Hachaliah Bailey in United States

Hachaliah Bailey
Hachaliah Bailey (1775-1845),   Artist unknown, oil on canvas SHS75.8.1 The William & Nancy Bailey Collection
Hachaliah Bailey (1775-1845), Artist unknown, oil on canvas SHS75.8.1 The William & Nancy Bailey Collection
First elephant0
CountryUnited States

Hachaliah Lyman Bailey (1774-1845) was born in Somers, Westchester, New York, USA on 31 Jul 1774 to James Bailey and Anna Brown.

Bailey moved to Northern Virginia in 1837 from Westchester County, New York, and, on December 19, 1837, bought the land at the intersection of Leesburg Pike and Columbia Pike in Fairfax County, Virginia just outside Falls Church, Virginia, that land now known as Bailey's Crossroads.

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.

(An alternate version of the story relates that 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.


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. Guestbook Recent changes-updates Glossary - Encyclopedia Frequently asked questions Elephant Facts & Trivia Evolution Extinct:Proboscidea Species Anatomy Diseases People Care Footcare Training Breeding Database Location database Shiva Organizations Literature F Posters Website Webrings Contact Selected links News