Battle for the Big Top
P.T. Barnum, James Bailey, John Ringling, and the Death-Defying Saga of the American Circus
“Les Standiford takes us under the big top and behind the curtain in this richly researched and thoroughly engaging narrative that captures all of the entrepreneurial intrigue and spirit of the American circus.” —Gilbert King, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Devil in the Grove
Millions have sat under the “big top,” watching as trapeze artists glide and clowns entertain, but few know the captivating stories behind the men whose creativity, ingenuity, and determination created one of our country’s most beloved pastimes.
In Battle for the Big Top, New York Times–bestselling author Les Standiford brings to life a remarkable era when three circus kings—James Bailey, P. T. Barnum, and John Ringling—all vied for control of the vastly profitable and influential American Circus. Ultimately, the rivalry of these three men resulted in the creation of an institution that would surpass all intentions and, for 147 years, hold a nation spellbound.
Filled with details of their ever-evolving showmanship, business acumen, and personal magnetism, this Ragtime-like narrative will delight and enchant circus-lovers and anyone fascinated by the American experience.