In 1913, Al Ringling kept Joan of Arc as the theme for the 45-minute spectacle that preceded each Ringling Bros. circus show. That meant that targeted towns saw a lot of Joan of Arc-related advertising like this one in the Taunton Daily Gazette (June 7).
Ads like these appeared in newspapers all over America in 1912 and 1913.
When I say “all over America,” I mean that the Ringling Bros. targeted 302 cities with 717 performances.
Circus ads always exaggerated, and the Ringling Bros. didn’t have 1200 people in their entire circus, let alone that many characters for their Joan of Arc spectacle. The real number was around 249. Instead of 300 ballerinas, there were 48.
We know these numbers from the scripts and photos that survive in archives today such as this one from the Milner Library in Normal, IL.
Some historians have mistaken the center ballerina in the ad for Joan of Arc. But Al Ringling never made her dance, and his description for this art was explicit to omit Joan of Arc from the scene with the option to superimpose her at the end.
We would omit JOAN OF ARC from this audience of spectators, but place a large figure of JOAN OF ARC at one end of the bill, (not really a part of the picture shown), standing beside her horse, but simply a large initial figure.
Read for yourself.
Do you find this interesting? I wrote a 1100-word paper for Studies in Medievalism XXX (2021) that covers the production, promotion, and reception of the Ringling Bros’ Joan of Arc spec.
If you can’t access a copy, shoot me a note and I’ll happily share a PDF.