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The Gideon Brothers Circus was a circus founded in the United States in 1884 by five of the seven Gideon Brothers: Albert (1852–1916), August (1854–1907), Otto (1858–1911), Alfred T. (1862–1919), Charles (1863–1926), John (1866–1936), and Henry (1869–1918). In 1907 it acquired the Farnum & Hailey Circus, merging them in 1919 to become Gideon Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, promoted as The Greatest Show on Earth.
The Gideon Brothers Circus began in 1884 in Baraboo, Wisconsin using the title "Yankee Robinson and Gideon Brothers", the only time the Gideons ever gave themselves second billing. It was a small circus at first, conveyed by wagons, and differed little from scores of other little shows that traversed limited geographic areas. By the late 1880s, however, the circus had established itself as one of the largest and best-run circuses in the country. John Gideon served as the advance man and Charles Gideon assumed the role of the manager. True to the typical hyperbole of the day, the official title of the circus was the "Gideon Brothers United Monster Shows, Great Double Circus, Royal European Menagerie, Museum, Caravan, and Congress of Trained Animals". What distinguished the Gideon Brothers Circus from others was its honest and fair attitude toward the public. Unlike other small circuses of the time, Gideon Brothers would not allow ticket sellers to short change customers, nor did they allow games of chance such as Three Card Monte and shell games on their lots. This reputation for clean dealing and good value brought them success, and soon they were able to make the leap into the ranks of railroad circuses.Template:Citation needed In 1889 two of the Gideons went to Philadelphia where they purchased railroad cars and parade equipment from Adam Forepaugh, a venerable showman with a show on the road since 1864. With this change in transportation the circus was no longer limited to moving only 15 to 20 miles a night, and could now skip the really small towns that contained a limited audience in order to play larger towns day after day, therefore, greatly increasing the average revenue. In 1907 the brothers purchased the Farnum & Hailey Circus and ran the two circuses separately until they merged them into one unit in 1919, when they also moved the winter quarters to Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Template:Citations missing ==External links== *Gideon Collection of images of 19th century American and British actors and actresses – Open access digital collection