Friday, June 2, 2023 -
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Ringling Bros.

The stamp depicting Dainty Miss Leitzel

The stamp depicting Dainty Miss Leitzel

When I saw the postage stamp on a card I just received depicting Dainty Miss Leitzel, the World’s Most Marvelous Lady Gymnast — a past act at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus — it was bittersweet.

I’m not a true philatelist, but I’ve always enjoyed collecting fun stamps. This is one I’ll certainly keep — not least because last month “The Greatest Show on Earth” announced that it was ceasing operation.

Apparently, this type of entertainment no longer captures American audiences. Animal rights groups have also been successful at protesting the circus’ use of animals, and perhaps Ringling Bros. wasn’t able to adapt into a, let’s say, Cirque du Soleil type of act.

The only traditional circus I’ve been to was a small one in Switzerland, called Circus Monti, and the location was no coincidence. In Europe and Russia, the circus scene thrives. In Switzerland, I knew people attending circus school and pursuing professional careers in the circus. Clowns, mimes, acrobats and jugglers are perceived as artists, not merely as entertainers.

With the departure of Ringling Bros., Americans will no longer be able to easily run off to the circus — something that actually used to happen. That’s how Col. Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, got his start. Circus enthusiasts will now have to hop a plane, not a train, to see “the greatest show.”

For the rest of us, the stamps will have to serve as a colorful reminder of a past age.

Shana Goldberg may be reached at [email protected]

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IJN Assistant Publisher | [email protected]

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