jump to navigation

Send In The Clowns! September 4, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Animals, Art & Photography, Travel & Leisure.

On Friday, we toured Cà d’Zan ~ the winter estate of John and Mabel Ringling (of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus fame).

Cà d’Zan translates literally as House of John ~ a rather prosaic name in English which becomes both exquisite and elegant when wrapped in an Italian accent.

After marveling at the splendor of Cà d’Zan, we toured the Circus Museums.

At the Tibbals Circus Museum, clowns and acrobats greeted us at the door.

We spent an hour mesmerized by the Howard Bros. Miniature Circus which covers over 3800 square feet:

The Howard Bros. Circus, complete with eight main tents, 152 wagons, 1,300 circus performers and workers, more than 800 animals and a 57-car train, is on permanent display in the Ringling Circus Museum’s Tibbals Learning Center.  

The Howard Bros. Circus is a ¾-inch-to-the-foot scale replica of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus when the tented circus was at its largest (circa 1919-1938), and occupies 3,800 square feet in the 30,600 sq. ft.-Tibbals Learning Center. 

The “largest miniature circus in the world” was created over a 50-year time span by master model builder and philanthropist Howard C. Tibbals of Tennessee and Florida.

The display (which took 15 months to set up on site) portrays the massive logistics involved in setting up and taking down a circus . . . including a Big Top seating 15,000 . . . every day.

Wikipedia ~ Howard Bros. Circus (in Public Domain)

In addition to setting up tents, hundreds of working and performance animals needed to be unloaded and fed . . . hungry cats are onery.

The Flying Squadron would arrive at the railroad station at 3 am and head to the Circus Grounds so that the commissary and “Hotel” (food tent) would be ready to serve breakfast to 1,300 performers and workers by 6 a.m.

The rest of the circus followed behind the Flying Squadron in Pullman cars and Circus Wagons carried via flat bed railroad cars.

We enjoyed the Circus timeline . . . and learned, to our surprise, that clowns have been around since ancient Egypt.

We also learned that P.T. Barnum collected calling cards in his home with a rather grotesque statuary depicting a blind (and apparently rabid) monkey.

We had a great time and plan to head back on Museum Day to see the opening of the new 25,000 square foot exhibit.

The Greatest Show on Earth ain’t over . . . until the Fat Lady sings!

No rules.  Just write! 


1. misswhiplash - September 4, 2011

As a child I was enthralled by the circus and seeing all the animals perform..but as time went on I realised that performing is not a natural part of a wild animals life..so when wild animals were banned from performing I was over joyed. You can get just as much enjoyment from the human side of a circus and just leave the animals to be wild.
It is lovely to see such pictures Nancy and I am pleased that you all had a good visit and enjoyed the day

nrhatch - September 4, 2011

I agree completely. I prefer circuses to be populated with people, not animals. Cirque de Soleil is spell-binding without lions, tigers, or elephants.

Most of these photos are mine ~ I just pulled two of the miniature circus off the Ringling web page.

shaun bailey - October 26, 2011

Just thought i would correct you, wild animals in circuses are NOT banned and also they do not perform tricks they only perform manouvures that they do naturally in the wild . check out truthtube.co.uk and your see for yourself the truth about circuses

shaun bailey - October 26, 2011

depending on which area your in ofcoarse

nrhatch - October 26, 2011

Laws regarding animal welfare vary from place to place. And hopefully they are getting stronger in ALL places. 😀

2. ceceliafutch - September 4, 2011

Looks like great fun! I haven’t been to a circus since I was a child. Now, as an adult, I have similar feelings as misswhiplash. But, the photos you posted did bring back many fond memories of childhood and going to the circus. Thanks.

nrhatch - September 4, 2011

I haven’t been to a circus in ages ~ I remember being mesmerized by the acrobats and enthralled by the antics of the clowns. I’m glad that we’ve moved away from animal acts to focus on fantastical feats of human performers.

3. Piglet in Portugal - September 4, 2011

I love this! I am fascinated by clowns! Was one of the pictures of Punch and Judy?
BTW love the last photo!

nrhatch - September 4, 2011

I took the pictures of Punch and Judy and the Fat Lady from the wooden banners used to promote the Side Show acts. The banners folded in half for transporting ~ hence the line through the middle of each.

The new display opening this month is going to include much more on the clowns, but we did see some gorgeous costumes and video of clowns getting made up.

4. Tilly Bud - September 4, 2011

That miniature circus is fabulous.

You look really happy in that one picture.

nrhatch - September 4, 2011

I’m happy that my Tigger doesn’t eat as much as that Tiger! 😀

The miniature circus has everything ~ a barber tent, a tent for the costume designers, another for the blacksmith, a tent for cooking the food, and another for serving 1300 people 3x a day, a tent for preparing food for the animals, a first aid tent, a veterinary station, etc.

5. brainrants - September 4, 2011

A lost art from a lost era. Wow.

nrhatch - September 4, 2011

Absolutely amazing the amount of stuff that they packed up, loaded onto rail cars, unloaded, and set up . . . every 24 hours!

The miniature circus shows the big top, the side show, the menagerie, the midway, and the back yard . . . hidden from public view.

6. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide - September 4, 2011

What a cool, and kinda freaky, place!

nrhatch - September 4, 2011

And I didn’t even share photos from the freak show ~ the bearded lady, the world’s skinniest man, Tom Thumb, the snake charmer, the tattoed man, the Siamese twins, etc.

When the traveling circus closed, people perfectly suited for employment with the circus had a tough time finding jobs in the mainstream. In the circus, they were stars. On the streets, they were “freaks.” In the circus, they lived in a community that accepted them “as is” ~ who could ask for anything more?

7. Tammy - September 4, 2011

I kind of like that blind monkey!

nrhatch - September 4, 2011

BFF LOVES the monkey! I just showed him this post and that’s his favorite picture.

Unlike the “Calm Before The Storm” photo I shot at the marina on Thursday, it’s unlikely I’ll blow up the blind monkey to frame and hang on our wall.

8. souldipper - September 4, 2011

Good to see a glimpse of you. I can see that twinkle, Nancy…were you contemplating that saddle? I also like the monkey.

nrhatch - September 4, 2011

I spent most of the day smiling.

That Tiger was handcarved by volunteers at the museum who wouldn’t have appreciated me hopping into the saddle. The mouth detail involved taking a dental plate from a Tiger at the Big Cat Rescue Sanctuary while it was under anesthesia for another procedure.

My . . . what big teeth you have!

9. Naomi Estment - September 4, 2011

OMG how fascinating, Nancy…talk about patience & perseverance on those miniatures! Love all these pics, Especially the lovely one of you!

nrhatch - September 4, 2011

His MIL asked his wife what she thought of Howard’s hobby. She replied, I never thought I’d be lucky enough to marry someone who liked playing with dolls as much as me. 😀

10. Christine Grote - September 4, 2011

I’ve wanted to go there. Thanks for sharing.

nrhatch - September 4, 2011

My pleasure, Christine. Definitely worth a visit . . . or two. 😀

11. faeriemagic - September 4, 2011

Thank you for sharing … that looks like it was an awesome visit and fits in perfectly with my latest “clowning” experience in Costa Rica 😉

Yay for clowns!

nrhatch - September 4, 2011

Wow! Clowning in Costa Rica. That sounds FAB! 😀

12. Penny - September 4, 2011

Loved the photos ! Great post ! have not been to a circus since childhood-it was always an awesome experience. 🙂

nrhatch - September 4, 2011

I remember my Great Aunt Edie taking us to Madison Square Garden to see Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Such a treat to see the acrobats and the clowns. 😀

13. jannatwrites - September 4, 2011

In a previous comment, you shared that BFF loves the blind monkey – it kinda frightened me 🙂

I like the railroad car pictures. They didn’t scare me at all!

nrhatch - September 5, 2011

That monkey looks deranged. And freaky. 😯

If we ever need a piece of animal statuary in the front hall to collect calling cards . . . mine shall be a zebra.

14. Booksphotographsandartwork - September 5, 2011

I see lions and tigers and Nancy! over there.

I never liked the circus. Or magic. Or large crowds. Or the venues where they have these things.

nrhatch - September 5, 2011

I’m with you on large crowds, Linda ~ you won’t find me in the middle of Times Square on New Year’s Eve! I prefer small gatherings, get-togethers, and entertainment venues

15. SidevieW - September 5, 2011

Circus, on the border between entertainment and gross abuse. How generations allowed animal treatment that they did makes me glad we have come to realise we are not here to dominate and hurt all other animals

nrhatch - September 5, 2011

I’m with you, Sidey. Cirque de Soleil is spell-binding without lions, tigers, or elephants.

16. LittleMissVix - September 5, 2011

Looks like a fun place!Although clowns do freak me out 🙂

nrhatch - September 5, 2011

Clowns can be scary.

We watched an episode of The Mentalist involving a convention of clowns . . . with one clown as the murderer. Trying to discern truth from lies is harder when everyone is wearing a mask.

17. ElizOF - September 5, 2011

Excellent tour and something I haven’t done in years… I do need a circus visit; especially as I have fond memories of time spent at the circus. 🙂

nrhatch - September 5, 2011

I remember going to a 3-ring circus at Madison Square Garden and not knowing where to look because there was so much going on up, down, and all around. 😯

18. ceceliafutch - September 5, 2011

Just to let you know that I mentioned you in my blog today.

nrhatch - September 5, 2011

Thanks, Cecelia. You’re a sweetheart. 😀

19. granny1947 - September 5, 2011

Sounds like a lot of fun.
That monkey would give me nightmares!

nrhatch - September 5, 2011

Can you imagine bumping into that in the middle of the night?! Ack!

20. Joanne Sisco - January 28, 2017

First – let me say how impressed I am about the longevity of your blogging history!!

How wonderful to read a blog post about a place that I’ve recently visited. It’s made it *alive* for me again with a different perspective 🙂

nrhatch - January 28, 2017

It’s like seeing “old friends” again. Thanks for weighing in.

Here’s a link to your post for anyone who’s interested:


What Say YOU?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: