John Ringling was one of five brothers who owned and operated the circus called “The Greatest Show on Earth”. He became one of the richest men in America during the early 1900’s. He and his wife purchased 20 acres of bay front property in Sarasota, Florida. They began building a house on this property in 1924: two years later it was finished.
John Ringling often traveled through Europe searching for circus acts. During these trips he acquired art and eventually built a significant collection. After he and his wife had completed their house, he built a 21 gallery museum to house his paintings and art objects.
In 1931, he opened the museum to the public. When he died in 1936, he bequeathed it to the people of Florida.