Ringling Brothers circus clown was a big draw

Lou Jacobs began working for The Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey Circus, advertised as “The Greatest Show on Earth”, in 1925. He was unforgettable, standing over six foot tall and is dressed in bright plaids and maybe a giant neck tie that extended to his ankle when he was doing his clown chores.  His unforgettable white -face is accented with a red nose about the size of a tennis ball and huge perpetual smile outlined with paint.  Tufts of course, fire engine red, hair appears to be growing out of his ears. A tiny hat is more than likely tied to the top of his head. A color post card has the following blurb; “Master of Mirth –veteran funny man, Lou Jacobs, celebrates over a half-century of clown chores with ‘The Greatest Show on Earth, Ringling Bros., Barnum & Bailey Combined Show Inc. 1976.”

When Lou Jacobs, wasn’t clowning, he was a teacher at the Clown College in Sarasota and a great promoter of the Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus.   His jubilant image was used in a variety of advertising papers, posters, souvenir picture folders and post cards. All are collectibles today.

A 1947 picture post card, souvenir folder, published by Curt Teich, advertises the winter quarters of the Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey Circus, in Sarasota, Florida. The front of the folder features Lou Jacobs riding an elephant. There is a postage stamp box in the upper right corner that required a 1 1/2 cent stamp to send the souvenir by U.S. mail to friends and family.  

 When spread out, the pictures in the folder has a total of 18 images. On the front side we find the entrance of the Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey winter quarters with the white picket fence. Another picture features the huge “Big Top” tents. A third image captures the fun, three clowns are having with an elephant.  Lou Jacobs, in his signature plaid and cumbersome garb is pushing on the elephant. In another picture, he is snuggled under the elephant’s trunk.  My favorite image is Lou reading a newspapers and a giraffe is licking his ear. Even the animals loved the guy!

More pictures in the folder feature more of the circus world; an exquisitely carved, circus bandwagon; a circus monkey, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, walking on a high wire; and a huge Gargantua eating a banana in a circus cage.

On the back side of the folder we find beautiful images of the John Ringling estate in Sarasota, Florida.  John Ringling gifted the John Ringling Mansion and the John Ringling Art Museum to the state of Florida. He died December 2, 1936.

In 1966 the U.S. government produced five cent “CIRCUS” stamps with the image of Lou Jacobs. The McGregor, Iowa post office was given a cancellation mark to be used on the new American Circus commemorative stamp.  “John Ringling Circus Fame 1866-1966.” This reminded the public that John Ringling was born in McGregor.

The images in the folder were also printed on 3.5 inch by 5 inch, linen post cards in the 1940s. One post card, number “S 37; –Clowning at Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Winter Quarters, Sarasota, Fla.”  The blurb on the back of the post card says, “There is something about a white-faced clown that appeals to everybody-young and old. Even the elephant has a good time at the winter quarters of the Greatest Show on Earth.”  Lou Jacobs, was the Master of Mirth for 60 years. He retired in 1985.

Ringling family members owned The Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey Circus, until 1967.    Feld Entertainment, are the present owners. The circus will end activities as a circus, in May. In the meantime the last shows, in several eastern states are asking $35-$300 per ticket, depending on the location of the seats. Save that ticket it is collectible too!