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"General" Rufus Welch (Sep. 1st, 1800-December 5th, 1856) was a leading circus impresarrio in the early-19th century.

Welch was born in New Berlin, Chenango County, New York. He initially was a chairmaker. By 1829 he was running a circus with Erman Handy and they took the circus to Cuba. For much of the 1830s he was involved in running various manageries. These would often have 100 animals. In 1837 he became the manager of the Lion Theatre Circus. In that year Welch had imported three giraffes from Africa, which were the first of these animals brought to the USA.

Starting in 1841 he was heavily involved with circuses in Philadelphia. From this period he not only had animals but also acrobats and clowns in his circuses.

In 1846 Welch joined forces with Dan Rice to run a circus in Philadelphia.


  • G. L. Chindahl. A History of the Circus in America. (Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, 1959) p. 37-41, 77.


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