Having just watched "The greatest showman", I wonder what the meaning was for the word "circus" before the events depicted in the movie (around 1850).
At one point, P. T. Barnum opens his "museum" of wonders in Manhattan, New York. Then a critic watches the spectacle and writes in a despective way that it is a "circus" more than a museum. But Mr. Barnum fancies the word and uses it for his museum.
So, what did the critic mean by qualifying despetively the spectacle as a "circus" exactly? What did that word mean in American English by 1850?