First Circus: Short History, Origin, and Facts

Iris | 05 - 18 - 2023
A short history of circus

For centuries, the circus was one of the popular forms of entertainment but, it changed over time. Every circus consists of skilled performers, trained animals, and funny clowns to entertain a wide range of audience. The most traditional circus performance is led by a ringmaster who speaks to the audience and keeps the show more active. Are you interested to know more about the circus history timeline? Read along to get an idea about the brief history of circus and other facts. 

Who Started the First Circus? 

Philip Astley, a former army sergeant created the modern circus in England. He established Astley’s Riding School in London with his wife in 1768. In this school, he taught in the morning and performed several tricks in the afternoon. Before 1770, most of his shows looked like riding exhibitions.  Later, he hired musicians, clowns, and other performers to provide a diverse environment for the audience. Eventually, he built a stage for dramatic performance and added a roof over his ring. Hence, Astley is considered as the father of the modern circus. 

Brief History of Circus

In 1782, Astley opened his first Paris circus, Amphitheatre Anglois. In the same year, his first competitor Charles Hughes opened a rival amphitheater and riding school in London. He went to perform on the court of Catherine the Great in St Petersburg in 1793. In the same year, John Bill Rickets started the first circus in the United States. In 1797, he settled the first Canadian circus in Montreal. 

Who speaks to the audience in a traditional circus performance?
  • A. Circus performer
  • B. Ringmaster
  • C. Circus owner
  • D. Clown

After Rickets death, the importance of circus disappeared in the US even though few troupes had succeeded during the 19th century. Exhibitors noticed the popularity of animals at that time. So, the history of circus animals started from here. Another innovation is the invention of a full canvas tent that replaced the wooden construction which was used by Joshuah Purdy Brown in 1825. 

First Circus Facts

Originally, circus performances take place in building with temporary wooden structures. One permanent circus at least boasted in every major European city. Circus is a visual performing art without any language barrier. A few facts about the brief history of circus are specified below. 

  • A circus show contains clowns, musicians, dancers, trained animals, jugglers, stunt-oriented adults, etc.
  • The origin of the modern circus started with Philip Astley who was born in England. 
  • Traditionally, a circus takes place within a ring that is led by a ringmaster. 
  • Several stunt acts like fire eating, knife throwing, and sword swallowing are parts of many circus acts. 
  • A lot of animals have been used historically in circuses.

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