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Circopedia was originally created with the support of the Big Apple Circus
and inspired and funded by the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation.

In The Spotlight


Jim Myers (1823-1892) was an American equestrian and circus entrepreneur who began his career in the United States, went on to perform in Great Britain and subsequently became a very successful circus impresario in Europe—where the Great American Circus he created there toured extensively, and where he even established a resident circus in Paris.

Myers Circus.png
Born James Washington Myers in Providence, Rhode Island in 1823, he was apprenticed at the tender age of nine to the equestrian and showman Aaron Turner (1790-1854). Like many young performers of that period, he adopted his teacher’s name when he debuted in the ring, and was billed for a time as a bareback rider and acrobat under the name of James Turner. By 1845, however, he had reverted to his own identity and, as Jim Myers, presented equestrian scenes in the manner of Andrew Ducrow in his mentor’s circus.

But Myers was an ambitious and enterprising young man, and in 1854, he entered a partnership with Henry P. Madigan (1815-1862), a fellow equestrian who had worked with him for Aaron Turner, and together they created the Myers & Madigan’s Railroad Circus. Myers worked as a clown in their show; he would later marry his partner’s daughter, Rose Madigan (1839-1907), a talented equestrienneA female equestrian, or horse trainer, horse presenter, or acrobat on horseback. in her own right, who was sixteen years his junior.

The Myers & Madigan Railroad Circus, which was one of the earliest circuses traveling by rail, became Howes Menagerie and Myers & Madigan Circus in 1855, when the partners entered an association with Seth B. Howes (1815-1901)—himself a pioneer of the American traveling circus and a former associate of Aaron Turner. This combine was short-lived however, and the following year, Myers went on the road without partners, with his own Jim Myers’ Circus. European Travels.

This experience may not have been as successful as intended: In 1857, Jim rejoined Seth B. Howes as a performer, and went with Howes & Cushing Circus (owned by Seth B. Howes and Joseph Cushing) on to a tour of Great Britain, along with thirteen-year-old Rose Madigan—whom Myers would later marry in England. Advertised either as Great United-States Circus or Great American Circus, Howes & Cushing Circus was extremely successful in England and Scotland, fending off profitably a fierce competition with the English circus king, "Lord" John Sanger.... (more...)

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CIRCOPEDIA is a constantly evolving and expanding archive of the international circus. New videos, biographies, essays, and documents are added to the site on a weekly—and sometimes daily—basis. Keep visiting us: even if today you don't find what you're looking for, it may well be here tomorrow! And if you are a serious circus scholar and spot a factual or historical inaccuracy, do not hesitate to contact us: we will definitely consider your remarks and suggestions.

Dominique Jando
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