Circuses

The Sutherland Sisters

In the late 1800s, seven sisters with musical talent and incredibly long hair made waves in the circus and on the stage. They made millions as performers and haircare product moguls, but their personal lives were plagued with eccentricity.

Hartford Circus Fire

In 1944, one of the most disastrous fires in U.S. history broke out during a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performance. Dozens of lives were lost and hundreds of people were injured as the largest big top in the country was consumed by flames.

The Glamorous Strongwoman

From an early age, Katie Sandwina wowed crowds, first as a wrestling act and then exclusively as professional strongwoman. During a time when women's suffrage was a hot button issue, she cultivated an image of a perfectly feminine powerhouse.

The Victorian age offered few opportunities for Black-Britons, making Pablo Fanque's circus all the more impressive. Born William Darby, he was a talented equestrian performer, acrobat and show-runner. In fact, one Fanque's playbills inspired John Lennon.

P.T. Barnum worked with many performers. Perhaps the most famous was the diminutive General Tom Thumb. Barnum also promoted Swedish singer Jenny Lind, but his biggest act was Jumbo the Elephant, an African elephant he bought from the London Zoo.

The Prince of Humbug: P.T. Barnum

P.T. Barnum is best known as a circus man, but he spent most of his career running a curiosity museum and staging freak shows. Barnum attracted people to his American Museum through shrewd advertising, or "humbug." He also wasn't afraid of a hoax.