TIME

The last act. After 146 years, the circus is leaving town for good

Weeks before the lights go down for the last time on the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, tigers and lions perform on April 28 in Baltimore’s Royal Farms Arena

Though it might sound quaint, there was a time when people could be astonished. Before supercomputers fit into shirt pockets and Presidents tweeted. Before moving pictures were beamed through the air. Before moving pictures.

Not only could people be astonished—they enjoyed it. Loved it enough to pay for it. And so businesses sprang up to meet the demand. The astonishment industry was called the circus.

Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson and his son Matthew get ready for one of their final crowds

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