The Circus is in Town

circus poster, Donaldson Litho. Co.

Chromolithograph (circa 1898) of circus acrobats from the Huston Collection in Eva G. Farris Special Collections at Northern Kentucky University.

This picture shows a color lithograph of circus acrobats published sometime after 1898 by the Donaldson Lithograph Company of Newport, Kentucky. The company specialized in printing large advertising posters. It was known for its generic posters that buyers could customize themselves by adding names and dates to save money. Donaldson Lithograph Company posters advertised circuses and other traveling performance acts  like hypnotists, musicians, and sword-swallowers. The posters were printed as a series of smaller prints and then pasted together on large buildings or barns.

During the late 19th and early twentieth centuries, Cincinnati was well-known for producing high quality lithographs. The Donaldson Lithograph Company, which stemmed from one founded in 1862 by William M. Donaldson and Henry Elmes, moved from Cincinnati to an old watch case factory at the corner of 6th and Washington streets in Newport in 1898. At its height, the company employed around 300 workers. Although the Consolidated Lithographing Co. took over in 1905, the company name, its Newport location and Donaldson’s position as chair remained unchanged. In addition to the Donaldson Lithograph Company, Strobridge Lithographing Company was another internationally-recognized Cincinnati lithograph company.  Lithography is still a popular method for printing.

The poster is on display in the Archives Research Room located in 106 Steely Library through May 2014.

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About NKU Special Collections and University Archives

Eva G. Farris Special Collections and Schlachter University Archives, W. Frank Steely Library, Northern Kentucky University
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