The Ringlings performed their first official circus in 1884 in collaboration with a showman named Yankee Robinson. However, Robinson died soon after, but the Ringlings continued their circus tour. In just a couple of years, the family had become successful, and the two remaining Ringling brothers — Henry and Gus — joined. The troupe was then officially became known as Ringling Bros. United Monster Shows, Great Double Circus, Royal European Menagerie, Museum, Caravan, and Congress of Trained Animals, per Wisconsin History.

Meanwhile, Barnum & Bailey Circus was traveling to different locations and expanding its operations. By 1895, the rivalry between Barnum & Bailey Circus and the Ringling Brothers Circus was apparent, so they decided to divide the locations of their market. The Ringlings continued to have a successful business, and an opportunity to grow it even further was presented to them in 1907. P.T. Barnum died in 1891 and Bailey died in 1906. Per Britannica, the Ringlings decided to purchase Barnum & Bailey, but they continued to operate the organizations separately. In 1919, the two circuses were combined to form the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows. The business employed more than 1,000 people and had nearly 1,000 animals by that time.

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