James Anthony Bailey

James Anthony Bailey
J. A. Bailey oval portrait.jpg
James Anthony McGinnis

(1847-07-04)July 4, 1847
DiedApril 11, 1906(1906-04-11) (aged 58)
Resting placeWoodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York
Other namesJames A. Bailey (professional title)
Known forCo-founder of Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus [1]
Ruth Louisa McCaddon
(m. 1868)
James Bailey House in Harlem, New York City

James Anthony Bailey (July 4, 1847 – April 11, 1906), born James Anthony McGinnis, was an American circus ringmaster and impresario.[2]


McGinnis was orphaned at the age of eight. He was working as a bellhop in Pontiac, Michigan, when he was discovered by circus advertising advance man Frederic Harrison Bailey (a nephew of circus pioneer Hachaliah Bailey) as a teenager. F.H. Bailey gave McGinnis a job as his assistant, and the two traveled together for many years. McGinnis eventually adopted F.H. Bailey's surname to become James A. Bailey.[3]

Bailey later associated with James E. Cooper, and by the time he was 22, he was manager of the Cooper and Bailey circus. He then met with P.T. Barnum, and together they established Barnum and Bailey's Circus (for which Bailey was instrumental in obtaining Jumbo the Elephant) in 1880, with their combined show opening the following spring in Madison Square Garden.[3]

Bailey married Ruth McCaddon of Zanesville, Ohio.[citation needed]

Bailey died of erysipelas in 1906 at age 58.[4] He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, in The Bronx, New York City.[5] His widow subsequently sold the circus to the Ringling brothers in 1907, who eventually merged the rival operations in 1919.[6]


  1. ^ Allen, Robert (December 29, 2017). "A strangled elephant, circus mishaps and Detroit's ties to 'The Greatest Show on Earth'". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved December 31, 2017.
  2. ^ "A Cesar Among Showmen. James A. Bailey, The Partner And Successor Of Barnum. He Is The Creator Of The Modern Circus. His Tremendous Energy And Working Ability. How He Became What He Is" (PDF). New York Times. April 19, 1891. Retrieved 2007-07-21. One of the most modest little men that ever lived has been forced to the front by the death of P.T. Barnum. James Anthony Bailey for ten years has been Mr. Barnum's partner. He can, without exaggeration, be called the creator of the modern circus. He has lifted the circus to a standard that renders almost ridiculous the laws that once were so necessary for its regulation.
  3. ^ a b "The Circus: Transcript, Part 1". American Experience. PBS. 9 October 2018. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  4. ^ "James A. Bailey, King Of Circus Men, is Dead. News Kept From Performers Till The Show Was Over. Widow Gets Circus Stock. Showman Died Of Erysipelas At His Country Home Near Mount Vernon After A Week's Illness" (PDF). New York Times. April 12, 1906. Retrieved 2007-07-21. While the band blared and the clowns made fun and the elephants walked around at the circus last night for the thousands in Madison Square Garden, there were few among the spectators who knew that James A. Bailey, the backbone of the "greatest show on earth", lay dead in his home, The Knolls, near Mount Vernon.
  5. ^ https://www.thewoodlawncemetery.org/rv/the-circus-is-in-town/
  6. ^ "The Circus: Transcript, Part 2". American Experience. PBS. 9 October 2018. Retrieved 16 November 2018.

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