Thursday, January 28, 2016

Armour's World Famous Gray Percherons (1905-1910)

The Armour Packing Company's grade Percheron geldings were winners in the four-horse hitch competitions in the early 20th Century.  They later developed into a six-horse hitch in 1905 and 1906 showing at the Chicago International Livestock Exposition.  These beautiful geldings went on to the UK for exhibition and show in 1907.

Many of the big companies owned six and eight-horse hitches, competing at county or state fairs, and frequently in the larger, well-known shows at that time such as the International (Chicago) or Kansas City's Royal Show.  The teams were hand-selected to match in size, color, conformation and intelligence. The Armour Packing Company's delivery fleet used yellow wagons and dapple gray horses.


Armour Packing Company of Chicago entered an agreement with the proprietors, Harry Tammen and Fred Bonfils, of  the Sells-Floto Circus, a big railroad show out of Denver. News covered by Billboard magazine's March 20, 1909 issue read, in part: "Armour Prize Team with Sells-Floto Shows announced that in addition to the horses and wagon, all of their trophies, ribbons and other prizes the horses won in show would be also exhibited." 


Billboard magazine's story went on that the horses would be dressed in gold-trimmed harness in daily parades, exhibiting stunts and were under the hands of Bill Wales, an expert whip at the time for the tour.

The Sells-Floto Circus traveled on 30 railroad cars and opened that year in Denver on March 29, 1909. Newspaper ads mentioned "The $25,000 World Famous Prize Winners, the Armour Greys" added to the media frenzy while the troupe was on the road until October 30, 1909, when they returned to Denver.  Newspapers always pulled the Armour greys into their stories, often times stating "The famous Armour Greys were a great hit.  The cups and prizes won by these renowned horses were on exhibition.  Letters of admiration were displayed from King Edward of England and Emperor William of Germany."  The 1909 tour was so successful that it was repeated for the 1910 circus season.

The Sells Floto Circus went on to feature Buffalo Bill Cody in 1914-1915.  By 1929 it had become a part of the American Circus Corporation consisting of four other circus production companies.  

John Nicholas Ringling ultimately purchased the American Circus Corporation for $1.7M creating a monopoly of traveling circuses in America.


Date Unknown

The Armour "Star" is still seen today, only with 
the name Armour and a "star" image.


Present Day Packaging

1 comment:

  1. Wow. In addition to this hitch, a greater appreciation for what the circus was all about from the flyer. Such a huge event to not miss back in the day of little to no entertainment.