John Miller menagerie in United States

John Miller menagerie
Typecircus
Founded1821
First elephant0
Closed down1825
CountryUnited States


While we are not sure of Miller’s involvement with the caravan mentioned in item (4), he is definitely identified in the earliest record we have of the sale of a menagerie. A bill of sale reproduced in Scharfs history of Westchester County, New York, shows that on February 14, 1821, Miller sold what he called the “Exhibition of Animals.” This was accomplished in Virginia and the buyers were Thaddeus and Gerard Crane of Westchester. They paid Miller $3,500 for a Brazilian tiger and tigress (again, jaguars), an African leopard and “leopardess,” a coatimundi, two English organs, a bass drum, an Italian cymbal, two wagons, five horses and harness, and all the signs, cuts and “apparatus.” This was not the end of Miller’s career. In 1822, he was on the road with what Hugh Lindsay termed a menagerie, though it also had arena acts. The concern was open in the daytime for those wishing to see the animals. At night, Lindsay, Dan Minnich and William Farrell entertained at rope-walking and clowning.

Lindsey refers only to two camels, the care of which fell to him. He relates in his memoir several exciting incidents as he led the creatures cross-country at night. (footnote 2)

The show was exhibited in Market Street in Philadelphia over the winter of 1823-1824, at the Pennsylvania Museum operated by Jesse Sharpless.

This winter entertainment must have been the combination of at least two menageries. Advertised animals were: elephant Columbus, red African lion, two camels, two llamas, snakes, wild hog, orang-utan, polar bear, monkeys, and two-legged hog.

There were twenty-six specimens in all. The polar bear and the orang-utan must have belonged to other persons. Though we have not listed an orang-utan prior to this, they were not uncommon in America. They were more likely to be exhibited as single attractions than with collections. Lindsay did not rejoin Miller until the fall of 1824, thus we have no record of the bulk of that season. In the spring of 1825, Miller sold his animals to a Mr. Crosby (see 20) and organized a conventional circus troupe. This time, according to Lindsay, the menagerie brought $4,000. Miller, born in 1786, died in Easton, Pennsylvania in August, 1830.

A History of the Traveling Menagerie by Stuart Thayer, http://www.circushistory.org/Thayer/Thayer2b.htm

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