Ringling Bros. Draws Curtains on the Greatest Show on Earth

A look back at the Barnum and Bailey Circus, which this weekend announced its end in May, following the spectacle's century and a half run.

Three-year-old Richard Caglione sheds tears as a stranger, in this case, Emmett Kelly, featured clown with Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, picks him up during New York's first circus parade in 19 years on April 9, 1945.

Kenneth Feld, the chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus, told The Associated Press the show will end following a 146-year run of performances due to declining attendance combined with high operating costs.

Anthony Camerano / AP
Beatrice Dante puts her chimpanzee through a tight wire number in preparation for the New York opening, April 6, 1949. Ed Ford / AP
Skee Otaris' hands are over her head as her pachyderm does a headstand during a performance in Madison Square Garden in New York on April 9, 1949. Matty Zimmerman / AP
Harold Alzanas on the bicycle during the high wire Alzanas act of the big show at Madison Square Garden, April 12, 1951. Ed Ford / AP
A tightrope walker performs for the circus on May 27, 1955. Bob Wands / AP
Elephants and dancers go through their paces in the opening stages of the first night of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 29, 1961. About 7,500 persons turned out for initial performance. Marty Lederhandler / AP
Harold Ronk, the original singing ringmaster for Ringling Bros. tries on one of his original robes in Farmington, Illinois, May 16, 1996. T.J. SALSMAN / AP
An Elephant lumbers off the train in Birmingham, Alabama, under the watchful eye of elephant handler Randy Peterson, Jan. 20, 1998. The elephants disembarked shortly before the traditional elephant walk to the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center, where the circus performs. William Luther / AP
Ringmaster Jonathan Lee Iverson and Catherine Hanneford lead a parade through downtown Atlanta on Feb. 21, 2000, marking the first return for the circus to Atlanta in some 80 years. Alan Mothner / AP
Bello Nock, the star circus clown, hangs on a trapeze bar suspended from a helicopter flown by his brother Eugene Nock over New York, March 31, 2003. Bello Nock hung briefly upside down from the trapeze in front of the Statue of Liberty, as a stunt to signal the circus' arrival to the city. Gregory Bull / AP
Elephants pose for a picture after exiting the Queens Midtown tunnel while police officers look on in New York, March 18, 2008. The annual parade of elephants announces the arrival of the circus. Seth Wenig / AP
Elephants are marched through downtown to the Staples Center in Los Angeles, July 7, 2009, where the memorial service for Michael Jackson will be held. The pre-dawn pachyderm march is a decades-old tradition for the circus. Philip Scott Andrews / AP
Members of the Mongolian Marvels Troupe perform at the rotunda inside Newark City Hall, March 12, 2015, in Newark, New Jersey. The performers are part of the Circus Xtreme show put on by Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey at Newark's Prudential Center. Julio Cortez / AP
A clown balances a carrot on his nose while elephants eat during a performance in which the elephants were treated to a brunch at Prudential Center, March 10, 2016, in Newark, New Jersey. The brunch was held as part of a sendoff event for the elephants, which were then retired from circus performances and moved to the circus' Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida. Julio Cortez / AP
Big-cat trainer Alexander Lacey performs with lions and tigers in Providence, Rhode Island during the last show for the Asian elephant, May 1, 2016. Bill Sikes / AP

A high wire act performs during a show on Jan. 14, 2017, in Orlando, Florida. 

Chris O'Meara / AP
Performers ride camels during a performance, Jan. 14, 2017, in Orlando, Florida. Chris O'Meara / AP