Circus once was a popular July 4 attraction in Ripon | news

AN ADVERTISEMENT FOR Dan Rice’s Paris Pavilion Circus ran in the Ripon Free Press in 1872.

America’s Fourth of July is a federal holiday commemorating the Declaration of Independence of the United States, signed July 4, 1776.

At that time, Continental Congress declared that the 13 American colonies were no longer ruled by Britain, and were to become free and independent states.

Today, July 4th is commonly known as Independence Day and celebrated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, political speeches and ceremonies, in addition to other private family events.

Within its archives, the Ripon Historical Society finds there never was a shortage of special events relating to week-long entertainment options for the Fourth of July.

Early on, Ripon had a bustling train system with two depots, which brought passengers here who stayed in hotels downtown awaiting their continued travel to other states and towns, or visiting friends and family members.

At that time, Ripon also had two large opera houses, which attracted traveling entertainment including vocalists, music bands, vaudeville entertainers and actors who staged plays, among other attractions.

Ripon newspapers and printed fliers advertised which events and acts would be in town to build anticipation and attendance for all of these events.

In addition to the above entertainment, there were numerous circuses and acrobats that traveled and worked throughout small towns and large cities across the United States.

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Equestrian Sketches depict circus acts performed in 1872 by Dan Rice’s Paris Pavilion Circus.

One was Dan Rice’s Paris Pavilion Circus, which performed in Ripon and Berlin starting June 29 through the Fourth of July in 1872. The show appears to be equestrian-focused, touting “leading artists of the world” and goes on to speak to wonderfully trained horses, marvelous mules, trick ponies and performing dogs.

This event’s entertainment included children performing calisthenics, equestrian riders, performing dogs, acrobats and gymnasts, capped off by “The Fish Man” who ate, drank and smoked cigarettes underwater.

Imagine that admission to the Paris Pavillion Circus of 1872 was 50 cents for adults (equal to $11.85 in 2022) and 25 cents (equal to $5.92 in 2022) for children 10 and under.

This year, many Riponites will have multiple entertainment options for the 4th of July week.

One of those is Ripon’s hometown Fourth of July fireworks, which will take place from dusk until around 9 pm at Murray Park, along with other weekend-long music events and picnics among family and friends.

The Ripon Historical Society is the oldest continually operating historical society in Wisconsin. It’s open Fridays and Saturdays 10 am to 1 pm

For more information follow us at Facebook/riponhistory or

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