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BAILEY, Hachaliah [1774-1845] -- American circus pioneer

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In 1808, while residing in Somers, New York, Bailey purchased an African elephant for $1,000 and named it "Old Bet." Old Bet appears to be one of the first elephants brought to the United States; she had previously been on exhibit in Boston in 1804, but Bailey found her for sale four years later in a New York City cattle market.

Bailey originally planned to use Old Bet as a draught animal on his farm, but she attracted so much attention that he decided to found a travelling menagerie instead. He started out to show Old Bet with a wagon of hay, a horse to draw it, and an assistant. The admission fee for an entire family was either a coin or a 2-gallon jug of rum. In 1808, Hachaliah Bailey rented two-thirds of Old Bet to Benjamin Lent and Andrew Brown, who also had a right to display her.

On July 24, 1816, Old Bet was killed while on tour near Alfred, Maine by a farmer who thought it sinful for poor people to waste money on a travelling circus, and Bailey memoralized her in 1825 with a statue and the Elephant Hotel in Somers, New York. WIKI

¤P. T. Barnum, not often cited for his honesty, nevertheless made an accurate statement when he called Hach Bailey the father of the American circus.  -30-
 

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1815c
America's first travelling menagerie

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