Hachaliah Bailey

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Hachaliah Bailey (pronounced heck-a-LIE-uh) (July 31, 1775 – September 2, 1845) is the founder of one of Anerica's earliest circuses. In 1808, he purchased an African elephant, likely the first such beast to reach America's shores, which he named "Old Bet".[1] With it as his star attraction he formed the Bailey Circus, which also included a trained dog, several pigs, a horse and four wagons.[2] This was the impetus for what in time evolved into the Bailey component of what became the famed Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Bailey moved to Northern Virginia in 1837 from Westchester County, New York, and, on December 19, 1837, bought the land at the intersection of Leesburg Pike and Columbia Pike in Fairfax County, Virginia just outside Falls Church, Virginia. Today it is known as Bailey's Crossroads.

Hachaliah Bailey established the Elephant Hotel in Somers, New York, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2005.


  1. ^ "Setting The Record Straight On Old Bet.". American Heritage. Retrieved 2008-03-21. It is not an established fact that Old Bet was the first elephant to arrive in America, and quite possibly she was second. An April, 1796, publication, Greenleaf’s New York, mentions an elephant journeying to our shores aboard the ship America. A few days later an elephant was exhibited around Beaver Street and Broadway, according to an advertisement in The Argus, April 23, 1796. This area was the location of the Bull’s Head Tavern, a place frequented by ships’ captains, drovers, and a variety of businessmen. Hachaliah Bailey of Somers, New York, regularly stayed at the Bull’s Head when he took his cattle to the abattoir, which was located nearby. The newspaper reports that the first elephant was sold to a 'Mister Owen.' Unfortunately, they gave no other information about the man, nor did they tell what he did with the elephant he bought, but Hachaliah Bailey’s business partner and brother-in-law was named Owen. 
  2. ^ Goodwin, George G. (October 1951). "The Crowninshield Elephant". Pick from the Past. Natural History. Retrieved November 13, 2013. 

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