Circuses had been visiting the area for many years when around 1875 a small wagon circus came to Bloomington and inspired two local brothers, Howard and Fred Green, to reproduce the trapeze rigging they had seen at this performance in their father’s barn on Croxton Avenue and taught themselves the routines they had witnessed. They went on to international fame as “The Great Russian Athletes” and later as “The LaVan Brothers”.
Bloomington became the center of activity for aerialist training and trapeze act recruitment in the United States. The Pantagraph called it the “World Capital for Aerialists”. Over the years more than 210 people from the Bloomington area became circus performers.
Though the circus has lost much of its popularity today, there is still circus activity today in the area. Illinois State University’s Gamma Phi Circus was founded in 1929 by Dr. Clifford “Pop” Horton as an honorary gymnastics fraternity which still trains young people and holds performances today.
The Circus collection consists of 1 box and 10 folders containing material from 1879, 1881, 1904, 1919, 1925-1929, 1948, 1950, 1959, 1962-1998, 2001 and 2003. Items in the collection include newspaper clippings, magazine articles, contractual agreement, manuscripts, performance programs and ticket, correspondence, genealogy, a thesis “The Capital of the World” by Jim Monahan, ISNU 1958-59