Written by Devyn Fussman
Excerpts courtesy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Visit Florida has inducted John Ringling, founder of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, into the Florida Tourism Hall of Fame. The award was accepted by Betsy Meibers, Ringling’s great-great niece, and puts him alongside household names such as Walt Disney and Thomas Edison. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune describes the award as “recognizing contemporary and historic figures whose vision and creativity have shaped Florida as a destination.”
Ringling’s home, Ca’ d’Zan , still remains and is maintained in Sarasota as a tribute to 1920’s America, during which time he was one of the richest men in the country. Although he is best known for his circus, he also used his wealth and influence to draw tourists to Florida and particularly Sarasota. His museum houses the Sarasota Ballet, the FSU/Asolo Repertory Theatre, and the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training in addition to the art and art books he acquired in Europe that make up the Ringling Art Library, one of the largest in the southeast.
The article quotes Cá d’Zan curator Ron McCarty as saying, “[Ringling] was on the cover of TIME magazine in 1925,” he said. “He was worth $25 million. It’s interesting to think that someone would be investing so much of his huge, vast fortune into a tiny little fishing village.”