William C. Coup

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William Cameron Coup
William Cameron Coup.jpg
Born (1836-08-04)August 4, 1836
Mount Pleasant, Indiana
Died March 4, 1895(1895-03-04) (aged 58)
Jacksonville, Florida
William Cameron Coup advertisement 1882.jpg

William Cameron Coup (August 4, 1836 – March 4, 1895) was a Wisconsin businessman who partnered with P. T. Barnum and Dan Castello in 1870 to form the "P. T. Barnum's Museum, Menagerie and Circus".[1] Previously Barnum had a museum at a fixed location in New York City and the traveling circus allowed him to bring his curiosities to more paying customers. Coup's innovations were the circus train to transport the materials from town to town.[2] He also came up with the concept of adding a second ring in 1872 and a third ring to the circus in 1881 to allow ;more people to view the events.[1]


He was born on August 4, 1836 in Mount Pleasant, Martin County, Indiana. After his mother died in 1849 he moved from Martin County, Indiana to Terre Haute, Indiana, where he worked as a printer. In 1853, he joined Mabies' Grand Olympian Arena and U.S. Circus, where he worked as the side show manager. Between 1866 and 1869 he managed the Yankee Robinson Circus then moved to a farm in Delavan, Wisconsin.

Dan Castello suggested he work with P. T. Barnum. On April 10, 1870, Coup and Barnum created "P. T. Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Circus and Hippodrome" in Brooklyn, New York.[2]

In 1876 he opened the New York Aquarium and later organized "The Equescurriculum", "The New United Monster Shows" and several touring Wild West Shows.

He lost most of his equipment in a train wreck near Cairo, Illinois in 1887.

He died in Jacksonville, Florida on March 4, 1895.


  • W. C. Coup's Circus (1885–1889)
  • W. C. Coup's Rolling Palaces
  • Coup's Equescurriculum
  • W. C. Coup's New United Monster Shows
  • Coup's 10 Consolidated Shows


  1. ^ a b "History of the Circus". PBS. Retrieved 2012-11-05. But the bellwether moment in the evolution of the American circus came in 1871 when Phineas Taylor Barnum and William Cameron Coup debuted P.T. Barnum's Museum, Menagerie & Circus. ... Soon, Barnum and Coup were turning away people who flocked to see the exotic animals, sideshow oddities and performances of strength and agility. To remedy this problem, they added a second ring in 1872 and a third ring in 1881, allowing more people under the big top at any given performance. 
  2. ^ a b "Circus: P. T. Barnum's Circus, 1871-1880". The Circus in America. Retrieved 2011-11-20. Along with William Cameron Coup and Dan Costello, Barnum began P.T. Barnum’s Museum, Menagerie and Circus, a traveling combination of which the “museum” part was an exhibition of animal and human oddities, soon to become an integral part of the American circus known as the Sideshow. In 1872 Barnum and Coup utilized the railroad to transport their show. 

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