James Anthony Bailey

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James Anthony Bailey
J. A. Bailey oval portrait.jpg
Born James Anthony McGinnis
(1847-07-04)July 4, 1847
Detroit, Michigan
Died April 11, 1906(1906-04-11) (aged 58)
Mount Vernon, New York
Cause of death Erysipelas
Known for Co-founder of Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus [1]
Spouse(s) Ruth Louisa McCaddon (m. 1868)
James Bailey House in Harlem, New York City

James Anthony Bailey (July 4, 1847 – April 11, 1906), born James Anthony McGinnis, was an American circus ringmaster.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Orphaned at the age of eight, McGinnis was working as a bellhop in Pontiac, Michigan, when he was discovered by Frederic Harrison Bailey (a nephew of circus pioneer Hachaliah Bailey) as a teenager. F.H. Bailey gave McGinnis a job as his assistant, and the two traveled together for many years. McGinnis eventually adopted F.H. Bailey's surname to become James A. Bailey.

Bailey later associated with James E. Cooper, and by the time he was 25, he was manager of the Cooper and Bailey circus. He then met with P.T. Barnum, and together they established Barnum and Bailey's Circus (for which Bailey was instrumental in obtaining Jumbo the Elephant) in 1881.

Bailey was married to Ruth McCaddon of Zanesville, Ohio. He died of erysipelas in 1906.[3] He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, in The Bronx, New York City.


  1. ^ Allen, Robert. "A strangled elephant, circus mishaps and Detroit's ties to 'The Greatest Show on Earth'". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 31 December 2017. 
  2. ^ "A Cesar Among Showmen. James A. Bailey, The Partner And Successor Of Barnum. He Is The Creator Of The Modern Circus. His Tremendous Energy And Working Ability. How He Became What He Is" (PDF). New York Times. April 19, 1891. Retrieved 2007-07-21. One of the most modest little men that ever lived has been forced to the front by the death of P.T. Barnum. James Anthony Bailey for ten years has been Mr. Barnum's partner. He can, without exaggeration, be called the creator of the modern circus. He has lifted the circus to a standard that renders almost ridiculous the laws that once were so necessary for its regulation. 
  3. ^ "James A. Bailey, King Of Circus Men, is Dead. News Kept From Performers Till The Show Was Over. Widow Gets Circus Stock. Showman Died Of Erysipelas At His Country Home Near Mount Vernon After A Week's Illness" (PDF). New York Times. April 12, 1906. Retrieved 2007-07-21. While the band blared and the clowns made fun and the elephants walked around at the circus last night for the thousands in Madison Square Garden, there were few among the spectators who knew that James A. Bailey, the backbone of the "greatest show on earth," lay dead in his home, The Knolls, near Mount Vernon. 

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