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

Clowns Were Never Meant To Be A Circus Mainstay

three clowns in colorized photo
Gaston Paris/Contributor
Gaston Paris/Contributor

Rather than having the audience wait in silence in between acts, Philip Astley had a clown perform. Other circus entrepreneurs followed suit, although it’s unsure whether or not anyone predicted how popular these performers would become!

Since the days of the first circuses, there have been numerous notable clowns, some of whom have gained international acclaim. Clown culture has evolved to even include its own unique lingo and varying character types. Pictured above are three clowns in full makeup awaiting their circus performance. Nicolai Poliakoff, known as Coco the Clown (left), was one of the most famous clowns of the 20th century.