Two elephants pulling a chario-style cart along a residential street.

Visits from travelling circuses used to be a regular feature of Hastings County life in the summer months. Newspapers advertised the upcoming circuses for a few weeks before they arrived. A grand parade would make its way through downtown Belleville to raise the excitement levels. There was even a dedicated space on Bleecker Avenue called the Circus Grounds where carnivals and circuses would be set up, conveniently situated for access by rail.

Judging by the number of advertisements in the newspapers, the 1910s were the peak period for circus visits to Belleville. In 1919, for example, the city received a visit in May from the Sells-Floto Circus (including a two-headed man!), followed by the Sparks Circus in June and the Beacon Carnival and midway in July. In August, the Great War Veteran's Association engaged the Brown and Dyer Shows, described in the Daily Intelligencer of 14 August 1919 as:

...a combination of circus, hippodrome, menagerie and midway. The show travels in its own special train of 24 cars [with a team of] three hundred and twenty people…

Earlier newspapers resorted to fantastic illustrations to draw in their audience. In July 1875 the Great Forepaugh Show shared this terrifying drawing of its "Monster Rhinoceros" for a show capable of holding up to 9,000 spectators. This would have been quite an achievement, as the population of Belleville at the time was no more than 8,000 people!

Ad for Great Forepaugh Show with drawing of a monster rhinoceros.