Rufus Welch

From the list of elephant persons Family: Welch

Rufus Welch
Rufus  Welch

Personal details
Country United States

Title owner 1853-1856
Location at Welchs Parisian Hippodrome in United States

Title owner 1835-1837
Location at The Zoological Institute in United States

Title owner 1834-1835
Location at Macomber & Welch Zoological Institute in United States

Title owner 1833-1834
Location at Purdy, Welch & Co in United States

Title owner 1832-1833
Location at Purdy, Welch, Finch and Wright menagerie in United States

Title owner
Location at Clayton, Bartlett & Welch Circus in United States

Biography details

Rufus Welch , circus director in United States

Born 1801? in United States dead 1856 in United States .

Records about Rufus Welch from A History of the Traveling Menagerie at
Rufus Welch (1801?-1856) in his thirty-year career in field show operation managed some of the largest circuses in America, but began his career with menageries, and stayed in that side of the business until the collapse of the Zoological Institute. He was one of a handful of proprietors who made the change from animal shows to tented circuses.

Stuart Thayer, A History of the Traveling Menagerie

Records about Rufus Welch from the Circus Historical Society
Born in New Berlin, New York, Welch first entered the record as a menagerie manager in 1827. By 1832 he was a partner in a firm that eventually became well-known under the title Purdy, Welch and Macomber. These gentlemen were part of the Boston Zoological Association which imported large shipments of animals from Africa in 1833, 1834 and 1835. They were also members of the Zoological Institute from 1835 to 1837.

Rufus  WelchWelchs Parisian Hippodrome, 1853.

Beginning in 1845 Welch had two circuses on the road each season. The larger one was titled Welch & Mann for five years and then was called Welch’s National Circus for seven more. The smaller show was known by a variety of names - Welch & Delavan, Welch, Delavan & Nathans and Welch & Nathans - as partners came and went.

In 1853 Welch was in his twenty-sixth year as a showman. He was fifty-two years old and had just finished a successful season in which he had two circuses on the road. Since 1845 he had been the leading circus impresario in America. Even his western rival, Gilbert R. Spalding, admitted that in 1849 Welch stood at the peak of the profession.

Suffering from the rheumatism and gout that was to bring on his death in 1856, he had returned to Philadelphia and taken to his bed. This could very well account for some of the problems that beset the show. He turned the management over to Hiram Franklin, who had been the equestrian director. Franklin was an accomplished performer, having had twenty years in the business, but he was without significant managerial experience.

From his sick-bed Welch told Franklin to turn the property over to the employees, who could then operate it as a cooperative venture, sharing income and expense between them. Still using Welch’s title, and his advertising cuts, the company proceeded overland to Columbus, Georgia, and from there to Macon and Savannah. They were able to make a little money as they hired a steamboat in Savannah to haul them to Charleston, which they reached on February 13, 1854. Here they played one week and then threw in the towel.

Hiram Franklin delivered the remnants of the company to Rufus Welch in Philadelphia. All that was left of the original investment, launched with such optimism in June, 1853, were eight horses.
Stuart Thayer

Reference list


Koehl, Dan, (2024). director Rufus Welch in United States. Elephant Encyclopedia, available online retrieved 4 March 2024 at (archived at the Wayback machine)

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Categories director | circus | Welchs Parisian Hippodrome | Welch family | Born 1801 | Dead 1856 | People from United States

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