Circus poster: Van Amburgh, New Feats with the Bengal Tiger!!

  • Intro
    Museum's Description
    Teacher notes
    • Have you ever been to the Circus? They're a little different now from how they were before. This is a poster from 1838 advertising Astley's Circus and their brand new act, American animal trainer Isaac Van Amburgh (1811-1865).

      Animals played a big role in circus entertainment in the Victorian era, the British Empire had begun to stretch across the globe bringing British men and women closer than ever to wild animals such as lions and tigers. Some of the people who travelled the empire caught these animals and brought them home. The British public were fascinated with these new wild creatures and the circuses were a good place to come and see them.

      Animal trainers like Van Amburgh used harsh methods to train the animals to do tricks. Supposedly Van Ambrugh is the first person to put his head into a lion's mouth in the name of entertainment.

      Things to think about:
      • Why do you think circuses were so popular in Victorian Britain?
      • Do you think it was cruel to use animals for entertainment?
      • How does this circus differ from the ones we have today?
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