Going through old newspaper advertisements, one never know what will be found. I have come across several ads for circuses in Kentucky's antebellum and Civil War newspapers, but most were just small affairs. However, it appears that the great Dan Rice brought his show to Louisville in early May1861.
A little over three years ago I shared some thoughts on the book Dan Rice: The Most Famous Man You've Never Heard Of by David Carlyon. Rice's shows certainly must have been something to see. I'm sure they were popular attractions, especially to those individuals that came to town for the show from rural areas. It's difficult to image the looks on the faces of men, women, boys, and girls watching "all the dancing horses, performing ponies, educated wild animals," and "comic mules." Seeing exotic animals like the elephant, rhinoceros, and zebra for the first time probably evoked a sense of wonder and amazement.