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North, John Ringlinglocked

(14 August 1903–04 June 1985)
  • Ernest Albrecht


North, John Ringling (14 August 1903–04 June 1985), circus owner and producer, was born in Baraboo, Wisconsin, the son of Henry Whitestone North, a railroad engineer, and Ida Ringling, the only sister of the famed Ringling brothers whose circus he eventually came to control. North attended public schools in Baraboo, graduating from high school in 1921. He attended the University of Wisconsin and Yale but left the latter school in 1924 to marry Jane Connelly. They had no children and divorced in 1927. North worked briefly for an investment house on Wall Street and then as a real estate salesman in Sarasota, Florida, for John Ringling (his uncle and the man for whom he was named). When Ringling died in 1936, control of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus passed into the hands of creditors. Childless, Ringling left the bulk of his estate to the state of Florida, but in a codicil contested by other members of the family he named his nephew John Ringling North as executor. Using that position as leverage, North first convinced the other surviving members of the family, who owned a majority interest in the circus stock, to name him president of the circus corporation for the next five years. He then acquired a loan that allowed the family to pay off the circus’s creditors and regain control. A labor dispute during 1938, the first year of his management, left the circus crippled and helpless in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and threatened to ruin North’s chances of saving the circus. In response he took the Ringling show off the road for the remainder of the season and sent its acts out with another circus also owned by the corporation....

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