Sells Brothers Circus in United States

Sells Brothers Circus


Owner 1871-1896: Lewis Sells
1871-1896: Peter Sells Jr.
1871-1896: Ephraim Sells
First elephant arrived1873
Opened for public1872
Closed down1896
Address Sellsville
Place Columbus, Ohio
Country United States


Key People -: Hannah Sells (assistant director)
1871-1884: Peter Sells (assistant director)
1874: Ferdinand Tourniaire (animal trainer)
1883-1891: Emory Stiles (animal trainer)
1895-: William Chambers (menagerie superintendent)


Elephant department

Head keepers
of elephants
1893-: William Badger
(elephant superintendent)
1893-: John Gibson
(assistant elephant superintendent)
1891-1893: Jerry Ward
(elephant superintendent)
William Chambers menagerie superintendent
George Arstingstall, elephant man
Joseph Beatty, elephant superintendent

Elephant keepers
Google map
Relevant literature

Sells Brothers Circus, located at Sellsville, in Columbus, Ohio, United States , was founded in 1871, opened for public in 1872 and the first elephant arrived in 1873. Sells Brothers Circus closed down in 1896.

Comments / picturesPeter Sells, Ephraim Sells, Allen Sells and Lewis Sells (grandsons of german immigrant Ludwig Sells) founded a circus in 1871, initially based on Cannonball George Richards and some horse acts.

Allen Sells was the manager; Lewis was assistant manager and superintendent, with Ephraim as treasurer and superintendent of tickets. Peter was the "front man" for the show.

1873: They bought their first elephant 1873.
1875: 7 elephants, the largest number of elephants on any show in USA. (Hoage, Deiss, From Menagerie to Zoological Park in the Nineteenth Century, page 103)
1883: Sells bros had eight elephants. (Hoage, Deiss, From Menagerie to Zoological Park in the Nineteenth Century, page 103)
1887: Sells bros offered six african elephants for sale, three of which were very large. (Richard Reynolds writes on William Woodcocks blog that 4 of them were: Mike, Topsy, Fannie and Zip)
1890: the Sells Brothers Circus was the second largest circus in America.
1891: 13 elephants. source.
1891: visiting Australia in 1891.
1895: James A. Bailey acquired one-third interest in the circus.
1896: The menagerie was large and included African elephants Mike and Topsy, Asian elephants Sid, Queen, Dutch, Babe, Rubber, Betts, Romeo, Vic, Dick and John. source (total 12)
1898: Ephraim Sells, the eldest brother, died in 1898. After Ephraim\'s death, James Bailey of Barnum and Bailey and W.W. Cole (of Cole Brothers Circus) each acquired a quarter interest in the business.
1904: After Peter Sells and Allen Sells died in 1904, Lewis Sells sold the remaining shares of the show to Bailey for $150,000 cash in 1905.
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 Sells Brothers Circus

Recommended Citation

Koehl, Dan (2023). Sells Brothers Circus, Elephant Encyclopedia. Available online at (archived at the Wayback machine)

Sources used for this article is among others:

Litterature about Sells Brothers Circus

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