Old Bet

April 13th Celebrates Old Bet

Today on Days to remember we celebrate how on April 13th 1796, the first known elephant arrived in the United States from Bengal, India.
Old Bet was the first circus elephant brought to the United States.

There are reports of an elephant brought to the United States in 1796, but it is not known for certain that this was the elephant that was later named Old Bet.

On July 24, 1816, Old Bet was killed while on tour near Alfred, Maine by local farmer Daniel Davis who shot her, and was later convicted of the crime.
The farmer thought it was sinful for people to pay to see an animal.

In 1821, the Barnum’s American Museum in New York announced that they had bought the hide and bones of Old Bet and would mount the remains at the museum.

The elephant was memorialized in 1825 with a statue and the Elephant Hotel in Somers, New York.

In 1922 the elephant John L. Sullivan walked 53 miles to lay a wreath for the memory of “Old Bet” at her memorial statue.

When was the Elephant Hotel built?

It was built by Hachaliah Bailey, who became renowned after he acquired the second elephant brought to America about 1805.

Bailey toured with the Elephant named, “Old Bet, and the words “Elephant Hotel,” emblazoned across the building to commemorate Bailey’s renowned elephants.

Situated at the intersection of the Croton and the Peekskill turnpikes, the Hotel became the economic and social center of Somers and the surrounding area. Not only was it the meeting place for the menagerie owners and a stopping place for drovers, it was also a stagecoach stop for travelers between New York City and points north and east.

The Elephant Hotel was purchased by the Town of Somers and adapted for use as a town hall in 1927.

Today it remains the focal point of town activity, with the first two floors as the seat of Town government, and the Somers Historical Society and Museum on the third floor.

On April 5, 2005, the Elephant Hotel was designated a National Historic Landmark, recognizing it as the oldest existing building of significance in the development of the American Circus.

Written & Designed by JD Mitchell


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