These Rare Vintage Photos Show What The Circus Looked Like A Century Ago

Long before radio broadcasts, movies, and television series, the circus was the biggest and greatest entertainment industry in the United States and beyond. Spectators couldn’t wait to catch a glimpse of the talented trick-riders, fearless fire-eaters, amazing acrobats, and exotic animals. Since the first circus ring opened to the public the late 1700s, a lot has changed. The performances have evolved greatly over the last 200-plus years and some of the acts of the past might surprise you. Let’s take a look back at the circuses of yesteryear.

Philip Astley Is Considered The Father Of The Modern Circus

Philip Astley

The modern circus was created by Philip Astley. Born in 1742, Astley’s childhood dream was to work with horses. He made that dream come true by working as a horse trainer during the Seven Years War. After he was discharged, Astley decided to use his talents to imitate the trick-riders he’d grow fascinated by.

Before long, trick-riders grew increasingly popular and were soon performing throughout Europe. Astley admired them from afar, teaching horse-riding by day and practicing his trick-riding by night.