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National Geographic Vintage Photographs
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Get a blast from the past with an online-exclusive gallery of images, many rescued from the cutting room floor.
Photo: Circus posters

A True American Circus
Photograph by Jacob Gayer, 1929

Circus posters captured the attention of two Ohio boys in 1929, the same year the Great Depression unfolded, leaving many circus performers—like millions of others—financially crippled. But from 1935 through 1939 some found relief with a new act in town: the Works Progress Administration Circus. Part of the federal government’s national employment program, the W.P.A. Circus hired 375 performers a year to give free shows for hospitals and the poor. It was the only government-run circus in American history.

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Photo: Beekeeper Photo: Bohemian Club ceremony
Photo: Japanese women Photo: Circus posters
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Photo: Ostriches Photo: Thai dancers
Photo: Smoking chimp Photo: King George V
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