About A.P.A.C.



The Beginnings

The Middle Ages

The 1700s

The 1800s

The 1900s







In the early 1900s, as society became more mobile and travel became easier, the circus began to fill arenas world wide. The smaller tents of the one ring show, had given way to the “big top”  and the circus enjoyed a golden age.

By 1907, when the Ringling Brothers purchased another popular circus, Barnum and Bailey, the profession of clowning had reached one of its highest peaks. After World War I, 1918, the circus populated with clowns, became very prevalent and the art of clowning seemed to be rejuvenated. Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus gathered talented clowns from across the world.


Essential ingredients in the clown’s new formula for laughs became:

  • Spectacular movement 
  • bright costumes 
  • oversized props 
  • loud explosives 
  • exaggerated makeup 

Circus crowds enjoyed the antics of clowns like:

  • Paul Jung 
  • Otto Greibling 
  • Emmett Kelly,Sr. 
  • Felix Adler 
  • Mark Athony 
  • Lou Jacobs 

The clowns perfected their skills in the circus ring.

Lou Jacobs

These clown masters trained another generation of circus clowns.:

  • Glenn “Forsty” Little 
  • Leon “Button” Mcbride 
  • Jim Howle 
  • Earl “Mr. Clown” Chaney 

With the improvement in textiles, the costumes have become more brilliant in colors and are much more durable. Greasepaint is down to a science and the application is down to an art. But still today, the skills weigh heavily in a clown’s repertoire.

A new clown character has arrived on the scene, the female clown. Before the late 1970s, clowns were taught that they should look neutral in gender… not look like girls. History does not record women in clowning until 1858 then only a handful are mentioned.

The first female clown was Amelia Butler who toured with the Nixon’s Great American Circus.

We have a gap in history and the next female clown is mentioned in 1939, “Lulu”. “Lulu” was an English clown who was billed as “The only woman clown in the world” by the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. She was the wife of a clown which gave her entrance into the clowning art. Rose Hamlon and Amelia Adler were also married to clowns and clowned with their husbands. Amelia was the last women clown in the American circus for almost twenty years.

Peggy Williams, in 1970 graduated from the Ringling Brothers’ Clown College. Peggy was not married to a clown but a woman clown in her own right. Her presents in the circus was the catalyst that was needed to encourage other women to get involved with the art of clowning. Even with the females in clowning, you rarely saw a female in a dress. Clowns were taught that they should look neutral in gender… not to look like women.

In the late 1970s, a few bold women took the leap developing a truly feminine clown. With petticoats and bloomers, women have taken a front line in the art of clowning, creating a truly new character of their on, the female clown character. Women now constitute a large majority of the professional clowns.


The art of clowning began in the streets, moved to the stage, back to the streets, and then moved to the circus ring. 
Since 1940, clowning has returned to its roots off stage, branching out of the circus into:

  • hometown clowning 
  • business promotions  
  • amusement parks 
  • fairs 
  • educational presentations 
  • gospel ministry.  

The circus masters have also branched out of the circus arena to train the next generation who in return is training the future generation of clowns. So the art of clowning continues to be pasted from generation to generation.

If you have questions concerning the History course, you may


 Clown Hall of Fame-History of Clowning page 

 History of Clowning 

 Dan Rice

 The History of Clowning

Pictures: Pierrot Pierrot and Harlequin

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