The concept of the circus as a traveling act of performers has been around for thousands of years.
Many scholars believe the circus dates all the way back to the Greeks and Romans.
The modern day circus is credited greatly to one man, Philip Astley of London England.
The first performance of his circus was held on January 9, 1768.
His circus added the circus ring, trick horseback riding, tumblers, tightrope-walkers, jugglers, performing dogs, and a clown to fill time between acts.
Later, the American circus owner Joshuah Brown was the first to use a large canvas tent for the circus performance.
And, of course, P.T. Barnum and William Cameron Coup revolutionized the circus once again by adding a traveling combination of animal and human oddities, the exhibition of humans as a "freak show" or "sideshow", and using "circus trains" to transport the circus from town to town.
Here is a neat collection of circus photos from 1899-1929: