Fillis Circus in South Africa

Fillis Circus

Owner 1881-: Harry Boswell
1881-: Frank Fillis
Country South Africa


Key People 1911-1912: Jim Boswell (artist)


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Fillis Circus, South Africa .

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The first of any great distinction and substance to arrive from overseas was that of Richard Bell, which toured the Cape during the late nineteenth century. When old man Bell died in Kimberley in October 1881, Frank Fillis, who had been one of the performers, took over some of the equipment, and built up his own show over the next few years.

Frank Fillis had toured the country for over thirty years by the time the Boswells arrived. He had taken trips to the Far East before the Anglo-Boer War, and to England on the liner “Goth” with a spectacle entitled “Savage South Africa”. For this he took with him two Boer families, two hundred Swazis, Basuto and Zulus, together with Basuto ponies, buck, and lions, tigers and elephants. Fillis’ Circus had held a virtual monopoly of traveling entertainments in South Africa, but occasional visits had been made by foreign shows. As far back as 1868, the Olympic Circus of Signor F.M. Santana had played at Potchefstroom, the capital of the Transvaal, and then undertaken a tour of the outlying country districts. It wasn’t much of a show, but boasted a talking horse, a bare back rider and a tiny brass band. In contrast the circus of Frank Fillis was a very grand and fashionable affair.

References for records about Fillis Circus

Recommended Citation

Koehl, Dan (2021). Fillis Circus, Elephant Encyclopedia. Available online at (archived at the Wayback machine)

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