Tack Spitter Circus

April 12, 2018 - All

What was known as ‘The Golden Age of American Circus’ lasted, roughly, from the last quarter of the 1800’s through 1950. During that time, circus as an industry got a huge boost from the expansion of the transcontinental rail system and managed to survive the Great Depression. The poster advertisements from this era remain so wonderfully iconic – and the Ringling Museum website hosts an impressive 4,977 of them in one of their digital archives. I am now the proud owner of the metadata for the entire archive – thanks to Python scraping. I was surprised to find such an enormous array of troupes represented in the archive. Ringling and Barnum, Sells and Floto – these were givens. But then I found Carl Sagenbeck’s troupe and the Zallee Brothers’ and on and on. So for my first exploration into the data, I asked Python to parse through the title fields collecting and counting troupe names. This then lead me to realize troupe co-appearances on posters were an especially significant part of America circus history. Gephi allowed me to then upload that data for network analysis.

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