Skip to main content

Originally published January 25, 2013 at 10:00 AM | Page modified January 25, 2013 at 12:01 PM

  • Share:
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

When the circus came to town; Seattle in 1912.

The Sells Floto circus was part of Seattle's second annual Golden Potlatch celebration.

Special to The Seattle Times

Take a tour through local history

The Seattle Times Historical Archive is a searchable database of Seattle Times newspapers from 1900 through 1984. The archive reveals pages as they were originally published, with stories, photos and advertising.

Local news partners

Most Popular Comments
Hide / Show comments
No comments have been posted to this article.
Start the conversation >


THIS IS ONE OF three snapshots of a circus parade that Max Loudon, a sportsman-grocer with a knack for photography, recorded at this Pioneer Square corner and included in his photo album a century ago. The others are of a horse and a camel, both with costumed riders. For this recording at First Avenue and Washington Street, Loudon did not need to travel far. He worked in the neighborhood.

We are confident that more than one elephant is rounding the corner here because Loudon also photographed the parade closer to its origins in Seattle's freshly graded Denny Regrade neighborhood. The new streets there were hardly developed, and therefore free for the parade and temporary bleachers. One of the other parade photographs shows more pachyderms, six in a row — and there may have been more. All are crowned with tenders dressed like this one, and musically accompanied, we know from the news coverage, by a "steaming head-splitting calliope."

A century ago — and long after — the Sells Floto Circus was famous for its Big Top shows with scores of exotic animals and its primary means of promotion — these parades. In 1909, the Denver-based Sells Floto cut its ticket prices in half to a mere two bits (25 cents), a move that filled its tents with happy customers and its competitors with rage.

This year, 1912, the circus was part of Seattle's second annual Golden Potlatch celebration. The circus performed matinee and evening shows for two of the Potlatch's eight days, and in the mornings of both it paraded down First Avenue from Belltown and back on Second Avenue. Loudon took his circus shots on either July 15 or 16, 1912, or perhaps both.

Check out Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard's blog at

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►