Friday, August 28, 2009

From Richard Reynolds

!cid_X_MA1_1251399751@aol, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

The recent postings of African elephant photos were excellent. Here is another of the male Mike on Forepaugh-Sells. It too is a Glasier picture.

According to my figuring, Sells Brothers had more African elephants at one time than any show until Garden had 7 of them on his Toby Tyler in the mid-1980s.

At the end of the 1887 season, the Sells Bros. decided to take their no.2 show off the road. It was dubbed the S. H. Barrett Circus after their brother-in-law whom they persuaded to run it. They decided to merge the best of Barrett with their own outfit while selling off the surplus. Thus they had a big sale in Columbus, Oh where their winter quarters were located. In advance of it, the Sells ran an ad in **Clipper** (24 Dec. 1887) offering to sell - - 6 AFRICAN ELEPHANTS, three of which are very large, and all are fine specimens.”

I can identify four of these Africans, to wit:

(1) and (2) Mike and Topsy, the well known and often photographed pair as shown in many recently posted pictures. They seem to have joined Sells about 1878. What may be a clue to their acquisition may be this squib in Clipper for Feb 16, 1878 (p.375) . . “Sells Bros bought 5 elephants last week and sent them west.” This was at a time when the German animal collectors were bringing out a lot of African elephants.

Mike and Topsy lasted into the 20th century with Forepaugh-Sells. Mike died on December 19, 1907 at Bridgeport from burns suffered in a train wreck, apparently as he was being shipped to Bridgeport after the close of F-S. The Ringlings had decided to shutter F-S after they had bought B&B in October 1907. They shifted a lot of stuff to B&B as it was somewhat run down, physically.Otto Ringling went to the Bridgeport quarters right after the purchase was consummated. His letters to his brothers point out the poor state of B&B's equipment - -even so the name still had more magic than any show.

Mike was to become a B&B feature for 1908. Topsy made it to B&B OK and saw service on that show at least through the 1909 season. [Howard Tibbals has a photo of her in a B&B street parade in Knoxville on October 7, 1909.]

(3) Fannie was another of the six Sells Africans. She was one of two elephants sold in 1888 by Sells to the Ringlings to become the Baraboo brothers’ first two elephants. The other was an old Asian named Babe. The story about the Ringlings getting their first two elephants from a show in distress down in Missouri is just so much bunk. The Baraboo Republic for March 4, 1888 (p.5.) plainly said they were bought by Al Ringling from Sells Brothers in Columbus Ohio. Walter L. Main also wrote the same. He had once owned Babe and made a recommendation to Al Ringling that he buy her in Columbus. As for Fannie, tradition holds (a favorite Joe Bradbury expression) that she died around 1908. However, I never seen any concrete proof. The late elephant fan “Sabu” Moreau wrote - - “Fannie, an African female, died at winter quarters after the season (1908) was over.” He cited no source for the statement.

(4) A fourth African was a male named Zip. He was sold to the Shelby Circus which was auctioned in Richmond, VA at the end of the 1889 season. Charles Andress bought him and put him on his show in 1890. He seems to have been a rough customer. Andress in turn sold him to Ringling in late 1890. He died in Baraboo winter quarters on Jan 2, 1893.


Richard Reynolds said...

I should have added in the main message that the Ringlings’ first Asian elephant was really named “Babylon” which was shortened to Babe over the years.

I referred to the Baraboo Republic of March 14, 1888 about her and Fannie’s acquisition from the Sells Bros. Here are the exact words from the paper - -

“The Ringing Brothers have added large, valuable and interesting features to their already grand aggregation, by the purchase of a camel and two elephants, one of the latter being the largest in this country. The large elephant sports the towering cognomen ”Babylon” . . . The other is younger and of lighter weight, and answers to the name of “Fanny” . . . The animals were secured by the purchasing agent, Alfred Ringling , from Sells Bros., at Columbus, Ohio. The animals arrived in Baraboo a few days ago in a large animal car heated for this purpose.”

The Sauk County Democrat (Baraboo) reported to the same effect in its issue of March 15, 1888.

The Chicago Inter Ocean for April 5, 1897 ran one those typical interviews with a circus elephant boss,in this case Ringlings’ “Perl” Souder. In it he referred to the huge Babylon, i.e. a reference to the brothers first Asian - -the one from Sells Bros. So, 10 year later she was still called Babylon.

Ole Whitey said...

Charles Andress was out of Great Bend, Kansas, and somewhere I have seen that Zip was walked from there to Baraboo when he was sold to the brothers Ringling.