Search Close
Plan Your Visit
Outside View of the Indiana Historical Society Building
Plan your visit
Tuesday through Saturday10 a.m. - 5 p.m
Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center 450 West Ohio Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202
Save $2 per ticket (adults & seniors) when you purchase online.
Purchase Tickets
Indiana Experience Admission $15 Adults$14 Seniors (60 and over)$5 Youth (ages 5 through 17)$2 Access Pass HoldersFree Children under 5Free IHS MembersFree Educators and Military Free parking with admission in IHS lot off New York Street.

Circus Culture: The Living Legacy in Indiana

March 19, 2015

Unknown to most and surprising to many, Indiana is home to one of the most diverse and rich circus cultures in the country. Indiana?s connection with the industry dates back to the late 1800s, when businessmen from a number of Indiana cities assembled traveling mud shows? featuring exotic animals, performers, clowns and human oddities. These mud shows? were instrumental in sparking a chain reaction of circus enthusiasts, not only in Indiana but across the United States.

By the early 1900s, the circus industry had grown &nash; becoming the most popular form of entertainment in the country. The firstIndianapolis Fall Carnival was held on Oct. 9 through 12, 1900. The carnival drew people to Indianapolis because it reflected similar small-town street fairs. This grand event featuredsideshows and races, as well as a different parade every day.

Circus Band in Peru.jpg

Peru, Ind., is an example of the impact the circusindustry had on Indiana.Peru has also hosted circus performances since the turn of the century, becoming fully immersed in the circus culture by even the 1890s, when many traveling circuses needed a centrally located town accessible to railroads.


During, the winter in the late 1800s through themid-1900s, a half-dozen of the nation?s premier shows set upwinter quarters in Peru, establishing a lasting link between the circus and the Hoosier State. When these circuses left Peru in the 1940s, thesmall town, now known as Circus City,? continued its bond with circus. Today, Peru is home to the world?s largest amateur circus and the International Circus Hall of Fame.

The circus culture lives on in Indiana. The carnivals of the past have
transformed into the present. The tradition has been passed down from
generation to generation and circuses have continued to be jovial
andentertaining for Hoosier families. The 14th annual Circus Day at the History Center celebrates the history of Indiana?s fondness with the circus industry. Circus Day takes place March 28 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The free event includes performances from the Amazing World of Animals, along with shows by jugglers and magicians.

Camels in Peru.jpg

Guests can enjoy face painting, photo opps, balloon sculptures, crafts and kid karaoke; plus indulge classic circus food, such as popcorn, cotton candy andsnow cones.

During the event, guests are invited to take full advantage of free admission by visiting the Indiana Experience, including its latest You Are There: That Ayres Look, which allows guests to step into the famed L.S. Ayres and Co. Department Store and eight new time-travel journeys that bring the total to 281 in Destination Indiana.

For more information, click here.


Leah Grynheim is an intern in the Marketing and Public Relations Department at IHS. She is a painter, pianist and English literature enthusiast.

Share this post:
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share with Email
Facebook Comment
Thanks for Reading! If you enjoyed reading our blog, try our InDepth Stories
map of area around IHS location
Drop us a line
Let's talk
Full Staff Directory
Our Hours
ExhibitsOpen 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through SaturdayWilliam H. Smith Memorial LibraryOpen 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through SaturdayHistory MarketOpen 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through SaturdayStardust Terrace Café HoursOpen 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Never miss a story!
Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center450 West Ohio Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202(317) 232-1882
© 2018 Indiana Historical Society Privacy Policy
The Indiana Historical Society is a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization.