Following the July 16, 1956, performance of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, The Greatest Show On Earth® under the direction of John Ringling North ceased operation.
Media around the world mourned, but one man believed in The Greatest Show On Earth and was clever enough to know exactly how to preserve this beloved American institution.
Irvin Feld and his brother
Israel had already made their mark as pioneers in the burgeoning rock
and roll concert tour business. They were familiar with the new arenas
that were springing up in cities all across America. Irvin Feld
suggested The Greatest Show On Earth become an exclusively indoor presentation. On April 3, 1957, a new tour began with Feld in charge of booking and promotion.
Irvin Feld had always wanted to own Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
and thus have control over all aspects of the show, including
production. On November 11, 1967, his dream became reality as the Feld
family purchased Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey from John Ringling North. Befitting The Greatest Show On Earth, the contract for the sale was signed during a ceremony at the Colosseum in Rome, Italy!
Irvin Feld implemented
changes quickly and ushered in the modern-day era of circus in America.
Within two years, he created a second unit of Ringling Bros.®
equal in size, scope and quality to the first. Through an unprecedented
circus purchase of $2-million, Feld secured the talents of famed German
animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams, who quickly became a world-renowned circus legend. In 1968, Feld also created Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College® to preserve the ancient and honorable art of clowning.
Ever the astute promoter, Irvin Feld designed a new two-year tour plan for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.
He also utilized with great effect national advertising campaigns,
national television specials, and creative public relations, bringing
the once-declining Ringling Bros. back to its rightful place as a
premier American art form, leading TIME Magazine to refer to him as
"The Greatest Showman On Earth."
In 1970, Feld's only son, Kenneth, joined Ringling Bros.
and learned the craft of production from the master, his father.
Confident in his son's abilities, Irvin Feld made Kenneth Feld a
co-producer of the circus in 1973.
After a brief ownership by Mattel, the Feld family reacquired Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
on March 17, 1982. When Irvin passed away suddenly on September 6,
1984, Kenneth Feld immediately stepped in to assume control and sustain,
if not surpass, the level of entertainment excellence set forth by his
father and the other legendary showmen before him.
By bringing together the most amazing talent and animals the world has to offer, Kenneth Feld continues the proud history of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. During its years of Feld family stewardship, The Greatest Show On Earth
has experienced many of its finest moments, and an impressive string of
firsts including (but certainly not limited to) the following:
---On July 10, 1982, trapeze artist Miguel Vazquez completed the first quadruple somersault in performance history!
---In 1985, The Living Unicorn was featured in The Greatest Show On Earth, causing a worldwide media sensation!
---In 1986, the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe became the first artists from the People's Republic of China to perform with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey!
---In 1988, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey embarked on a special international tour of Japan!
---In 1991, David Larible became the first clown to be a featured performer with The Greatest Show On Earth!
---In 1992, an amazing assemblage of 40 Mongolians appeared in The Greatest Show On Earth -- and became the first circus performers from that mysterious country ever to appear in the Western hemisphere!
---In 1995, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey established its Center for Elephant Conservation® in central Florida dedicated to research, reproduction and retirement of the endangered Asian elephant!
---In 1996, Airiana The Human
Arrow dazzled audiences, creating a media firestorm rivaled only by The
Living Unicorn a decade earlier!
---In 1997, the multisensory Three Ring Adventure® debuted; beginning one-hour before every performance, this interactive adventure brings audiences closer than ever to The Greatest Show On Earth!
---In 1999, the 129th Edition of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey presented to audiences Johnathan Lee Iverson, the youngest Ringmaster in the history of The Greatest Show On Earth, who was named one of the Ten Most Fascinating People of the Year by Barbara Walters.
---In 2000, Ringling Bros. introduced Sara, The Tiger WhispererSM--and
marked a millennium milestone by becoming the first and only show
business attraction to perform nonstop into its third century of
entertaining and inspiring families across the United States!
---In 2001, The Greatest Show On Earth
presents the greatest team the circus has ever known: Bo --The World's
Smartest Elephant--and Bello Nock--named America's Best Clown by TIME
---In 2004, Kenneth’s oldest daughter Nicole Feld becomes the first female producer in the history of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.
---Also in 2004, a third touring unit of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey is created so more families across the country can enjoy The Greatest Show On Earth!
---In 2006, Kenneth Feld is
inducted into the International Circus Hall of Fame, 20 years after his
late father Irvin received the same honor.
---Also in 2006, producers Kenneth Feld and Nicole Feld “re-imagine” The Greatest Show On Earth, implementing the biggest production changes in over 50-years with The Circus of Dreams.
In 2008, Ringling Bros. launched two new shows - the 138th edition of The Greatest Show On Earth, Over The Top! and a new Gold Unit show, Boom A Ring, which in 2009 marked the first time a Ringling Bros. played all summer in historic Coney Island, New York and the first production to tour Europe.
In 2010, producers Nicole Feld and Alana Feld joined forces to become the first sister-team to ever create a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey show with Barnum’s FUNundrum!SM, a tribute to legendary showman P.T. Barnum in celebration of the 200th anniversary of his birthday! Also in 2010, a new Gold Unit show was launched, IlluscinationSM.
In the years since P.T. Barnum first opened his American
Museum in New York City, many forms of entertainment have come and gone
but Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey remains a fundamental
part of the American heritage, growing stronger than ever with each new
year, each dazzling performance, and each heartwarming smile on the
faces of Children Of All Ages.
In 1996, Kenneth Feld, Chairman and CEO of Irvin Feld
& Kenneth Feld Productions, Inc., announced the company's name
change to Feld Entertainment, Inc. Under the stewardship of Feld Entertainment®, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
is poised to reach even greater heights of excellence in the new
millennium as it continues to bring millions of families each year the
joy of laughter and the wonder of the accomplishments of the human
spirit.The Greatest Show On Earth
truly is America's Living National Treasure®