The History of the Sells Floto Circus

Posted by Sarah Seippel on

The Sells Floto Circus

The Sells Floto Circus was a combination of the Floto Dog and Pony show and the Sells Brother Circus that through with a variety of acts in the United States during the 1900’s.  The first two owners of the entertainment group were Frederick Gilmer Bonfils and Harry Heye Tammen.  Frederick Gilmer Bonfils was born in Troy, Missouri on December 21, 1860, and Harry Heye Tammen was born in Baltimore, Maryland on March 6, 1856. 

The circus was created in 1902 and was originally titled “Floto Dog and Pony Show”.  The name “Floto” of the circus came from the post’s sports writer Otto Floto. It was not until four years later that the word “Sells” became apart of the title.  This is the year when Willie Sells was added to the show. One of the unique characteristics of this circus was that it had the support from its posts, primarily because Bonfils and Tammen were the owners of the Denver Port newspaper.  At this time in history, many circuses were criticized and struggled financially because it was difficult to gain popularity.

Later in History

In 1914 and 1915 the show was called “Sells-Floto Circus and Buffalo Bill West”, with Buffalo Bill performing in the show.  The wagon, building during the previous decade’s show” was featured until the 1924 season.  It was also around this time where the American Circus Corporation claimed ownership of the circus (1921-1929).  The American Circus Corporation also owned four other circuses: Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, John Robinson Circus, Sparks Circus, and Al. G. Barnes Circus.  The American Circus Corporation was only competition to the Ringling Brothers; however, the American Circus Corporation booked a performance by the Sells Floto Circus on the Ringling Brother’s territory; New York’s Madison Square Garden.  This booking caused for the Ringling Brothers to win ownership of all the American Circus Corporation because they were in violation of performing their show on land that was illegal for them to perform on.

The Sells Floto Triumph March


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