We left home on a Tuesday, and today is a Tuesday. And what a day yesterday was. You’re all familiar with the old saw: Better to be lucky than smart. Monday was like that. After the Super Sunday with Sister Pat (I think that’s alliteration, but I’m not sure), we set the compass heading south again, with eventual destination of Sarasota. Ops O, Cathy, did a map recon of the area and found an interesting sounding interim destination: The Ringling Art Museum and Circus Museum. What a find that turned out to be! Great Iowa connection, too, as John Ringling was born in McGregor, Iowa, in the 1850’s. Five of the brothers were the management of the eventual Ringling Bros. Circus. They grew up working in their German immigrant father’s saddle and harness shop, and their lives were forever changed when they attended their first circus as young boys in Baraboo, Wisconsin. They were hooked! Within a year, the five brothers had put together their own singing, dancing and comedy act and started performing in their home town and then all the neighboring towns. Within three years, they had started to hire other performers, and within 5 years had a traveling circus of their own. John Ringling, tho not the eldest, had an extremely keen intellect for business and the personality to sell their “product”; family fun and excitement.
His was such genius in the field that he was buying other traveling circuses and dominating the market at a time when the circus was nearly the sole outside entertainment that most of the rural population experienced in the years following the Civil War. The right man at the right time. In the pre-personal income tax days, all the money you made you could keep, and he was making it in the millions.
The Circus Museum featured an incredible scale model of an entire three-ring circus, literally thousands of figures filling an entire gallery.
Soon he was buying art of all mediums in both the United States and Europe. He bought up a great deal of the collections of the barons of the Gilded age when they were selling. It was self taught and aggresive and would buy the paintings right off the wall if he saw them in a home or business. His wealth brought him to Florida at the time of the birth of the Florida Land Boom. In a short time, he bought 33,000 acres of land in and around Sarasota and personally financed the development of much of it.
Cathy on the 10,000 sq.ft. marble terrace of Ca’d’Zan , from which you could step aboard the yacht they kept moored beside it.
A man of his stature needed a house and grounds reflecting his accomplishments. His wife, Mabel, was the key instrument in the selection of the location, architect, builders, and designers of their opulent home. She named it “Ca’D’Zan”, a Venetian dialet for “House of John”. The enclosed pictures can give you a good idea, but only seeing it in real time can describe the vivid richness of it. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour and were mouth-agape at the richness of it.
It was tough to select which pictures to show of the offerrings in the Art Museum. Incredible and fabulous pretty much sums it up.
The Circus Museum was fascinating with its beyond description scale model of the three ring circus “under the big top”. A traveling city requiring its own electrical power, medical/veterinarian corps, food and housing for 1500 full time employees, a menageri of animals requiring 25 rail cars for transport, and all of the professional acts providing the thrills for the thousands of circus goers. Literally a city on wheels; rail car wheels for transport from city to city and circus wagon wheels for the parade into and thru the towns for the advertising and enticing of the population. The scale of the pictures will hopefully not be a detriment to your appreciation of the complexity and enormity of this bygone era. To wrap it all up, with the close of the museums, an outdoor dance floor, and oh-so-easy-listening band all right next to a beautiful sea combined to bring a perfect day to a perfect close. We watched the sun set into the Sarasota Bay and reflected on how blessed we are to be doing what we’re doing.
To finish off the evening, we listened and danced with a few friends to a live band next to the mansion while watching the sun set. Not bad!