Famous as one of the founders of the Ringling Brothers Circus. He was also behind the merging of his family's circus with the Barnum & Bailey Circus, an event that occurred in 1919.
He and his brothers launched their debut circus show, "The Ringling Brothers United Monster Shows, Great Double Circus, Royal European Menagerie, Museum, Caravan, and Congress of Trained Animals," in the early 1870s, charging an admission price of one cent.
His non-circus business ventures include the directing of New York's Chatham and Phoenix National Bank and the founding of Florida's John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.
The sixth child born to August Ringling and Marie Salome Juliar, he grew up in McGregor, Iowa, with older brothers named Al, Gus, Otto, Alf, and Charley, and with younger siblings named Henry and Ida. His marriage to art collector Mable Burton lasted until her death in 1929; the following year, he married Emily Haag Buck.
"Missouri Giantess" Ella Ewing performed for a time with John Ringling's Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.