John Pogey O'Brien

From the list of elephant persons Family: O’Brien

John Pogey O'Brien
John  O’Brien

Personal details
Country United States

Title owner 1865-1867
Location at Dan Rice Circus in United States

Title owner 1865
Location at The Great National Circus in United States

Title owner -
Location at Pogey O'Brien's Monster Circus & Menagerie in United States

Biography details

John V. "Pogey" O’Brien , circus director in United States

Born 1835 dead 1889 .

In 1864, Adam 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, Adam Forepaugh 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.

John Pogey O'Brien (January 29, 1836-September 7, 1889) Born in Frankford, an extension of Philadelphia, the son of a stone mason, Michael O’Brien. When 13 years of age, started as a stage driver. 1857, bought out the stage line and ran it for 2 years. Had his first connection with a circus, 1861, when he rented horses to Gardner & Hemmings and went along as boss hostler to keep an eye on his property. Became a silent partner with one-third interest in the organization and also acted as assistant manager, 1862. The company opened a new amphitheatre in Philadelphia, November 24, 1862. During this stand James E. Cooper entered the circus business with Gardner, Hemmings, and O’Brien. The latter disposed of his share of the property to Cooper 5 weeks into the 1863 summer season. Organized Bryan’s (sometimes referred to as Brian’s) National Circus With Mrs. Dan Rice for touring in Pennsylvania and New York State. Took out Bryan’s (or Brien’s) Great Show and Tom King’s Excelsior Circus, 1864, with Tom King the featured performer. Bought 44 of Adam Forepaugh’s horses at a cost of $9,000; when payment came due, Forepaugh was forced to accept a share of the circus. With Forepaugh, 1865, began summer tour with Dan Rice’s Menagerie, which was made up of the former Jerry Mabie animals, comprising 22 cages. The property was delivered to Forepaugh at Twelfth and State Streets, Chicago, where the company started the season. The menagerie, Dan Rice, his horse, Excelsior, trick mules, and two elephants constituted the exhibition. Rice was engaged for the 25 week summer season at a salary of $1,000 a week. Trouble with Rice and between the partners and a poor profit on the season led to the dissolution of the Forepaugh-O’Brian business arrangement. Fitted out a show, 1867, under the title of Whitby’s & Co. 1868, organized the DeMott & Ward Show and, at the same time, ran Bryan’s Circus and Menagerie. 1869, organized Campbell’s Circus and Menagerie with Hyatt Frost as manager and continued with Bryan’s. Repeated these shows the following season. 1871, had 4 shows out - Sheldenberger’s, O’Brien’s, Joel E. Warner & Co., and Handenberger & Co. For 1872, merged the 4 shows into 3 - O’Brien’s, Joel E. Warner & Co., and Kleckner & Co.; 1873, O’Brien’s Twenty-five-cent Show and was interested with Dr. Spalding and Patrick Ryan in Dan Rice’s. Leased/managed P. T. Barnum’s, 1874, and was a partner in Maginley & Co. 1875, continued to manage the Barnum show and organized Rothchild & Co. with James DeMott as manager. 1876, ran O’Brien’s Six Shows Consolidated, as well as Rothchild & Co. 1877, O’Brien’s Six Shows; Campbell’s Great 25c Circus, 1878. Was almost bankrupt at the end of the season. Borrowed money from Forepaugh, and the latter foreclosed on most of his show property and the Campbell show was taken from O’Brien at the end of the 1879 season. It was used to fit out the Batcheller & Doris New Circus from Frankford (PA), 1880. O’Brien refused to quit and, since he had a great deal of circus equipment, continued to put out small shows with low admission prices and fancy titles for them. 1884, O’Brien, Hardenberger, Astley, and Lowande. When his J. Henry Rice & Co.’s was showing Albany, NY, process servers who had been following the show were on the lot, July 22, the parade that went out never came back, but ended up at the Frankford, PA, quarters. Had an interest in Lowande’s Brazilian Circus when he died. [D. W. Watt: “The show prospered for some years and ‘Pogey’ O’Brien became famous in the business in those days, but it was said that he knew little or nothing about the Ten Commandments. While his great menagerie was a feature, he was running the ring performance so cheap that it was unsatisfactory to the public.”] He was described by Kit Clarke as a plainly dressed man, short of stature and somewhat stout, with a round, full face. Free with everybody - a king or a canvasman would be all the same to him. Once in a while, on stated occasions, came out resplendent with diamonds, a velvet vest, every button of which was set with them, a watch chain with big ones in every link, a large solitaire on his bosom, and a big ring on his finger. Throughout his career his reputation as a manager was tarnished as one who was dishonest with his employees and who carried with the show a compliment of gamblers and thieves. Perhaps justice prevailed, for he died of asthma, in poverty, at his residence in Philadelphia. Wife died April 2, 1873, quite suddenly at Frankford, PA.

John Pogey O

Reference list


Koehl, Dan, (2024). director John V. "Pogey" O’Brien in United States. Elephant Encyclopedia, available online retrieved 21 February 2024 at (archived at the Wayback machine)

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Categories director | circus | Dan Rice Circus | O’Brien family | Born 1835 | Dead 1889 | People from United States

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