The Ringling Bros and Cascade History
The “Greatest Show on Earth” owes its beginning success to the generosity of the citizens of Cascade, Iowa. Cascade reached out to the Ringling Brothers in their time of need and as a result, the brothers never forgot the community and did not pass on any opportunity to show their gratitude.
The Ringling family consisted of seven brothers, five of whom eventually became the famous “Ringling Brothers” who made circus history. The family originally lived in McGregor, Iowa but moved to Baraboo, Wisconsin when the brothers were still young.
As children, the Ringling boys enjoyed playing circus and they were a talented bunch. A few were musicians and they enjoyed performing gymnastic stunts and providing other entertainment as well. Five of the brothers held a special interest in the circus. Eventually their pretend circus became good enough to perform in the town’s opera house in 1879. This provided the boys with the encouragement they needed and they decided to take the show on the road. The brothers acquired a team of horses to haul the equipment and even the horses were trained to perform a few amateur tricks!
The circus played to small towns in the surrounding area but as they grew, they ventured out a little farther. The circus life was a difficult existence. The performances made just enough money to pay for expenses. In 1880, the circus made its way to Onslow, Iowa. The troupe encountered problems along the way, but their biggest misfortune occurred when a nasty storm blew their tent down nearly ripping it to shreds and ruined their already meager equipment. They had made no money since they were unable to perform, but the circus animals still needed to be fed. Because they were unable to pay for the feed they had already purchased, the feed store owners kept some of the animals until payment could be made.
Disheartened, the brothers gathered what animals they had and the belongings that were still usable and trudged 15 miles through muck and mud to Monticello, Iowa. They entered Monticello bedraggled and penniless, but the Ringling Brothers were still hopeful that with a show to one good crowd, they could get back on their feet.
Their hopes fell flat in Monticello because they had no money to purchase the license which the city required in order for the circus to perform.