Popular Culture

Somers, New York is considered the “birthplace of the American circus.”  In 1828 Hachaliah Bailey purchased an elephant for farm work that he named “Old Bet”.  The elephant was a sensation that Bailey began touring “Old Bet” and other exotic animals around the Northeast. 

The Popular Entertainment collections at the New York State Museum reflect this long history.  It includes over one thousand circus posters spanning the era 1880-1950, and ranging in size from window cards and broadsides to billboard size. A large collection of theatre and vaudeville posters spans the same period and features turn of the century melodramas, musical comedies, and popular vaudevillians.  The collections also include circus props, model circuses, vaudeville ephemera, costumes, and props, and the only known Beech-Nut circus bus in existence.