Super Circus is an American television program that aired live on Sunday afternoons from 5 to 6pm Eastern Time from 1949 to 1956 on ABC. The show was produced in Chicago by WBKB-TV (today's WLS-TV) through 1955, and its production moved to New York City and WABC-TV for its final season. The award-winning show featured circus and clown acts performing in front of a studio audience. Mary Hartline and Claude Kirchner were the hosts (Jerry Colonna succeeded Kirchner as "Ringmaster" in the final New York season), and Bruce Chase conducted the band. Phil Patton was the producer, and Ed Skotch was the director. Sponsors for the show included Kellogg's, Mars, Canada Dry Ginger Ale, and Sweetheart Soap.
Hartline, known for her short skirts, white boots and long blonde hair, became one of television's first sex symbols, spawning merchandise such as dolls, clothes, and boots --- three dozen different Mary Hartline products.
For at least the 1951 and 1952 seasons, each day Kirchner selected one child from the audience to stick his hand into a jar full of coins, attempting to pull out and keep as much money as possible. There were no dollar coins in the jar, but Kirchner always announced when he spotted a "fifty-cent piece" among the coins retrieved and the audience was prompted to cheer.
In 1951, the program received a Micahel Award as the best children's show on television. Also that year, the Lion's Club of Illinois named it the best children's TV program, and the Chicago Federated Advertising Club rated it as one of the four best shows on TV.
A small number of episodes survive in film archives and private collections, and are in the public domain. Six episodes were released to DVD on October 28, 2008 by Alpha Video, and several have been posted to both the Internet Archive and YouTube.
- Hyatt, Wesley (1997). The Encyclopedia of Daytime Television. Watson-Guptill Publications. p. 415. ISBN 978-0823083152. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
- "Video Circus Wins Awards:" Billboard, May 26, 1951
- "This Week -- Debuts, Highlights, Changes". Ross Reports on Television including The Television Index. September 5, 1950. p. 1. Retrieved September 15, 2022.
- Woolery, George W. (1985). Children's Television: The First Thirty-Five Years, 1946-1981, Part II: Live, Film, and Tape Series. The Scarecrow Press. pp. 485–487. ISBN 0-8108-1651-2.
- Ted Okuda and Jack Mulqueen, The Golden Age of Chicago Children's Television (Lake Claremont Press, 2004), p. 42.
- Billy Ingram, "TV's First Sex Symbol", TV Party.com, accessed 2009-02-17.
- Mary Hartline Was A Living Doll – Chicago Tribune