Adam Forepaugh Circus in United States

Adam Forepaugh Circus

Owner1865-1890: Adam Forepaugh (1831-1890)
1890-? James E. Cooper
First elephant arrived1866
Last elephant left1996
Closed down1896
CountryUnited States
Relevant literature

Adam Forepaugh Circus, in Philadelphia, United States, was founded in 1866 and the first elephant arrived in 1866. The last elephant left in 1996. Adam Forepaugh Circus closed down in 1896 in Philadelphia, .

Comments / pictures

Adam Forepaugh (February 28, 1831-January 20, 1890) was an entrepreneur, businessman, and circus owner. He owned and operated a circus from 1865 through 1890 under various names including Forepaugh´s Circus, The Great Forepaugh Show, The Adam Forepaugh Circus, and Forepaugh & The Wild West.

In 1864, Forepaugh sold 44 horses to John V. "Pogey" O´Brien for $9,000 so he could start the Tom King Excelsior Circus. When O´Brien could not repay the loan, Forepaugh assumed partial ownership of the circus, getting him into the circus business, where he would make his most lasting impression.

The next year, he and O´Brien purchased the Jerry Mabie Menagerie and created two circuses with their combined assets: The Great National Circus and the Dan Rice Circus. Forepaugh soon sold the Great National Circus and put the Dan Rice Circus under his own name.

In 1889, Forepaugh sold his circus acts to James A. Bailey and James E. Cooper and he sold his railroad cars to the Ringling Brothers. The Ringlings used the equipment to transform their circus from a small animal-powered production to a huge rail-powered behemoth, which later purchased the Barnum & Bailey circus. Thus, in liquidating his circus assets, he indirectly contributed to the demise of his arch-rival.

He had one child, Adam Forepaugh, Jr., an elephant trainer. He once commented that he would prevail over Barnum because "I have a boy and Mr. Barnum has none. My show will outlast his." Ultimately, although Adam, Jr. worked in his father´s circus and executed his estate, he did not follow him in the circus business.

1865: 2 elephants from Mabie (probably Canada and Juliet).
1867: Bought the African elephant Annie, probably from Firma Hagenbeck
1870: 3 elephants, elephant man and animal director: Frank Nash. (New York Clipper, March 5, 1870, p. 383)
1875: 4 elephants. (Hoage, Deiss, From Menagerie to Zoological Park in the Nineteenth Century, page 103)
1879: Forepaugh owned 12 elephants. (Hoage, Deiss, From Menagerie to Zoological Park in the Nineteenth Century, page 103)
1880: advertises 15 performing elephants
1881: advertises 20 elephants
1882: article states they received 2 Africans
1882: advertises 22 elephants
1883: advertises 25 performing elephants
1884: article says 26 by actual count
1885: article states 36 elephants
1888: 25 elephants
1890: Adam Forepaugh died.
1896: The Barnum & Bailey Show, already the owners of the Adam Forepaugh show, bought an interest in Sells Brothers show, and combined the two under the name of Adam Forepaugh & Sells Brothers Great Consolidated Shows.

References for records about Adam Forepaugh Circus

Recommended Citation

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

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Categoriescircus in United States | United States portal

This document was updated: 2021-09-17 18:28:54

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