10/12/2012 05:41 am ET

The History Of The American Circus: New Book Reveals The Darker Side Of The Big Top (PHOTOS)

Roll up, roll up!

We love a great circus, and Yale University Press and the Bard Graduate Center would like to invite you all to the big top via their new, weighty tome that relates the stories behind the American circus.

Starting as a showcase of amazing horsemanship from former soldiers, developing through freak shows and displays of marginalized cultures, the American Circus has a long and fascinating history. This book shares the disturbing and the delightful through carefully researched text and some amazing archive images.

There’s also an exhibit currently on at Bard Graduate Center in New York on the history of the circus in New York City.

Here's a gallery of some of the more remarkable images from the book, including Barnum, some elephants and at least one bearded lady.

CAUTION: Contains clowns.

The American Circus