Aerialists and acrobats on The Barnum & Bailey Circus posters, circa 1890, invite you to step right up and travel back to 1793 Philadelphia to follow the rise and fall of the gigantic, traveling circus. WGBH's American Experience looks at the entertainment tradition and the impact it had on our nation. Back then, the stars of the show were among the most famous people in the country. The series brings to life an era when Americans gathered to see the improbable and the impossible, the exotic and the spectacular—under the Big Top.

Watch The Circus from American Experience, tonight and tomorrow night at 9pm on WGBH 2.