American Circus And The Flying Wallendas

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American Circus and the Flying Wallendas

American Circus and the Flying Wallendas


During the beginning of the nineteenth century, America was a still fairly new developing country. It had only a few cities big enough to accommodate large circuses performing over a longer time period. Moreover, the trend of migrating towards the westward frontier had begun and therefore, performers had to travel fast and light constantly to tap into lucrative crowds (Albrecht, 1995).

In the year 1825, Joshua Purdy Brown was the first ever circus entrepreneur to introduce a canvas tent instead of a wooden construction which became a trademark of all circuses worldwide to date. Almost ten years later, a group of farmers and menagerie owners mostly from the area of Somers formed the Zoological Institute under which thirteen menageries and three circuses were operating (Albrecht, 1995).

Thus, the development of the American circus industry began, which was very different than that of their European counterparts as majority of the circuses in Europe remained family businesses while American circuses were mostly run by businessmen (Culhane, 1990).

One such circus began with a family most commonly known as the Wallendas. They came to America in 1928 to perform in the 'Greatest Show on Earth,' and due to their skill and performance without a safety net, received a standing ovation of almost 15 minutes, a feat unheard of at that time. They were led by the great Karl Wallenda who had been performing stunts in his family business since a young age (Morris, 1976).

History of the Circus

China is the birthplace of acrobatics (5000 BC) and juggling at least three thousand five hundred years old drawings 4500 years show carobates and animal trainers and acrobats.

Crete, Knossos was found painted walls, dating from about 2400 BC, which shows young athletes engaged in exercises on a bull. In Greece, many artists working in the streets, squares and the Agora. Right from the 2nd century BC, small menageries travel the roads of Italy, with the curiosity of populations of lions, bears, monkeys and snakes (Albrecht,1995).

Italy, Rome, the circus punctuated the existence of Roman and fed their passions. Majority of the population poured every day in the amphitheater, the show used to be free, the only luxury distributed more than bread. The most important of all the circuses of the ancient world, the Circus Maximus, had a capacity of 385,000 seats. 

The game used to open with a parade, preceded by a band, comedians responsible for making the crowd laugh by performing tumbling and balancing acts (Bennis, 1993). Above the arena, a tightrope used to be strung very high. Following the fatal fall of a child, the Emperor Marcus Aurelius imposed the presence of mattresses, which was a precursor of the net for the trapeze acts. You could see animal trainers, monkeys, musicians, boxers bear, an eagle carrying a child in its talons, lions hunt and bring alive in their mouths rabbits, elephants, dancers etc (Davis, 2002).

After the fall of the Roman Empire, fairs Saltimbanques was welcomed which offered new areas for the ...
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