The Ringling: United States Postal Service releases the new, limited-edition Vintage Circus Posters Forever® stamps

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May 5, 2014

By: Sherry Janes

The magic of the circus was celebrated here in Sarasota, the Circus Capital of the World, today.  There could be no better place to issue stamps honoring circus history than at the estate of the Circus King, John Ringling.  Ca d’Zan, or House of John, provided the perfect setting for the unveiling of the Vintage Circus Posters Forever Stamps which pay tribute to the wonder and amazement of the circus.

The new stamps are replicas of original circus posters, bright, detailed works of art, which were prominently displayed in cities and towns across the country to announce the arrival of the circus.  Each stamp features one vintage circus poster with colorful clowns, performing elephants, fierce tigers, or daring performers.

The ceremony began with a concert by the Ringling Bros. charming bell wagon, which had not been seen or heard in Sarasota for over thirty years.  The bell wagon traditionally headed up the parade when the circus arrived in town.  The huge bells, which weigh over 4300 pounds, create quite a loud reverberating sound, which could be heard throughout town, creating excitement and attracting people to the parade. Six Percherons, a breed of large handsome horses, were used to pull the wagon, as it played Americana-type tunes.   Making its last appearance on the road in 1951, the bell wagon was then featured in the 1952 movie, “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

An actual Ringmaster for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey served as the Master of Ceremonies, welcoming and introducing the various dignitaries from The Ringling and the U.S. Postal Service.  Loveable clowns were in attendance on stilts, juggling, and doing what clowns do – making people laugh.  Each speaker expressed sentiments for the Ringling performers injured in Providence, as well as their families.  The incident serves as a reminder of the high risk of danger these daring performers place themselves in to entertain people.

P. T. Barnum, once wrote that “the noblest act is that of making others happy.”  “At the Postal Service, we think these new stamps will do a spectacular job of doing just that,” said Ellen Williams, member, Board of Governors, U.S. Postal Service, in dedicating the new stamps.

Having been an amateur performer in the circus (Florida State Flying High Circus), to me the circus is absolutely magical and all about bringing joy.  What a great honor it is that the USPS chose the Ringling Stamps to celebrate the legacy of the circus.

The ceremony ended with the Ringmaster extending the message, “May all your days be circus days – filled with laughter, love, fun and amazement.”


Join The Ringling on May 5 for a celebration of the legacy of the American circus featuring clowns, a ringmaster and the rare appearance of a bell wagon featured in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1952 motion picture “The Greatest Show on Earth.”  The event will feature the unveiling of a new series of United States Postal Service stamps based on posters from the Howard Tibbals collection at The Ringling.


Ladies and Gentlemen, Children Of All Ages… Step right up and share the magic of the circus as the United States Postal Service releases the new, limited-edition Vintage Circus Posters Forever® stamps. Since the early 20th century, the circus has brought together Americans of all ages and walks of life to watch the amazing acts and let imaginations soar.

Back in the day, companies like Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey would use posters with eye-catching imagery of stunts, performers, and animals as a vehicle to attract people to come watch the circus. And, now, the United States Postal Service is paying tribute to the history of these vintage works of art. These eight stamps were inspired by original circus posters which are now part of the Tibbals Digital Collection at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

The interactive first-day-of-issue ceremony will feature a Ringling Bros. ringmaster, clowns, as well as a concert by the Ringling Bros. bell wagon, which will be the first time it has been seen, or heard, in Sarasota in over 30 years. The event is free and open to the public.

Interview opportunities will be available either on site or via phone with Ellen Williams, Board of Governors, U.S. Postal Service, Nicole Feld, Executive Vice President and Producer of Feld Entertainment, Inc. and Steven High, Executive Director of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

The limited-edition Vintage Circus Posters Forever® stamps will be available for purchase at the event, as well as at major Post Office locations across the country and online at and


11 a.m. EST, Monday, May 5, 2014

Media check-in begins at 10:00 a.m. CST at Museum Security


The Ringling Ca’ d’Zan   5401 Bay Shore Road

Sarasota, FL 34243

*Parking available at the parking lot near The Ringling Ca’ d’Zan


The U.S. Postal Service honors the “Best of America” by introducing limited-edition stamps that celebrate various American passions, including the circus. The Vintage Circus Posters Forever® stamps pay tribute to the wonder and amusement of the circus which Americans have been celebrating since the early 20th century.

The new limited-edition stamps, designed by Jennifer Arnold, celebrate the eye-catching pieces of art used in the early 20th century to announce when the circus was coming to town, giving audiences a taste of what awaited under the big top. The design for each of the eight (8) stamps is modeled off of unique posters which were used in the early 20th century as informational advertisements to garner excitement and attendance for the circus. These stamps showcase majestic elephants, fierce tigers and colorful clowns, in addition to the iconic acts such as acrobatic gymnasts, graceful wire dancers and daring stuntmen. These posters are a part of the Tibbals Digital Collection at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

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