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October Meeting

October 10, 2023 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Photo of Steve Gossard

Steve Gossard, Circus Historian
will present

The Illinois Circus Connection

Steve Gossard will tell you that Illinois is a circus state.  The former curator of Special Collections (which includes the Circus Collection) at Milner Library at Illinois State University has made it his life’s work to research the state’s rich circus history.

The Illinois Circus Connection traces the spread of indoor circus practice sites through several communities in the state, from the post Civil War period to modern times.  Much of this history has been lost to us over time, but recent research has revealed that many uniquely talented circus people called Illinois home for many years.  This presentation will examine many of their lives and careers, and how they interacted with our communities.

Bio:  Born in Galesburg in 1949, Steve Gossard moved to Normal to study at Illinois State University where he eventually earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Art in 1976 and a Master’s Degree in Art History in 1982.

Since Steve had experience working with exhibits in the gallery at the Center for Visual Arts, he was asked in 1984 by the Museums Department to curate an exhibit from Milner Library’s Circus Collection.  So began Steve’s interest in circus historical research.

In the course of researching for the exhibit, Steve met some of the retired circus professionals that were still living in the area.  He found them to be wonderful, fascinating people, and felt that their accomplishments had been forgotten by the Bloomington community.  Steve resolved to try and give them the acknowledgement that they deserved

From 1985 to 1992 he published seven articles in Bandwagon, the journal for the Circus Historical Society of America.

In 1991 he self-published the one-and-only comprehensive history of the development of trapeze: A Reckless Era of Aerial Performance, the Evolution of Trapeze, now out of print.

That same year Steve was hired as Curator of Special Collections (including the Circus Collection) at  Milner Library at Illinois State University.  In 1992 he was appointed Official Historian for the Circus Fans of America.

Steve has given many presentations and published numerous articles concerning Illinois circus history in Bandwagon (Circus Historical Society of America), White Tops (Circus Fans of America), and other magazines . He continued to serve as curator of the circus collections until his retirement in 2019.

Short in-library business meeting will be held after the presentation.


October 10, 2023
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm


Ehrlicher Research Center / Zoom
719 N 11th Street
Pekin, IL 61554 United States
(309) 477-3044


309 477-3044

Additional Donation to TCGHS (opt):

TCGHS is a non-partisan, 501(c3) non-profit educational research institution whose mission is to "stimulate interest; to collect, preserve, and safeguard records; and to provide related educational services for the purpose of increasing and enriching public knowledge of our heritage."

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