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Adam Forepaugh and Sells Bros Circus

Adam Forepaugh and Sells Bros Circus

Adam Forepaugh and Sells Bros Circus
 
 
Adam Forepaugh and Sells Bros Circus
 
 

From: Robert L. Parkinson Library and Research Center

History
The Adam Forepaugh and Sells Brothers Circus was a major American circus that operated from 1896 through 1911. The name of the show was taken in part from Adam Forepaugh (1831-1890) a notable circus proprietor who owned and operated several circus shows from 1865 until his death1890 and was a major competitor of P.T. Barnum and Ringling Brothers. After his death Forepaugh’s circus was purchased by James A. Bailey, and was operated as an independent show for three years. In 1894 Bailey leased the Forepaugh name to two circus proprietors, Joseph T. MacCaddon and James P. Anderson who used the name as the title of a one ring circus but with limited success. The title was temporarily retired in 1895 but in 1896 Bailey entered into partnership with the Sells Brothers, (Ephraim, Lewis and Peter Sells) formed the Adam Forepaugh and Sells Bros. Circus. In 1898 Ephraim Sells, the eldest of the three brothers, died and W.W. Cole (a part owner of the Barnum and Bailey Circus) became the new fourth partner in the show. This partnership lasted until 1904 when Peter Sells died and Lewis Sells and W.W. Cole sold their interest to James Bailey.

A combination of financial troubles and internal problems amongst the revolving lineup of owners constantly plagued the show. In 1905 Bailey, by then the sole proprietor of the circus, set up an auction of the show’s equipment but ended up purchasing everything back and sold half of the interest to the Ringling Brothers. A year later after Bailey’s death the Ringling’s acquired complete ownership of the show from Bailey’s widow. For a brief time the circus operated out of the Ringling Brothers winter quarters in Baraboo, Wisconsin but was pulled off the road for the 1908-1909 season. In 1910 the title was revived by the brothers but for a year only. The circus toured for the last time in 1911.

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