Leap Year Ladies of Laughter

Women circus performers and clowns with woman ringleader wearing tuxedo and top hat.

Adam Forepaugh & Sells Brothers Enormous Shows Combined. Poster copyrighted by Strobridge Lith. Co., 1896. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b52437

For Leap Day 2012, Prints & Photographs proudly presents an 1896 circus poster for Adam Forepaugh & Sells Brothers Enormous Shows Combined which promotes the Leap Year Ladies of Laughter. As “the only clown women who wear the comic crown,” these alliterative ladies are said to have a comedic touch as “variable as the shade by the light quivering aspen made.” As if this weren’t enough to awe and delight us, we’re also invited to “See the new woman in a novel sphere, introducing the three great equestriennes of the day.” And, to top it all off, a woman ringmaster attired in top hat and tails orchestrates this entertainment.

Leap Day, which comes but every four years in order to re-set the calendar, is associated traditionally with entitling a woman to initiate a marriage proposal. Coming on the verge of March, Leap Day also reminds us that Women’s History Month is but hours away.

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