Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

McCaddon, Joseph T.
McCaddon Collection of the Barnum and Bailey Circus
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1871-1907 (mostly 1895-1905)
85 boxes, 9 folders, and 14 items
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-86


The McCaddon Collection of the Barnum and Bailey Circus consists of correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks, and other material collected by business manager Joseph T. McCaddon prior to the 1907 merger of the circus with Ringling Bros.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

Consists of the working papers of the Barnum and Bailey partnership prior to its merger with Ringling Bros. in 1907. In addition to correspondence, scrapbooks, posters, couriers, parade, costume and wagon designs, music, and memorabilia collected by Joseph T. McCaddon, who was the business manager of the circus at the turn of the century, there are hundreds of photographs documenting the American circus of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Content Warning

The McCaddon Collection of the Barnum and Bailey Circus contains harmful and offensive descriptions of people that includes racist, colonialist, ableist, and otherwise dehumanizing language. Some of the description is original to the donor and/or the creator, and in these instances of creator- and donor-supplied titles, description may be retained to convey contextual/historical information of the materials. However, the collection is a candidate for ongoing reparative description work that can address cases in which a librarian or archivist may have supplied harmful descriptive language. We hope that researchers will engage in a dialogue with staff about issues in the collection and changes that could help.

Collection Creator Biography:

McCaddon, Joseph T.

Joseph T. McCaddon was born on January 31, 1859, in Beverly, Washington County, Ohio. McCaddon began his career with the circus as manager of the Adam Forepaugh Circus. Later, as James A. Bailey's brother-in-law and business manager of the Barnum and Bailey Circus, he represented Bailey in many business matters, including correspondence with William F. Cody ("Buffalo Bill") regarding the acquisition of his Wild West Show.

[1824] John Robinson Circus formed 1867 Adam Forepaugh Circus formed 1871 P. T. Barnum begins "P.T. Barnum's Museum, Menagerie, & Circus" in Brooklyn, N.Y. 1873 James A. Bailey buys interest in Hemmings and Cooper's Circus from James E. Cooper, changes name to Cooper and Bailey Circus. 1875 Sells Bros. Circus formed 1879-80 Bailey, along with Cooper and James L. Hutchinson, purchases show owned by Seth B. Howes, forming Howes' Great London Circus and Sanger's Royal British Menagerie and Cooper & Bailey's International Allied Shows 1881 Cooper retires; Bailey and Hutchinson form partnership with Barnum, creating the Barnum and London Circus. 1883 Buffalo Bill's Wild West founded 1884 The Ringling Brothers establish their circus. 1885 Bailey sells his interest in the circus to Cooper and W. W. Cole. 1888 Barnum and Bailey begin sole partnership, forming the "Barnum and Bailey Circus." 1890 Bailey and Cooper buy Adam Forepaugh Circus. 1891 Barnum dies; Bailey assumes full ownership of Barnum and Bailey Circus. 1894 Bailey buys a controlling interest in Buffalo Bill's Wild West. 1896 Bailey joins with W. W. Cole and two of the Sells Brothers; Sells Bros. Circus becomes Adam Forepaugh and Sells Bros. Circus 1897-1902 5-year Barnum and Bailey European Tour. Ringling Bros. Circus becomes dominant American Circus. 1898 Ringling Bros. begin to lease John Robinson Circus. 1905 Bailey acquires full ownership of Adam Forepaugh and Sells Bros. Circus, sells half interest in it to the Ringling Bros. 1906 Bailey dies; Ringling Brothers buy remaining share of Forepaugh-Sells Circus from Bailey's widow. 1907 Ringling Brothers purchase "Barnum and Bailey Circus" (shows remain separate). 1919 "Ringling Brothers Circus" combined with "Barnum and Bailey Circus" to create "Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus" 1929 Ringling Brothers purchase American Circus (which consisted of Sells-Floto, Al G. Barnes, Sparks, Hagenbeck-Wallace, and John Robinson Circuses). 1956 Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus gives last big top performance. 1957 Irvin Feld purchases "Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus" and transforms it into an indoor show.

Collection History


The collection was a gift to the Library by the McCaddon family in 1941. Additions were purchased at auction in July 1978 .


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Melanie Papasian, Princeton Class of 2003 and Rachel Jordan in 2002 and 2004 . Finding aid written by Melanie Papasian, Princeton Class of 2003 and Rachel Jordan in 2002 and 2004.

The existence of harmful language was noted in collection- and series-level descriptive notes by Amy C. Vo and Phoebe Nobles in 2022 as an initial step for reparative description-related work.

In 2022, restrictions on glass-plate negatives were lifted as part of a restrictions review project.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

The glass-plate negatives require special handling in the reading room.

Credit this material:

McCaddon Collection of the Barnum and Bailey Circus; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-86