Points to Ponder, The Ringling
|Five or Seven Brothers?:
August and Marie Salomé had seven sons and one daughter (Ida).
In 1885 the
"Ringling Bros" was formally established, organized with the five brothers on
the right as sole proprietors. John was 19 years old.
The second son, Augustus (Gus) was not part of the deal and neither was the youngest
son Henry, who was only 17 years old then.
However, 3 years earlier (in 1882) Henry was part of the starting enterprise when they
performed with a town hall concert and comedy show in Baraboo, Wisconsin. John was 16
years old then and Henry 14.
Proprietors and Managers
This is Ida. She was the only sister and the baby of the family.
When she was 28 she married a man twice her age: Harry Whitestone North,
divorced with a daughter of Ida's age. They had 3 children: John, Mary Salomé and Henry.
During the last years of John Ringling's life, he broke off all contact with the two sons
Ida moved into the Bird Key "New Edzel Castle" after John Ringling's death in
1936 and lived there until her demise in 1950.
Move to Baraboo:
David Week's book "Ringling, The Florida years 1911-1926"
mentions that the Ringling Family moved to Baraboo in 1882. However, a census form of June 5, 1880 lists the family. Albert and Gus had
already left home, while Otto and Alfred are listed as harness makers. Charles, John and
Henry are at school.
How did John and Mable meet? There are several stories, but the most likely one is from "The Circus Kings: Our Ringling Family Story" by Henry Ringling North and Alden Hatch:
"In 1903, at thirty-seven years of age, John Ringling had finally married. His bride Mable Burton of Columbus, Ohio, was in her twenties. She and her sister were dancers in one of the great specs of the circus. Though John Ringling would never trifle with the performers, he could and did fall completely in love with one. Marriage was different."
John's Business ventures:
John's business ventures were numerous. Some of the more important ones were: railroads,
land and cattle in Montana, oil properties in Oklahoma and real estate in Sarasota. In
all, he held positions in 35 companies, although not all at the same time. With his
diverse building projects in Sarasota in the mid-1920s and with the arrival of the winter
quarters in 1927, he stood out among the principal economic assets of the Sarasota
community, the largest employer of Sarasota's small working class. However, because of a
lack of attention and some indecision most project did not continue to be profitable.
At the height of his wealth (mid 1920s), he received an income of $1 million a year. A
third came from the circus, a third from his oil wells in Kentucky and a third from
investments, such as bonds and dividends.
The Ritz Carlton hotel on Longboat key had $10 million
put into it, but John's own investment was only $400,000.
The John Ringling Bridge had cost John $700,000.
Palms Elysian was the first home John ever bought. It was in 1911 (some records
say 1912). It was a frame house, built in 1895. They had lived in an apartment in Chicago
until 1910, then moved to an apartment in NYC.
In 1919 they bought a summer home in Alpine, NJ, overlooking the Hudson
river palisades. It was a large stone and frame house on100 acres. Later John bought land
and cattle in Montana with a ranch on it, where he and Mable would go
New Edzel Castle was built in 1911. John bought it in 1922 as the Winter
White House for President Harding (who he probably never met). The
plan fizzled out when Harding suddenly died of a heart attack in 1923. After John's death
his sister Ida moved in and lived there until her death in 1950.
The Federal Court in Tampa had ordered Ca d'Zan to be auctioned on 7
December 1936 to satisfy an old debt. John died in NY on December 2, just a few days
before that was to take place. John Ringling North then went to the Governor and Attorney
General in Tallahassee and had the auction cancelled. After that his estate went through
legal battles and probate for the next 10 years.
The John Ringling Bridge was supposed to be constructed from cypress
wood. The Herald-Tribune printed that it would last for centuries. The bridge was
officially opened by John on January 1, 1926.
However, because money was tight John took the cheaper route and had the builders use pine
instead. The wood had rotted away in 10 years time.
It is unlikely that Bertha Palmer and John
ever met. Her life in Sarasota ended with her death in 1918, before John and Mable played
an active role in Sarasota.
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