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Polito's Menagerie (c1810 - 1830)



  • Existence: 1810 - 1839


Polito’s Menagerie was founded by Stephen Polito (1763/4-1814) aka Stephano, Stephani and Stephanus Polito, in 1810.

Polito was an Italian menagerie owner based in England, who previously owned other shows including Miles and Polito’s Menagerie during the late eighteen century.

In 1810, Polito acquired the static menagerie at Exeter Exchange in the Strand London from the Pidcock family. He combined this business with a travelling menagerie, which travelled around the country during the summer months. Polito’s menagerie was very successful under his management and the Exeter site attracted attention from famous authors and artists of the time including William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Edwin Landseer and Jacques-Laurent Agasse, all of which found inspiration in the menagerie.

Polito’s Menagerie passed to his brother John upon Polito’s death in 1814 and later was acquired by Edward Cross, a former employee and John’s father-in-law. Edward continued to run the menagerie as Polito’s Menagerie until the 1830s, taking advantage of Polito’s fame and success.

Found in 6 Collections and/or Records:

Circus Friends Association Collection

Reference code: NFA0122
Scope and Contents

This collection consists of a large library of books and journals, as well as archival material including posters, programmes, photographs, films, handbills, research material, scrapbooks, original artwork and many other items of ephemera relating to British, Irish and European circuses

Dates: 1795 - 2020

Original Artwork, c1800 - 2000

Reference code: 178V11
Scope and Contents

Original works of art including artists' prints, drawings, watercolours and paintings, and designs for circus posters.

Dates: c1800 - 2000

Polito's Superb Menagerie Poster, c1800 - 1899

Reference code: 178R47.12
Scope and Contents

Male lion and lioness, horned horses or nilghau, zebra, elephant, royal male tiger, hyaena, panthers, leopard, jaguar, porcupine, lynx, wolf, sloth, kangaroos, emew, cassowary, pelican of the wilderness, adjutant, royal crown cranes, black swan, condor minor. Black type on off white paper with illustration of lion on the top half section. Printed by W. Major, Printer, John's Steps, Bristol.

Dates: c1800 - 1899

Posters, c1800 - 2011

Reference code: 178R47
Scope and Contents

A wide range of British and international circus and menagerie posters ranging from the 19th to the 21st century including Astley's Amphitheatre, Pablo Fanque, Polito, Bostock and Wombwell, Ducrow, Cooke, Hengler, Sanger, Smart, Gerry Cottle, Bertram Mills, Chipperfield's, Robert Brothers, Fossett, Blackpool Tower, Billy Russell, Belle Vue, Great Yarmouth Hippodrome, Austen Brothers and many more.

Dates: c1800 - 2011

Royal Menagerie Print, 1813

Reference code: 178V11.3
Scope and Contents

Etching on paper by Samuel Howitt (1756/7-1822), publisher: S. Polito propietor. Black and white illustration of wild animals including elephant, rinocerous, cebra, lions, tiger, bear, kangaroos, camel and many more in a landscape. Taken from life amongst the numerous assemblage at the Royal Menagerie Exeter Change, Strand, London.

Dates: 1813

Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian Circus Posters, c1800 - 1930

Reference code: 178R47.1-51
Scope and Contents

Early circus and menagerie posters including Polito's menagerie, Astley's Amphitheatre and Pablo Fanque's, Sanger's, Powell's, Ducrow's, Cooke's and Hengler's circuses among others.

Dates: c1800 - 1930