This week I am trying to focus on the importance of the circus in the 19th century. During the 19th century European circuses and American circus began to diverge. The circuses in Europe, continued on in much of the same manner as before, using a single ring. The towns were relatively closer together in Europe, which allowed traveling shows to use horse drawn carriages as they made their way around the country. European tent shows were compact as the audiences, who would come from surrounding villages, tended to be small. In the United States, however, conditions were very different. The distances between communities were much longer. The new railways allowed for the traveling shows to cover greater distances more efficiently – and the great train shows were born. Also, as the shows tended to be tied to the railway lines, they drew crowds from larger areas. To accommodate the larger numbers, circus owners added extra rings with bigger and bigger tents – or “tops”. The small circus show became an event with a large cast of performers, more extravagant animals, production numbers, and side shows. From this point forward the United States led the way and European shows, though still tending towards a single ring, began to follow with their own more extravagant productions. With the increased cost of production came an increased awareness for the need to publicize the show more effectively. An advance crew would arrive well ahead of the show to post advertisements for the upcoming event.
Cayetano Mariotini (a.k.a Gaetano Mariotini) immigrated from Cuba to New York in 1809. I have found him referenced by both names in various publications. I have also found that he may have immigrated to Cuba from Italy. He ran a circus with Jean Baptiste Casmiere Breschard and Victor Pepin. The circus traveled around the eastern seaboard. Their circus moved on west to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1814. Breschard and Pepin soon went back east, while “Mr. Cayetano” operated his own circus in what was then the West (Ohio and Kentucky). Cayetano performed as a clown, an acrobat, and a horse rider. On June 25, 1812, he was the first to exhibit an elephant (named “Old Bet”) in the United States. Cayetano worked his way south along the Mississippi River, performing in Natchez, Mississippi, from October 1815 through February 1816. From Natchez, his company went to New Orleans.
Below is a broadside from Cayetano’s circus when it appeared in Montreal, Canada in 1812. I am still trying to find this image in higher resolution in order to read the full text.