Power’s Elephants

Posted By on March 21, 2012

I was quite surprised after I developed this photo on Epson photo shop. It is a great photo and dates back to the early 1900’s. All the information I have is what you see…… I can only guess they were show elephants and were lead to this river near the circus lot.

A must read comment from Bob Cline, very informative. Thanks Bob.



About the author

My name is Ivan M. Henry and I am the 4th generation of a circus/show business dynasty. I hope you enjoy the blog.


9 Responses to “Power’s Elephants”

  1. Bob Cline says:

    The Power’s elephants were originally the Walter L. Main Circus elephants. When Main sold his entire show to Wm. P. Hall in 1905, he kept the elephants. Mr. Powers was actually Walter L. Main’s right hand man so they started booking the elephants into Vaudeville venues, circuses, fairs, anywhere they could work. The Original five were JULIA, JENNY, LENA, LOU and ROXIE all female Asians. Lou died in 1909. They took the act to England on the Bertram Mills Circus from 1926 to 1937. Shortly after they arrived in England, Julia died. After their tour in England, they returned to the states and continued to perform until Feb. 4, 1943 when Roxie died in Evansville, IN. Now down to just two elephants, JENNY and LENA, the Powers elephants were sold to the Polack Bros. Circus.

    They both remained with the Polack Bros. Circus until 1950 when they were sold to the Mills Bros. Circus. Jenny stayed on the Mills Show until 1951 when she was sold to the Hagen Bros. Circus and renamed DIXIE. She died in the Hagen WQ in Edmond, OK. in 1957. LENA stayed on the Mills Bros. Circus where she died in 1955.

  2. Melani Carty says:

    Famed Elephants Just Marchers Now
    by Frank Tripp
    May 21, 1950

    The “queen” of America’s greatest elephant act of four decades ago was reminiscing, and it had to be about elephants. Jeanne Power is in retirement now, after 40 years of intimate association with elephants, and owner of the best.

    “Elephants are much like people,” she declares. “They are not treacherous. They do have moods; they pout, they are jealous of one another. They are inquisitive and their old trunk is forever is mischief, like the hands of an active child. They will snoop, pull down lights, open water faucets
    and undo each other’s chains, as children might, but that does not make them bad.

    “Elephants are like goats too,” she chuckled. “They will eat clothing, blankets and all manner of things. Our Roxie once sneaked, chewed and swallowed a quart jar of jam, the crushed glass and
    all. We gave her up for lost but she lived for many years. Our Jennie ate a bushel of coal, and another time gulped down a whole barrel of road oil. She was weeks recovering, suffered terrible agony and
    lost several hundred pounds. She’s still alive, and 86.'”

    Power’s Elephants are the ones of which I wrote a recent story. In it I made two statements which Mrs. Power corrects. Ringlings never owned these elephants, and I could not have met the sole survivor on a Syracuse street because two of the originals are still living, on the west coast, she reveals.

    When Luna Park’s founders, Thompson and Dundy, opened the massive New York Hippodrome in 1905, elephants were at once indicated as a must feature of their colossal extravaganza. They engaged one William Walter Power, proud peer of Pachydermists, as their elephant impresario.

    William, hereafter called “Bill,” one of my show-days convivial pals, left the Walter L. Main circus, bought its four biggest and best elephants and took them with him to the Hippodrome, hereafter called “The Hip.” His was the first American elephant act to appear on an indoor stage. Power’s Elephants; vast ensembles of circus thrillers; Marceline, the clown; Annette Kellerman; a block-long under-stage lake of water into into which a gorgeous ballet danced down an incline, disappearing as if into eternity; were many-year magnets which repeatedly attracted 20 million thrill seekers. Power’s Elephants became The Hip’s forefront symbol of bigness.

    At The Hip, Bill met a dashing young widow, Jeanne Lush O’Brien, a Brooklyn girl who was of the show. She had a young son, George. Bill married her and to them came another son, Tom. Bill, Jeanne, George and Tom and four knowing elephants, Lena, Jennie, Ada and Lou, were destined to approach worldwide fame. Julia and Roxie later replaced Ada and Lou — and George replaced good old Bill.

    When Bill died in 1920, Jeanne carried on. George took Bill’s last name, and long before Bill’s death had become a greater trainer than his stepfather. It was George who taught Jeanne’s elephants to play baseball, bowl, to waltz, two-step and do the Charleston. George taught them stunts of which Bill had never dreamed.

    The story of Power’s Dancing Elephants stands way but front in the saga of elephant wisdom. For two score years they entertained two continents. They played year ’round in theaters, circuses, fairs and
    bull rings at weekly salaries of $1,500 and $2,000. They yearly earned more than the president, and in their careers as much as Man ‘O War. They went to Europe in 1926 and remained eleven years, in England, Scotland, Wales, Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Sweden and Denmark.

    And now, Jeanne Power, great grandmother of twelve children, lives above the Hudson’s Palisades with her cherished memories of the circus and theater; which go back to her girlhood, when she was a lithe equestrienne and rode for Barnum and Bailey on their European tour of 1897. Of her original elephants, Lena and Jennie still live. Ada and Lou died first of pneumonia. Roxie, a replacement, lived to be almost 100. Lena, 93 and Jennie, 86, with Julia, a youngster of 67, are the three with which Jeanne Power parted in 1944—with broken heart.

    It meant the end of her exciting life. Her son George, whose sickness forced the parting, is at Will Rogers Memorial Hospital. Tom is in the army. Time, and three world-famed elephants march on.

    March is the right word, for they do not dance any more. Without George, they only march and maybe their hearts are breaking too. “They are just herded circus elephants now. I cried when I saw them,” Jeanne Power said to me. Then she smiled, as show folks must and added, “but they looked well fed.”


  3. Bob Cline says:

    WOW, Ivan this is just great. I have Ada and Lou recorded as original Power’s elephants but I wasn’t sure about the source. Thank you so much for providing this great piece of history! Now I can complete my records in a more understandable manner.

  4. Melani Carty says:

    Hi Ivan, the “lake” from which the Power’s Elephants are drinking, was actually the water tai / lake inside the Hippodrome Theater in New York City. The elephants not only drank from it, occasionally they saw in it. This tak is the same one that Annette Kellermann swam in, doing her famous water show.

    –Melani Carty

  5. My grandfather, Murdock Pemberton, was the press agent for the Hippodrome from 1915-1923. Jenny was his favorite elephant and he wrote this poem about her.

    (From the Hippodrome Anthology.)

    Last night I sat up with the herd –
    The Roxie elephant there,
    She had a stomach-ache
    There was not much to do
    Now that they’ve taken all our rum –
    In the old days
    a toddy would cure it.
    Anyway, along toward two
    I heard a cat meow –
    It was in the ventilator shaft
    That runs above their heads;
    The Jennie elephant pricks up her ears,
    That starts to weave.
    There’s only one light burning in the basement here,
    And I can’t see the cat
    From where I sit,
    But I can see the shadow
    Against the whitewashed wall,
    Thrown up ten times as big –
    Crouching, like a tiger stalking game.
    For fifteen years there’ve been jungle things
    Living in the Hippodrome.
    And these stalls will never lose the memory
    Of caged and fretting animals.
    Well, the Jennie elephant, she saw the shadow,
    And she sensed the jungle air,
    And that yowling thing became a hunting tiger,
    Instead of Elmer, our pet office cat;
    And Elmer, too, I guess he slipped some centuries
    And thought he was ‘way back there
    In some tangled forest stalking game;
    He gave an awful screech and leapt,
    Sinking his claws in Jennie’s ear.
    I didn’t have time to reach the girl –
    Bellowing the danger call,
    She shook him off,
    And left it sticking through him.
    Well, I got them settled down,
    Gave Elmer a decent burial,
    And put peroxide on Jennie’s broken tusk.
    All that night the Jennie girl
    Kept weaving ‘round.

    Her mother had carried Emperors on her back,
    And her father’s folks had run the show
    at water holes in many jungles.
    She’s been downcast of late,
    Brooding on her part in “Happy Days”,
    But putting Elmer out
    Brought back her pride;
    The memory of combat helps her forget
    She makes a living by her shimmy.


  6. Mary Lou McCloskey says:

    Lena, from the Mills Brothers Circus, did not die in 1955. She was sold in June 1956 when she stopped in Mayville, New York, and lived there for 7 months. She lived in the alley behind my house where we visited her often. She gave rides and made appearances around the county and as far away as Polk, PA. I was 8 years old at the time and visited her often – she was a smart, sweet, gentle old soul. She came and gave rides at my 9th birthday party!

  7. Tom Shieber says:

    You might be interested in my latest blog posting “Buy Me Some Peanuts: Elephants Playing Baseball,” which relates to Powers’ Dancing Elephants.
    You can find it here: http://baseballresearcher.blogspot.com/2013/09/buy-me-some-peanuts-elephants-playing.html
    – Tom Shieber

  8. Ron Baecher says:

    My dad purchased Lena in the mid 50’s and provided her tor store grand openings and other promotional events for customers to ride. My sister and I enjoyed helping to care for her and ride her when we were kids. Unfortunatly she died i believe in 1956. Many tears were shed in Mayville Ney York where she was housed.

  9. […] around the world from San Francisco to Spain and beyond for forty years. (See the comments on this thread at thecircusblog.com for […]

Leave a Reply

Please note: Comment moderation is currently enabled so there will be a delay between when you post your comment and when it shows up. Patience is a virtue; there is no need to re-submit your comment.