New Circus Poster Exhibit Features Storied Strobridge Lithographs

This 264-page book has a catalogue of the 80 posters in The Amazing American Circus Poster exhibit.

Circus posters are highly prized by collectors. They have always been the lifeblood of circus advertising. Among the most treasured are those posters created by the Strobridge Lithographing Company.

The Amazing American Circus Poster exhibit, features posters printed by Strobridge from 1878 to 1939 and is now on display at the Cincinnati Art Museum through July 10, 2011. Cincinnati was the home of Strobridge from the mid-1800s until 1961 when it was sold to H.S. Crocker printing company.

The exhibit will move to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Fla. for a Sept. 17 opening and runs through Jan. 29, 2012. Kristin L. Spangenberg, curator of prints at the Cincinnati Art Museum, and Deborah W. Walk, Tibbals curator of the Circus Museum at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, organized this new and exciting exhibit that has been 10 years in the planning.

Produced in conjunction with the exhibit is a spectacular book, “The Amazing American Circus Poster, The Strobridge Lithographing Company,” available at the museum gift shops for $29.95. The catalog portion of the book illustrates the 80 posters in the exhibit. In addition, there are 12 articles, illustrated with additional posters and photographs, that cover a wide range of related topics:

• “The Steamboat, the Circus and Cincinnati” by Stuart L. Thayer
• “The Gilded Legacy of the Circus Kings” by Deborah W. Walk
• “The Strobridge Lithographing Company, the Tiffany of Printers” by Kristin L. Spangenberg
• “A Picture is Worth 757 Words: Circus & Culture, Language & Perception” by David Carlyon
• “The Strobridge Lithographing Company, the Ringling Brothers, and Their Circuses” by Fred D. Pfening III
• “After the Posters, the Daily Free Street Parade” by Fred Dahlinger, Jr.
• “Promoting Peerless Prodigies ‘To the Curious’” by Richard W. Flint
• “The Menagerie” by Richard J. Reynolds III
• “The Circus Clown as Social Commentator” by Rodney A. Huey
• “Magnificent Entrée’s: The Role of the Spectacle During the Golden Age of the Circus” by Jennifer Lemmer Posey
• “Bearded Ladies, Dainty Amazons, Hindoo Fakirs, and Lady Savages: Circus Representations of Gender and Race in Victorian America” by Janet M. Davis
• “Strobridge Pictorial Posters: Design, Printing, and Posting” by Kristin L. Spangenberg

The Oriental spectacle “Nepal,” illustrated in this poster, also featured Frank Buck. The one-sheet Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey poster is just one of the 80 Strobridge lithographs in the exhibit.


P.T. Barnum’s famous elephant, Jumbo, was the center of interest in this extremely rare poster.

Numerous show names are included in the poster exhibit. This little known circus was titled Big United States Circus and Great Eastern Menagerie and is dated 1886.


The three poster illustrations used in this blog are courtesy of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Howard Tibbals Collection.

Larry Kellogg is a Worthologist specializing in circus memorabilia.


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