Brasserie Breschard

Beer, Books, Bread, and Circuses

Peter Breschard

Peter Breschard
Michigan, USA
November 14
A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS GIFT is available now at Amazon and at serious bookstores -------------- -------------- Peter Breschard was born during the second half of the 20th century in the westernmost section of Long Island, New York; Breukelen. Reared in a suburban hamlet whose name honors famed Quaker Abolitionist Elias Hicks, Breschard has lived and worked in Boston, New York City, New Bedford, Stockbridge, Los Angeles, and Okemos, Michigan. Eschewing a narrowly focused career path, Breschard has at various times paid dues to the United Auto Workers, the Teamsters, the Screen Actors Guild, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the Federation of Government Employees. Working as a cabbie, teacher, social worker, actor, federal agent, bookstore scout, production accountant, background artist, PC mechanic, census enumerator, stand-in, carpenter, floral deliveryperson, paperboy, caddy, Wall Street drone, portrayer of fictional characters; Breschard has never endorsed Hemingway's dictum regarding wars and writing. Peter Breschard's fictions have appeared in numerous publications.


NOVEMBER 2, 2010 7:57PM

The First American Circus

Rate: 3 Flag
by Peter Breschard
A novel history of the first American circus,
the oldest American theatre,
and a great Gilbert Stuart American portrait

John Bill Ricketts introduced the modern circus to the United States in 1793. His first North American shows were in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where, among others, he entertained George Washington. Everyone’s best guess is that Ricketts was either an Englishman or a Scot. There is some debate regarding his nation of origin. John Bill Ricketts never settled in America and was last reported sailing away to either Europe or the Caribbean in 1799.

Circus Seurat First American Circus

In 1807, embarking from Madrid, Victor Pepin and Jean Baptiste Breschard brought their circus to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (sometimes recognized as being part of the United States). Breschard was a Frenchman and Pepin was born in the Empire State, New York.

Ricketts’ Circus and The Circus of Pepin and Breschard were the first two major circus companies to play in North America, specifically in what had recently become the United States of America.

This November PBS will dedicate six hours of national broadcasting to their documentary, CIRCUS. Undoubtedly, some questions regarding the origins of the circus in the United States will be raised.

(Disclaimer: similarities in name between this article’s author and any mentioned subject are duly noted.)

Over the years, John Bill Ricketts has been described by many writers, many times, as operating and headlining the first American circus.

"The first American circus?" What do they mean by that?

Is there an "American" style circus which was created by Ricketts?

No, they’re not talking about an American style of circus. The modern circus, of which John Bill’s company was a fine example, is as European as it gets.

Was John Bill an American who ran a circus?

Nope. (See above.)

What circus historians (say what?) have been trying to say for years isn’t that John Bill Ricketts ran the first American circus. What they’ve been trying to say is that JBR operated the first circus in America (specifically within the U.S.A.).

When Enrico Caruso performed in the United States, he didn’t become an American tenor. Ricketts’ Circus remained a British circus performing in America just like Enrico remained an Italian tenor even though he might have been belting it out within the continental U.S. at the time.

Now who exactly is responsible for the first American circus? (Have I already tipped my hand?)

Since it has been established that there is no particular American style of circus (rodeo?), the first circus operated by (owned and starring) an American (U.S.A.) would probably be "the first American circus".

Hello, Victor Pepin.

What’s led to a bit of confusion among circus historians is that the Circus of Pepin and Breschard is documented as having played in Madrid, Spain, immediately before its arrival in the Bay State. Circus historians have referred to P & B’s troupe as being a French circus, a Spanish circus, and a European company. My guess is that it has been perhaps too hard for all-American writers to realize that a guy with a French surname (Pepin) could have been a creator of the first American circus.

The Circus of Pepin and Breschard - The First American Circus

Anybody want some Freedom Fries?


A novel history of the first American circus
and a great Gilbert Stuart American portrait


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Thanks for the wonderful history lesson! R
L, Dare I say the book is even more fun?