(Dover, NH) - Who knew that Dover was once the winter home of the most successful circus in the world.

Don Briand photo

I love reading about Dover history, and every week the city has an online newsletter, Dover Download,  that includes snippets about Dover's past. The November 10th issue had an article about Joseph Cushing who was born on November 14, 1818 at the family farm on Dover Point Road.

At the age of 20, Cushing left Dover and joined the circus. He saved his money, learned the business and eventually bought the circus

He grew the circus to over 40 acts, including animals and side shows. A great showman, he reportedly taught P.T. Barnum and others on their come-on stunts.

Cushing spent 3 years touring Europe and performed for Queen Victoria. The dress worn by his wife Hannah at the performance is on display at the Woodman Museum.

Don Briand photo

The circus would winter in Dover, and many of the young boys in town would venture down Dover Point Road to see the lions and tigers.

By then known as Colonel Cushing, he retired in 1877 and returned to the family farm where he was often visited by many of the circus people he had met over the years, including the famous General Tom Thumb.

There are even stories of Colonel Cushing house training an Orangutan to wear clothing and eat with a knife and fork.