After the Jackson 5, the seven sons of Heinrich and Marie Ringling are perhaps the most popular siblings in American pop culture history. The small circus they started in Baraboo, Wisconsin, in 1884 would eventually become one of the two most popular circuses touring the country, and with the 1907 purchase of the other most popular circus — Barnum & Bailey’s — it turned into a virtual three-ring monopoly.
The circus’s original winter home was in Bridgeport, Conn., but Sarasota  has been the cold-weather respite for the circus’s animals, clowns, and equipment since the 1920s, a move inspired both by a tragic circus fire in Bridgeport as well as the fact that John and some of his brothers had been vacationing in the area.
As the advance man for the circus, John Ringling was responsible for a number of the promotional gambits that made the circus so successful. His older brother Charles worked as the operations manager, keeping the circus running while it was on the road. These two had the most impact on Sarasota.
Ringling Boulevard is named after Charles, who used his circus-derived wealth to invest in development and infrastructure projects throughout Sarasota. John wound up as the sole Ringling operating the circus after his six brothers died.
As you can imagine, one man running the nation’s most popular circus amassed quite a bit of wealth, and although his Cà d’Zan Mansion  is the most obviously ostentatious display of his wealth, Ringling was also convinced that art was a mark of true civilization. With the stunning galleries at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art  and his cofounding of what is now known as the Ringling School of Art & Design, John Ringling’s effect on Sarasota  is still felt to this day.