Ringling brothers

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The Ringling brothers (originally Rüngling) were five American siblings who transformed their small touring company of performers into one of the largest circuses in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[1][2] Four brothers were born in McGregor, Iowa: Alfred T., Charles, John and Henry William, and the family lived in McGregor for twelve years, from 1860 until 1872. The Ringling family then moved to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and finally settled in Baraboo, Wisconsin, in 1875. They were of German and French descent, the children of harness maker Heinrich Friedrich August Ringling (1826–1898) of Hanover, and Marie Salome Juliar (1833–1907) of Ostheim, in Alsace.[3] While there were seven Ringling brothers, Alfred, Charles, John, Al and Otto Ringling were the main brothers in charge of the circus shows. All of the brothers were Freemasons.[4][5] In 1919, they merged their Ringling Brothers Circus with America's other leading circus troupe, Barnum and Bailey, ultimately creating the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which operated for 98 years, until 2017.


  • Albert Carl "Al" Ringling (1852–1916). Albert divorced his wife in 1914 and died of Bright's disease at the age of 63 in Wisconsin.[6][7]
  • Augustus "Gus" Ringling (1854 – December 18, 1907). A founder of the circus, Augustus was largely self-educated. He died at age 55 from complications of various diseases at a sanatorium in New Orleans, where he had arrived two weeks earlier hoping the warmer climate would help his condition.[1]
  • Otto Ringling (1858–1911). Otto died at the home of his younger brother John, who lived on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. He was in New York at the time to see a show at Madison Square Garden.[8]
  • Alfred Theodore "Alf" Ringling (1861–1919). Alfred was a juggler. He had a son, Richard T. Ringling, and a daughter, Marjorie Joan Ringling, who was married to future United States Senator Jacob K. Javits from 1933 to 1936. His granddaughter, Mabel Ringling, married Richard Durant, an elephant trainer.[9] In 1916, Alfred took up residence in Petersburg, New Jersey, now known as Oak Ridge, where he was responsible for the creation of Lake Swannanoa, the body of water that would later become the center point of the Lake Swannanoa lake community. The property was also used as the winter quarters for his son Richard's circus, the R.T. Richards Circus. Alfred died in his 28-room New Jersey manor, three years after its completion, on October 21, 1919.
  • Charles Edward Ringling (1863–December 3, 1926).[10]
  • John Nicholas Ringling (1866–1936). John was a singer and a professional clown.[1]
  • Henry William George Ringling (1869–1918). Henry was the youngest of the brothers, and died October 10, 1918, of a heart disorder and other internal organ disorders.[11]
  • Ida Loraina Wilhelmina Ringling (1874–1950). Ida married Harry Whitestone North (1858–1921) in 1902. Their sons were John Ringling North and Henry Ringling North.[12][13][14]


  1. ^ a b c "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 Biley show they ... got a monopoly on the circus business in America. They now own outright three ...
  2. ^ "The Ringlings in the McGregor Area". Archived from the original on 2009-02-05. 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 ...
  3. ^ Montgomery, David and Kelly McCullough. "Albert C. Ringling." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 3, edited by Giles R. Hoyt. German Historical Institute. Last modified May 29, 2014.
  4. ^ "Ringling Brothers: The Six Lost Aprons - Revisit". Retrieved 2023-03-14.
  5. ^ "Ringling Brothers". www.freemasonry.bcy.ca. Retrieved 2023-03-14.
  6. ^ "Ringling Seeks Divorce. Albert, 63, Eldest of Five Brothers of Circus Fame, Begins Suit". Washington Post. May 8, 1914. Retrieved 2008-07-22. A sensation was caused here this afternoon by the announcement that suit for divorce had been started by Albert Ringling, aged 63 years, oldest of the five brothers of circus fame.
  7. ^ "Al. Ringling Dead. Veteran Circus Man Stricken with Bright's Disease In Wisconsin" (PDF). New York Times. January 2, 1916. Retrieved 2008-07-23.
  8. ^ "Tribute to the Memory of Otto Ringling. His Body Taken to Wisconsin where he was buried next to his parents at Walnut Hill Cemetery" (PDF). New York Times. April 2, 1911. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
  9. ^ "Mabel Ringling Plans To Marry". Associated Press in St. Petersburg Times. September 28, 1947. Retrieved 2009-02-12. Miss Mabel Ringling. 23, granddaughter of a founder of the Ringling Bros. Circus, and a performer in the big show, confirmed today that she and Richard ...
  10. ^ 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, ...
  11. ^ "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.
  12. ^ "Died". Time. 17 June 1985. Archived from the original on December 11, 2008. 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 with such attractions as Gargantua the Great, the "vehemently vicious" 550-lb. gorilla that drew more than 40 million circusgoers. In 1956, North folded the big top and reincarnated the show for new arenas of the air-conditioned era.
  13. ^ Lambert, Bruce (3 October 1983). "Henry Ringling North, 83, Dies; Owner Who Modernized Circus". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-22. Henry Ringling North, a former owner and manager of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus founded by his uncles, died yesterday at a hospital in Switzerland. He was 83 and lived in Begnins, near Geneva. He died after a long illness, said his lawyer, Richard Cunningham.
  14. ^ "Mrs. Ida Ringling North Dies in Sarasota". Washington Post. December 22, 1950. Retrieved 2008-07-23.

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