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Poster - Holidays
  • Holidays
    Kauffer, Edward McKnight, born 1890 - died 1954
  • Enlarge image


  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    New York (probably, printed)

  • Date:

    1942 (printed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Kauffer, Edward McKnight, born 1890 - died 1954 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Colour lithograph

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Theatre & Performance, Room 106, case WE, shelf EXP

This poster advertised Holidays, the theme of the grand procession which opened the 1942 Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey's Circus. The procession, featuring floats representing aspects of the year including Easter and Thanksgiving, paraded around the three-ring circus in New York's Madison Square Garden building, where Barnum's circus had performed since 1881, and was presented when the circus toured throughout the USA.

After they acquired Barnum's Circus in 1907, the Ringlings ran the Ringling and the Barnum and Bailey shows as two separate units - Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth, and Ringling Brothers World's Greatest Show and Spectacle - but combined them in 1919. Despite losing control of the syndicate in 1932 during the Depression, and the death of the last Ringling brother John in 1936, his nephews John Ringling North and Henry Ringling North regained control of the circus in 1938 and kept it tenting until 1956, and then playing indoor arenas into the 1960s.

John Ringling North first employed the Broadway set designer Norman Bel Geddes and the Broadway musical revue director John Murray Anderson for the 1941 season. By 1942 they were joined by George Balanchine, and the modernist composer Igor Stravinsky who produced the elephant ballet Circus Polka, a popular act in the 1942 show.

Physical description

Poster attached to a rigid support and framed, unglazed, in a wooden frame. The poster has a black background and features a central image of the head of a white-faced clown wearing a conical white hat and yellow and blue neck ruff, with a stars and stripes motif on the blue part. Along the top is written: 'RINGLING BROS AND BARNUM AND BAILEY PRESENT' in yellow and white upper-case lettering. Around the image of the clown is written in upper-case lettering: 'A RADIANT NEW SPECTACLE OF COLOUR BEAUTY FUN AND LAUGHTER "HOLIDAYS". Below this in white, yellow and green lettering: 'FESTIVE GAYETY [sic] FROM NEW YEAR TO CHRISTMAS IN GLORIOUS PROCESSIONAL PAGEANTRY PRODUCED BY JOHN RINGLING NORTH DESIGNED BY NORMAN BEL GEDDES STAGED BY JOHN MURAY ANDERSON.

In much smaller lettering, lower right, within a red and blue line: 'BUY DEFENSE BONDS'. The signature of the artist E. McKnight Kauffer is integral to the printing, lower left.

Place of Origin

New York (probably, printed)


1942 (printed)


Kauffer, Edward McKnight, born 1890 - died 1954 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Colour lithograph


Height: 77.0 cm including frame, Width: 108.8 cm including frame

Descriptive line

Framed poster advertising Holidays, the Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey circus, staged by John Murray Anderson with designs by Norman Bel Geddes, Madison Square Garden and tenting, 1942. Designed by Edward McKnight Kauffer

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Bandwagon, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Jan-Feb), 2004, pp. 3-21.

Labels and date

Circuses were utilised to increase morale throughout the Second World War, and an eye-catching poster was essential to promote public excitement and anticipation. The aesthetic frivolity of this design is sobered by the reminder to ‘buy defence bonds’ in the bottom right-hand corner. [18/08/2016]


Printing ink; Paper


Printing; Lithography

Subjects depicted



Entertainment & Leisure; Posters; Circus; Advertising


Theatre and Performance Collection

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