At the end of the 2 ½ hour show, Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson led the performers, crew and audience in an emotional rendition of "Auld Lang Syne".
Over the years, animal rights activists had targeted Ringling, saying that forcing animals to perform and transporting them around the country amounted to abuse.
Ticket sales have declined in recent years after accusations of animal cruelty.More news: PS Plus June 2017 Free Games: Here's what to expect next month
After 146 years of existence, the circus gave its final performance Sunday evening in Uniondale, New York, outside of New York City.
PETA has always been an outspoken critic of Ringling's use of elephants - and it's still protesting the circus' use of other animals, including big cats, horses, kangaroos and small farm animals.
"We are the keepers of the stories of shows like Ringling Bros we are here to preserve that", Saloutos said.
Sunday's finale was a bittersweet moment for dozens of former Ringling employees - from chefs in the circus train's "pie car" to famed clown Bello Nock sporting his signature foot-high Mohawk - who met outside the Coliseum before the Sunday swan song to be together on what one of them called "The Saddest Day on Earth".More news: Adieu, Angie! No. 1 Kerber out of French Open in 1st round
A featured attraction for more than a century, the elephants had come to symbolise the Ringling Bros brand. The Feld family bought the Ringling circus in 1967.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a major critic of the circus for its treatment of animals, celebrated the announcement. For example, trainer Alexander Lacey's famous big cats will remain with him, he said, while the show's other tigers will go to a center that specializes in tigers.
The animal rights group tied Ringling's demise to its long-standing resistance to demands that it stop using animals. "But Ringling stonewalled for decades", PETA said in a statement Saturday. One was a traditional three-ring circus which ended its run in Providence, Rhode Island earlier in May.More news: US beats Kiwis on opening day of America's Cup qualifiers