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American circus collection

Identifier: Midwest-MS-AmCircus

Scope and Content of the Collection

Circus and theater related clippings, illustrations, programs, publicity, photographs, and memorabilia donated by Irving Kane Pond, 1891-1939. The bulk of material consists of circus programs and reviews and Circus Fans Association material dating from the 1920s-1930s. The circus programs illustrate over twenty circuses. The theater publications represent a diverse array of Chicago and Midwest theaters. A small collection of photographs document performers and circus life at the turn of the 20th century. Pond's illustrations and drawings created for his book titled, Big Top Rhythms, highlight a variety circus acts. The remainder of the collection consists of circus clippings, publicity and memorabilia.


  • Creation: 1891-1940s



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The American circus collection is open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The American circus collection is the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

Biography of Irving Kane Pond

Chicago architect; founder of several literary and civic organizations.

Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1857, Irving Kane Pond received a degree in civil engineering from the University of Michigan and began his architectural career at the Chicago offices of William Le Baron Jenney and Solon S. Beman. While employed at Beman's firm, he worked on the initial design of the Pullman company town and in 1885 formed Pond & Pond Architects with his brother Allen B. Pond.

Pond & Pond's buildings typify Arts & Crafts-style architecture and are considered some of the best examples in Chicago. The firm designed several settlement and civic institutions including, Jane Addams Hull House, Northwestern Settlement, the American Correspondence School and Chicago Commons.

Pond's interest in promoting the fine arts and social betterment led to his involvement with several architectural and literary clubs; including Little Room, Cliff Dwellers and the Chicago Literary Club. Pond served as the president of the American Institute of Architects and vice president of the Circus Fans Association.


6 Linear Feet (6 boxes and 2 oversize boxes)


Late 19th and early 20th century circus and theater related illustrations, publicity, programs, photographs and memorabilia.


Papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Publications, 1891-1939
Boxes 1-4
Series 2: Visual Materials, 1895-1939
Box 5
Series 3: Oversize Materials, 1891-1939
Boxes 6-7
Series 4: Additions, 1910s-1940s
Box 8

Collection Stack Location

1 2 3-4, 1 16 1


Gift of Irving Kane Pond, 1939. Additions, gift of Jeff Fiddler, 2009.

Processed by

Jo Ellen McKillop Dickie, 2004.

American circus collection, 1891-1940s
Jo Ellen McKillop Dickie
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2011-07-28: Revisions, additions, and updates were made.
  • 2023-06-30: Series 4: Additions added to the collection.

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States