Today in History: April 22


John Bill Rickets



Washington comes to view

America's first circus.*

I bet the child in George came too.

It was in Philadelphia at a circus organized  by the British equestrian John Bill Rickets [shown above] who performed a variety of  dextrous feats on horseback. Animals at the time were not a staple at circuses. One exception was, of course, the horse.  Rickets' horse, Complanter, became the first animal circus star.  Adding another milestone, Rickets eventually hired John Durang the first circus clown in America.


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  • How sad that young people will now see the circus only as cruelty and a relic they don't understand. Surely the acrobatic talents and other feats could have been preserved, a la gymnastics, and animals treated better without scrapping the whole business? (I keep thinking of a little boy who came to Lincoln Park Zoo when I lived near there. He stopped at the north gate, and -- in a tone like Christmas morning -- said "Elephants!" After renovations to the elephants' habitat, older elephants were moved in; I still don't see why the original residents didn't come home. Anyway, the older elephants died -- at much higher ages than they would in the wild -- and PETA got on the zoo's case. No more elephants there... no more enchanted little boys at the gate.)

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