|Born||Johan Nicholas Rüngeling
May 31, 1866
|Died||December 2, 1936(aged 70)|
|Known for||Ringling Brothers Circus
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
|Spouse(s)||Mable Burton (m. 1905–29)
Emily Haag Buck (m. 1930-1936)
Marie Salomé Juliar
|Relatives||Charles Edward Ringling, brother
John Ringling North, nephew
John Nicholas Ringling (May 31, 1866 – December 2, 1936) is the most well-known of the seven Ringling brothers, five of whom merged the Barnum & Bailey Circus with their own Ringling Brothers Circus to create a virtual monopoly of traveling circuses and helped shape the circus into what it is today. He was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 1987.
Early circus life
John was born in McGregor, Iowa, the fifth son in a family of seven sons and a daughter born to German immigrants, Marie Salomé Juliar and August Ringling (a farmer and harness maker). The original family name was "Ruengling". Five of those sons worked together to build a circus empire.
The Ringlings started their first show in 1870 as the "The Ringling Brothers United Monster Shows, Great Double Circus, Royal European Menagerie, Museum, Caravan, and Congress of Trained Animals", charging a penny for admission. In 1882, it was known as "The Ringling Brothers Classic and Comic Concert Company".
By 1889, the circus was large enough to travel on railroad cars, rather than animal-drawn wagons. Admission rose to 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children.
In 1905, John married Mable Burton. In 1907, the brothers bought the Barnum & Bailey circus for $400,000 and ran the two circuses as separate entities for a few years. John worked the circus with his brothers, declaring "We divided the work; but stood together." John took the advance position, traveling ahead and booking the appearances and Charles was the operating manager. The Ringling Brothers Circus was renowned for its honesty and fair-dealing
Building the circus empire
His brother Otto died unexpectedly in 1911 and Al died in 1916. It soon was apparent that running two circuses was more than the remaining brothers could handle. So on March 29, 1919, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus debuted at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The posters declared, "The Ringling Brothers World's Greatest Shows and the Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth are now combined into one record-breaking giant of all exhibitions!!"
Alfred T. Ringling died in 1919 and Charles took over the management and brought the circus to winter quarters in Sarasota and seven years later, Charles Ringling died in 1926, leaving John to manage the empire.
In 1927 Ringling moved the winter headquarters to Sarasota, Florida, where he and his wife, Mable, had been spending winters since 1909. Property was bought from the city government and shows were put on during the winter for the first time. Mable and John bought bay front property from Mary Louise and Charles N. Thompson, another circus manager who interested all of the Ringlings in land investments at Sarasota. A 30-room mansion inspired by the Venetian Gothic palaces, was designed by New York architect Dwight James Baum, built by Owen Burns, and completed in 1926. It was named, Ca' d'Zan, "The House of John" in Venetian dialect. Later a museum was built for their art collection. He and his brother, Charles, were instrumental in the modern development of Sarasota. John soon became one of the richest men in the world. His circus travels took him all over Europe, and he established a collection of Baroque art. He also acquired a large collection of work by Peter Paul Rubens, called cartoons.
In 1929, John Ringling bought the American Circus Corporation, which consisted of the Sells-Floto Circus, the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, the John Robinson Circus, the Sparks Circus, the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and the Al G. Barnes Circus from its owners, Jerry Mugivan, Bert Bowers, and Ed Ballard, for $1.7 million. With that acquisition, Ringling owned every traveling circus in America.
Other businesses and activities
- Chatham and Phoenix National Bank of New York, director and shareholder.
- Eastland, Wichita Falls and Gulf Railroad, from Mangum to Breckwalker.
- John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, founder, Sarasota, Florida.
- John Ringling Real Estate Company, president, Sarasota.
- Kansas City, Mexico, and Orient Railroad Company, director.
- Madison Square Garden Corporation, vice-president, and chairman of the board.
- Madison Square Garden Sporting Company, president.
- Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Pacific Railway (nicknamed the Ringling Railroad); president and financier. Charted January 8, 1913, sold to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (AT&SF) in 1927. Jake L. Hamon was the operator and Ringling's business agent for the railroad.
- Ringling and Oil Field Railway Company, president. Chartered November 23, 1916, leased to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway in July, 1925, and sold to the AT&SF in 1926.
- White Sulphur Springs and Yellowstone Park Railway, president.
- Ringling, Montana was named for John Ringling, who at one time was president of the White Sulphur Springs and Yellowstone Park Railway. John Ringling had a family summer home in White Sulphur Springs and purchased the hot springs there with the intent of building a resort spa and $1 million dollar 220-room hotel.
- Ringling, Oklahoma, also named for Ringling, when the Oklahoma, New Mexico and Pacific Railway created the town.
Decline in later life
Ringling’s health soon began to fail and the Great Depression (which gripped the nation almost as soon as he acquired the American Circus Corporation) dealt a severe financial blow to the John Ringling empire. He lost virtually his entire fortune, but was able to retain his home, the museum, and his extensive art collection. His wife, Mable, died in June 1929 and he remarried on June 19, 1930 to Emily Haag Buck in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Ringling was voted out of control of the business in 1932 by its board of directors and Sam Gumpertz was placed in corporation.
John Ringling died on December 2, 1936 in New York City Once one of the world's wealthiest men, he died with only $311 in the bank. At his death, he willed his Sarasota mansion, the museum, and his entire art collection to the state of Florida. The house, Cà d'Zan, and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art offer visitors a glimpse into the lifestyle of the Roaring 20s and a renowned art collection. Another of John’s legacies is the Ringling College of Art and Design, which asked to adopt his name because of the cultural influence of the museum and its collection. A museum devoted to the Ringling Brothers Circus has been established on the estate also.
The Ringling family
- Albert Charles "Al" Ringling (1852–1916)
- Augustus Gustav "Gus" Ringling, Jr. (1854–1907); also listed as Charles August (Gus)
- William Henry Otto "Otto" Ringling (1858–1911)
- Alfred Theodore "Alf T." Ringling (1861–1919)
- Charles Edward "Charley" Ringling (1863–1926); also listed birth year 1864
- John Nicholas Ringling (1866–1936)
- Henry William George Ringling (1868–1918)
- Ida Loraina Wilhelmina Ringling (1874–1950)
- John Ringling Florida Artists Hall of Fame
- "John (1866-1936) and Mable (1875-1929) Ringling". Ringling Museum. Retrieved 2009-02-12. "John Ringling was born in McGregor, Iowa, on 31 May 1866, the sixth of seven surviving sons and daughter born to August and Marie Salomé Juliar. Five of the brothers joined together and started the Ringling Bros. Circus in 1884."
- To, Speeiaz (December 4, 1926). "Charles Ringling, Circus Owner, Dies. Member of World's Greatest Show Organization. One of Six Famous Brothers.". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-21. "One of the famous "six brothers of Baraboo," Charles Ringling was the son of a harness maker of Baraboo, Wisconsin. The brothers, John, Charles, Otto, Al, ..."
- "Man Who Started as a Clown Now Controls the Entire Big Top Industry.". The New York Times. September 10, 1929. Retrieved 2009-02-12. "John Ringling, head of the Ringling Brothers-Barnum Bailey Combined Circus, has purchased the five circuses, with Winter quarters, of the American Circus Corporation, it was learned yesterday."
- "Bailey and the Ringlings". Feld Entertainment, Inc. Retrieved 2008-07-21. "In 1929, reacting to the fact that his competitor, the American Circus Corporation, had signed a contract to perform in New York's Madison Square Garden, Ringling purchased American Circus for $1.7-million.John had power and money. In one fell swoop, Ringling had absorbed five major shows: Sells-Floto, Al G. Barnes, Sparks, Hagenbeck-Wallace, and John Robinson."
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- "EASTLAND COUNTY". - Handbook Of Texas. - Texas State Historical Association.
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- loser"RINGLING". - Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture. - Oklahoma Historical Society.
—"WILSON". - Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture. - Oklahoma Historical Society.
- Robinson, Gilbert L. - "TRANSPORTATION IN CARTER COUNTY, 1913-1917". - Chronicles of Oklahoma. - Volume 19, No. 4. - December, 1941. - Oklahoma Historical Society. - p.368-376.
- Bryant, Keith L., (1974). - History of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. - New York, New York: Macmillan & Co. - p.254. - ISBN 978-0-02-517920-2.
- Schwantes, Carlos A., (2003). - Going Places: Transportation Redefines the Twentieth-Century West. - Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. - p.129. - ISBN 978-0-253-34202-7.
—1918. - The Resources and Opportunities of Montana. - Montana Department of Agriculture and Publicity. - p.179.
- Snyder, S. A., (2005). - Scenic Driving Montana. - 2nd Edition. - Helena, Montana: Falcon Publishing. - p.152. - ISBN 978-0-7627-3030-8.
- Cobb, Nathan. - "A Family Discovers Montana's Mystique". - Boston Globe. - May 14, 2000.
—French, Brett. - "A Sulfurous Soak". - Billings Gazette. - January 28, 2009.
—Duclaux, Denise. - "The Banker Who Never Comes in from the Cold". - ABA Banking Journal. - Vol. 89. - 1997.
- "Circus Owner Is Married by Mayor Hague in Jersey City. Met Bride in Europe.". The New York Times. December 20, 1930. Retrieved 2009-02-12. "John Ringling, head of the Ringling Brothers-Barnum Bailey Combined Circus, and Mrs. Emily H. Buck of the Hotel Barclay were married yesterday afternoon ..."
- "Circus in America TimeLine". Circus in America. Retrieved 2009-02-13. "December 19, 1930. They were divorced July 6, 1936. John died December 2, 1936 in New York City and is buried ..."
- "Sued for Divorce". Time magazine. April 16, 1934. Retrieved 2009-02-13. "Mrs. Emily Haag Buck Ringling; by Circusman John Ringling; in Sarasota, Fla. Charges: vilification, physical violence which caused the pulse of Mr. Ringling, ill with thrombosis, on occasion to rise from 76 to 104."
- "John Ringling dies of pneumonia at 70. Organizer of Great Circus Business Succumbs to Illness at Home Here. Last of the Brothers. Father's Harness Sale Started them on Career That Led to 'Greatest Show on Earth.'". The New York Times. December 2, 1936, Wednesday. Retrieved 2007-07-21. "John Ringling, who formed and directed one of the world's greatest ... He was 70 years old. With him when he died was his sister Hilda Ringling ..."
- Burnett, Gene M., (1986). - Florida's Past: People and Events That Shaped the State, Vol. 2. - Pineapple Press - p.190. - ISBN 978-1-56164-139-0.
- "Died.". Time (magazine). 17 June 1985. Retrieved 2008-07-20. "John Ringling North, 81, flamboyant, fast-talking showman who from 1937 to '43 and from 1947 to '67 ran "The Greatest Show on Earth," the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, started by his five uncles in 1884; of a stroke; in Brussels. North took over the debt-spangled show after the death of his last uncle, John Ringling, and modernized it ..."
- "The Ringlings in the McGregor Area". Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved 2008-07-21. "Beginning their tented circus in 1884, Alf T. Ringling, Al Ringling, Charles Ringling, John Ringling, and Otto Ringling soon became known as Kings Of The Circus World. A sixth brother, Henry Ringling, joined the show in 1886. In 1889 the seventh Ringling brother, A.G. "Gus" Ringling, joined the show ..."
- "Augustus Ringling Dead. Head of Tented Shows In America Dies in New Orleans." (PDF). The New York Times. August 19, 1907. Retrieved 2008-07-20. "When the Ringling Brothers bought the Barnum Bailey show they ... got a monopoly on the circus business in America. They now own outright three ..."
- Morris, Joan. - "The Seven Ringlins Were the Real Thing". - Contra Costa Times. - June 3, 2000.
- Fox, Charles Philip, (1959). - A Ticket to the Circus: A Pictorial History of the Incredible Ringlings. - Seattle, Washington: Superior Publishing. - p.11. - 1252183.
- "Tribute to the Memory of Otto Ringling. His Body Taken to Wisconsin." (PDF). New York Times. April 2, 1911. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
- To, Speeiaz (December 4, 1926). "Charles Ringling, Circus Owner, Dies. Member of World's Greatest Show Organization. One of Six Famous Brothers.". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-21. "One of the famous "six brothers of Baraboo," Charles Ringling was the son of a harness maker of Baraboo, Wisconsin. The brothers, John, Charles, Otto, Al, ..."
- "Henry Ringling Dead" (PDF). New York Times. October 12, 1918. Retrieved 2008-07-23. "Henry Ringling, youngest of the six brothers who during the last 25-years have been prominent in the circus world died yesterday of heart and other internal disorders."
- "Mrs. Ida Ringling North Dies in Sarasota". Washington Post. December 22, 1950. Retrieved 2008-07-23.
- John Ringling at Find a Grave
- The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
- The Official Virtual Tour of Ringling Museum of Art
|Awards and achievements|
George Harold Sisler
|Cover of Time Magazine
6 April 1925