5. Barnum and Bailey’s Circus would pay annual visits to patients

Bellevue Hospital exterior

In 2013, Barnum and Bailey’s Circus revived a decades-old tradition at Brooklyn Hospital Center: performing for patients and staff. The tradition was started at Bellevue Hospital, and some performances would feature everything from acrobatic stunts to elephants. These performances would often attract thousands of people, many of whom were children and members of the community. The tradition began in 1901 and would continue each year for decades, with patients often watching from the hospital’s iron balconies.

“Dr. Ringling’s medicine is of the finest quality, easy to take, good for almost any ailment; children love it and adults enjoy it,” Dr. William F. Jacobs, Bellevue’s medical superintendent, told The New York Times in 1946. “I’ll prescribe it any time in same dosage for young and old alike.” More than 4,000 patients at Bellevue, some on stretchers and in wheelchairs, applauded clowns, six adult elephants, a baby elephant, a zebra, and a llama, according to a 1964 Times article. The tradition ended in the 1960s when the iron balconies were removed.