Beasts and Ballyhoo, The Menagerie Men of Somers
Town of Somers History
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exhibited in New York City at 301 Broadway in April
Old Bet's skeleton was recovered, mounted and of
1817.  Later her hide was preserved and exhibited
at the American Museum, near present City Hall in
New York, in 1821.  The New York Evening Post of
November 26 announced that the museum has the
whole hide of the Elephant who was wontonly shot
in the town of Berwick as she with her keepers was
passing from Boston to Maine/  The animal was
known by the name of Bet.  She was considered
one of the most docile and tractable of her race,
but she fell by the hand of a ruffian.  She is now put
up in as good a style as it is possible to expect,
considering her immense size.  It was this same
Museum that P.T. Barnum acquired in the next
decade.  Regarding the fate of Old Bet's skeleton
and hide, they undoubtedly succumbed in one of
the fires that plagued Barnum in his later museum
and circus ventures.

Hachaliah Bailey, undeterred, proceeded to import
two more elephants.  In 1817 he and two partners,
brother-in-law Isaac Purdy and George Brunn,
purchased an eleven year old female who came to
be called Betty or Little Bet.  She was leased, in
1823, to Edward Finch of Somers who successfully
traveled the country with her.
NOTICE, The New York Post, 1817, Reproduction,
concerning the post mortem exhibition of Old Bet's
skeleton at the American Museum, New York
SHS 89.1.2 & 4  Gift of Carrie Brown Rorer
While leased to Gerard Crane of Somers and his
partner John June of North Salem in 1826, Little
Bet fell to a similar fate as Old Bet, and was shot
in Chepachet, Rhode Island by a group of young
men apparently out for some sport.  Also in 1817,
Hachaliah and his two partners paid $8,000 for a
six year old male elephant named Columbus for
the ship on which he was transported.  He was
exhibited in Boston on December 13th according
to this ad in the Columbian Centinel, which claims
it to be the only elephant in America at the time.
Columbus later was sold or leased to other
traveling shows, including J.R and William Howe
of North Salem, and James Raymond of Carmel,
both New York towns near Somers.  Columbus
lived until 1851, when he fell through a bridge in
North Adams, Massachusetts.  After the success
of Hachaliah Bailey in exhibiting Old Bet, many
local individuals sought to become involved in
importing and exhibiting exotic animals.  The
resulting success of these efforts led to a thriving
menagerie business for many of the farming and
drover's families in Somers.  Gerard and
Thaddeus Crane, Benjamin and Lewis Lent, and
members of the Brown, Purdy, Wright, Finch, and
Ganung families, to name a few, were involved
with aspects of the profitable menagerie business.
The Elephant Columbus, The Columbian Centinel,1817
Notice of importation
SHS 82.5  Gift of John Walters