Bailey Circus in United States

Bailey Circus

Owner 1808: Hachaliah Bailey
1823-: Benjamin Brown
Place Fairfax County, Virginia
Country United States

Directors: Mary Bailey (assistant director)

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Record history
History of updates2021-11-23

Latest document update2021-11-23 09:35:55
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Bailey Circus, in Fairfax County, Virginia, United States .

Comments / picturesIn 1808, while residing in Somers, New York, Hachaliah 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.

(An alternate version of the story relates that Hachaliah Bailey purchased Old Bet from a sea captain, possibly his brother, who had acquired the elephant for $20 in London prior to the War of 1812.)

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 traveling circus, and Bailey memorialized her in 1825 with a statue and the Elephant Hotel in Somers, New York.

Bailey Circus in United States United+States

As a memorial to his elephants Hachaliah Bailey built the Elephant Hotel, on a piece of land he had purchased from Thomas Leggett in 1807 for $1250.

References for records about Bailey Circus

Recommended Citation

Koehl, Dan (2024). Bailey Circus, Elephant Encyclopedia. Available online at (archived at the Wayback machine)

Sources used for this article is among others:

  • Stuart Thayer, USA
  • Page 9, Elefanten in Zoo und Circus, Dokumentation 2 Nordamerika, 1997, by European Elephant Group: Haufellner, Schilfarth, Schweiger

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