Welcome to the Big Top

It’s a three-ring circus at the Bruce



Wisconsin Historical Society

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages. Come see the greatest show on earth!” And welcome to Circus! Art and Science Under the Big Top, now playing at the Bruce Museum through January 9.

Greenwich loves a circus. A few of our boys have actually run away and joined it. Back in the days when Clyde Beatty came to town to benefit the library, we used to wake up our children at 5 a.m., pile them into the station wagon in their pajamas and drive over to the Old Greenwich Civic Center to watch an elephant named Sue put up the tents. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, inside one of the trailers parked in the field slept a young man putting himself through medical school by performing as a clown. Later, Dr. Neil Kahanovitz, an eminent orthopedic surgeon, told us: “I woke up in the trailer one morning, looked out at that beautiful scene and thought this is where I want to live someday.” And for a while he did, in an historic Mediterranean mansion on the water in Riverside.

 

History has it that the first modern circus began in England in 1770, when a gentleman named Phillip Astley built a ring so that horseback riders could perform their stunts continuously before their audience. It arrived in the United States in 1793 and with the expansion of the railroad became more popular and profitable than ever, attracting entrepreneurs such as P.T. Barnum and James Bailey. In the early 1800s Hachaliah Bailey Brown bought an elephant (the second to come to America) to harnass up for farm work in Somers, New York, but “Old Bet” drew so much attention he decided it was a brighter idea to tour the northeast with her. Sadly she was shot dead in Maine by staunch supporters of the blue laws who thought it was sinful to be entertained on Sundays, but not before Old Bet and Hachaliah had inspired others to tour with exotic animals.  According to his 1955 biography, a young P.T. Barnum once met Hachaliah, and his fame fanned the enthusiasm of the next generation of circus promoters. Despite the drop in attendance in the 1950s due to the emergence of television and other forms of entertainment, the circus continues to excite and delight us today.

Old Bet is long gone, but in her honor, Somers, New York, ended up with the Elephant Hotel (now the Somers Town Hall), designated a National Historic Landmark, a high school team called the Tuskers and a reputation as the birthplace of the American circus. Since the Bruce show opens with an exploration of circus history, its curators Diane Clifford and Caroline Shields have worked closely with the Somers Historical Society, along with the Ringling Museum and Big Apple Circus, to secure costumes, tools, toys, broadsides and vintage photographs dating back to the early nineteenth century.

The second part of the Bruce exhibition show-cases pieces of fine art by such artists as Matisse, Calder, Chagall and Toulouse-Lautrec that depict the evolution of the circus over the years, reflecting its successes and its struggles.

Finally, the Bruce reflects on the science and math involved in circus performances—why the tightrope walker carries a balancing pole, how
the sword swallower slides this sharp object down his throat, how the contortionist can become a human pretzel, how Newton’s laws of motion apply to the man on the flying trapeze.

Circus! Art and Science Under the Big Top is fascinating fun for the whole family—capped with performances, games, craft activities and educational programs throughout the months ahead. For those readers who are tempted to run away and join the circus, you don’t have far to go. Just head down to One Museum Drive.

 

Greenwich Agenda

  • Exhibit Ira BARKOFF

    2014.10.11
     @ Canfin Gallery

    “The beauty of the physical world becomes a metaphor for the capacity of the spirit to reveal itself". Ira Barkoff Evocation of...

  • Nigh Season: New Paintings By David Konigsberg

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM  Public Invited   NIGH...

  • Undulate: Paintings By Julie Gross and Margaret Neill

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    GALLERY II Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM Public Invited...

  • Parties at the JCC Center

    2014.09.02
     @ Stamford JCC

    A place to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. Be a guest at your own party! The JCC offers a wonderful space for you and your guests to...

  • SPLURGE Matches Scarf Donations for Cancer Patients

    2014.10.01
     @ SPLURGE

    SPLURGE and the Cancer Institute at Greenwich Hospital are partnering to bring comfort and encouragement to cancer patients.  From October...

  • Flinn Gallery Art Opening

    2014.10.30
     @ Flinn Gallery 2nd floor

    FLINN GALLERY Opening Reception 'IN FOCUS' Thursday October 30, 6 - 8pm Seven artists share their visions - Carolyn Conrad,...

  • IMAGINE CANDY- SWEET TASTINGS!!!

    2014.10.24
     @ Imagine Candy

    Imagine Candy located in Scarsdale Village- Winner of 2014 Best West of Westchester by Westchester Magazine- holds a Belgian Chocolate and Candy...

  • Flower Power

    2014.10.08
     @ SM Home Gallery

    SM Home Gallery show featuring two Greenwich based artists: Margaret Bragg and Penny Putnam. The art show runs thorough November 22nd....

  • Harvest Fair and Gift Show

    2014.11.01
     @ Second Congregational Church

    Event Will Include Hay Mazes, Games, Crafts, Food, Holiday Shopping The community is invited to a Harvest Fair and Gift Show on Saturday, Nov....

  • New Fitness Class: SalsaTone

    2014.11.01
     @ Latin Moves Dance Studio

    Starting November 1st ~ Every Saturday morning 10 to 11 AM Instructor: Melissa Lopez Start your weekend off right with this exciting cardio...

  • Lynne Scalo Design Opening

    2014.11.05

    Please join Lynne Scalo, Greenwich Magazine and athome Magazine to celebrate the Greenwich showroom opening of Lynne Scalo Design Cocktails...

  • Breast Cancer Alliance Benefit Luncheon & Fashion Show

    2014.11.06
     @ Hyatt Regency Greenwich

    Breast Cancer Alliance to Host Branching Out, Coming Together, Aspiring to a Cure 19th Annual Benefit Luncheon & Fashion Show: November 6,...

  • Free Screening of Documentary ' Children of the Inquisition'

    2014.11.06
     @ Bush-Holley House

    Join filmmaker Joseph Lovett as he presents his documentary film and multi-platform project of personal exploration and...

  • P.A.L.S. 2nd Annual Soarin' Soiree~ November 7, 2014

    2014.11.07
     @ Greenwich Country Club

    You are invited to join our State Senator, L. Scott Frantz and our First Selectman, Peter J. Tesei, for an awe-inspiring evening to benefit Patient...

  • John Hardy Event

    2014.11.08
     @ Bloomingdale's

    John Hardy One of a kind. One at a time. Each by hand. Bloomingdale's is inviting YOU to meet the head designer Guy Bedarida as he presents...

  • Olivine Gabbro Opening

    2014.11.08

    Olivine Gabbro invites you to join them for their Opening Party! DJ | Cocktails | H'Orderves | Gift Bags Made to Measure Beautifully...

  • Meet Joshua Safran, Author of "Free Spirit: Growing Up On the Road and Off the Grid"

    2014.11.11
     @ YWCA Greenwich

    Meet the author of this powerful memoir. Joshua Safran is an author, attorney, occasional rabbi, and nationally recognized advocate for...

  • Markham Roberts: Decorating the Way I See It

    2014.11.13
     @ Belle Haven Club

    Join us as Interior Designer Markham Roberts shares coveted design insights, key to creating the perfect home. The program will include...


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