Cole Brothers Circus in United States

Cole Brothers Circus


Typecircus
Founded1906
First elephant0
Closed down1949
CountryUnited States

The Cole Bros. Circus (originally of Rochester, Indiana) was founded by Martin J. Downs in 1906. Downs named the circus for W.W. "Chilly Billy" Cole, the first man to make $1 million in the circus business.

Chang Reynolds and Bob Bernard, noted elephant historians, have clarified by name, number, and time of arrival the elephants coming to the Cole show by way of the Hall Farm. Of course the 3 elephants coming to the new show by way of the Standard Oil Live Power show at the Chicago Worlds Fair were originally from the Hall Farm and were named Tony, Big Katie, and Juno, however, we are concerned here with the 18 purchased from the Hall Estate after the show was organized. The initial 6, which came with the purchase of the Robbins Bros. equipment in December, 1934, were Blanche, Little Babe, Big Jenny, Tommy, Ding, and Boo. The first three named were part of the Robbins Bros. property held by Hall and the latter 3 were owned and sold by Halls widow. After the 1935 season opened nine more were purchased and added to the show at Detroit. These were Mary, Sidney, Wilma, Little Katie, George, Nellie, Little Jenny, Anna May, and Tessie. The final 3 elephants purchased from Hall late in 1935 were Major, Trilby, and Alice.
A History of the Cole Bros. Circus 1935-40, by Joseph T. Bradbury. Bandwagon, Vol. 9, No. 5 (Sep-Oct), 1965, pp. 4-8.


1939: the Cole Bros. Circus, was the very last show to abandon the tradition of the circus street parade.
1940: February 20, the winter quarters suffered one of the worst circus fires in history.
1941: The herd consisted of 14 elephants, led by Elephant Supt. Alonzo Dever. The first five originated from 101 Ranch: Big Babe, Louie, Carrie, Jean and Joe (male). The remainder came from Halls Farm: Blanche, Tony, George (male), Little Babe, Big Jenny, Tess, Nellie, Little Jenny and Wilma. //Buckles Web Log, Cole Bros. Circus 1941 #15
1941: the companys permanent address was listed as Louisville, KY. Zack Terrell toured Cole Bros. Circus through 1948.
1944: "This unusual picture of the complete herd taken in McCook, Nebr. 7-29-44. 1. Blanche 2. Jean 3. Big Babe 4. Big Jenny 5. Louie 6. Little Babe 7. Tony 8. Katie 9. Nellie 10. Wilma 11. Tessie 12. Little Jenny 13. Carrie 14. Trilby. For those of you astonished viewers who think I can identify these elephants from the rear, I must confess, my father wrote their names on the back of the picture." //Buckles Web Log, Cole Bros. Circus 1944 #20
1948: Zack Terrell sold it to Arthur M. Wirtz and associates.
1949: The circus closed on July 22, 1949.



Elephants from Cole Brothers Circus parade through downtown Los Angeles, 1953

1954: "This ("Little Babe", "Big Jennie" and "Tessie" 1954) was the end ring act my dad worked on the Cole Show. The other end was "Nellie", "Little Jenny" and "Wilma". Arky worked the Ranch herd in the center "Big Babe", "Louie", "Carrie" and "Jean". And for some reason "Blanche", "Trilby" and "Katie" didnt perform, only worked in harness." //Buckles Web Log, Cole Bros. Circus Elephants 1954
1957, the Acme Circus Corporation acquired the Cole Bros. name and the show became Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus.
1981: John Pugh became became President and owner of Cole Bros. Circus, Inc. in 1981.

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