bend, Mishawaka, Goshen and Plymouth. It was nearly 131 years ago, on June 15-16, 1883, that “P.T. Barnum’s Greatest Show on Earth,” which later became the Barnum & Bailey Circus, passed through LaPorte and South Bend. Many circuses and fairs at the time set up on Taylor’s Field, 90 acres of empty land owned by Col. Lathrop M. Taylor. Today the field is the site of a historic residential neighborhood near Carroll and St. Joseph streets, between East Monroe and East Bronson streets.
This image is from the Center for History’s photograph collection. If you would like to donate recent or historic photographs of summer fairs, circuses and festivals, or will allow the Center for History to make a digital copy of your image, please contact us at www.centerforhistory.org or 574-235-9664.