Famous Business Masons

Many men throughout history have been members of our fraternity.

In these pages we will present you with them and try to impress upon you the great men that have been Masons.

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Members on this page are Businessmen

Leaders of Industry, Founders of Corporations and Inventors

During the Industrial Revolution, a captain of industry was a business leader whose means of amassing a personal fortune contributes positively to the country in some way. This may have been through increased productivity, expansion of markets, providing more jobs, or acts of philanthropy.

Photo of John Nicholas Ringling

John Ringling

Birthday: July 1, 1866 Deceased: December 2, 1936

Biography

The most well-known of the seven Ringling brothers, five of whom merged the Barnum & Bailey Circus with their own Ringling Brothers Circus to create a virtual monopoly of traveling circuses and helped shape the circus into what it is today. He was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 1987.

Ringling’s brother Otto died unexpectedly in 1911, and Al died in 1916. It soon was apparent that running two circuses was more than the remaining brothers could handle. So on March 29, 1919, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus debuted at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The posters declared, “The Ringling Brothers World’s Greatest Shows and the Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth are now combined into one record-breaking giant of all exhibitions!!”

Alfred T. Ringling died in 1919 and Charles took over the management and brought the circus to winter quarters in Sarasota and seven years later, Charles Ringling died in 1926, leaving John to manage the empire.

During the 1920s, Ringling built Gray Crag, a 20-room manor house on an estate that was their summer residence in Alpine, New Jersey, atop the New Jersey Palisades and overlooking the Hudson River. Ringling would bring the circus troupe across the river from Yonkers, New York, with acrobats and animals to entertain their guests at parties. With the financial and personal difficulties that Ringling faced during the Great Depression, control of the property was lost and the house was ultimately demolished in November 1935.

In 1927 Ringling moved the winter headquarters to Sarasota, Florida, where he and his wife, Mable, had been spending winters since 1909. Property was bought from the city government and shows were put on during the winter for the first time. Mable and John bought bay front property from Mary Louise and Charles N. Thompson, another circus manager who interested all of the Ringlings in land investments at Sarasota. A 30-room mansion inspired by the Venetian Gothic palaces, was designed by New York architect Dwight James Baum, built by Owen Burns, and completed in 1926. It was named Cà d’Zan, “The House of John” in the Venetian dialect of Italian . Later a museum was built for their art collection. He and his brother, Charles, were instrumental in the modern development of Sarasota. John soon became one of the richest men in the world. His circus travels took him all over Europe, and he established a collection of Baroque art. He also acquired a large collection of work by Peter Paul Rubens, called cartoons.

In 1929, John Ringling bought the American Circus Corporation, which consisted of the Sells-Floto Circus, the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, the John Robinson Circus, the Sparks Circus, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and the Al G. Barnes Circus from its owners, Jerry Mugivan, Bert Bowers, and Ed Ballard, for $1.7 million. With that acquisition, Ringling owned every traveling circus in America.

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