volume explores the development of the early 20th-century railroad
circus against such broader historical developments as the rise of
big business, the breakdown of separate spheres for men and women,
and the genesis of the United States' overseas empire. It casts the
circus as a powerful force in consolidating the nation's identity as
a modern industrial society and world power.
It goes on to view the many shows that
took place under the big top, from scripted performances to
exhibitions of labourers to acrobats falling and animals rampaging.
Turning Victorian notions of gender, race and nationhood on their
head, the circus brought its vision of a rapidly changing world to
spectators, both rural and urban, across the nation. This book
suggests that even today the influence of the circus continues to
resonate in popular representations of gender, race, and the wider