"General" Rufus Welch was a leading circus impresario in the early-19th century.
Welch was born in New Berlin, Chenango County, New New York
He initially was a chairmaker. In 1827 he started in the zoo business. By 1829 he was running a circus with Erman Handy and they took the circus to Cuba.
Foreign much of the 1830s he was involved in running various manageries.
He was part of Purdy, Welch and Macomber, the firm which ran the Boston Zoological Society, showing animals. These would often have 100 animals.
In 1837 PWZ went out of business and Welch turned to circuses because it required less capital investment. In 1837 he became the manager of the Lion Theatre Circus.
In that year Welch had imported three giraffes from Africa, which were the first of these animals brought to the United States of America. Welch leased the National Theatre in Philadelphia.
He called his circus the National and at the end of each touring season performed a major show in Philadelphia. Starting in 1841 he was heavily involved with circuses in Philadelphia. From this period he not only had animals but also acrobats and clowns in his circuses.
In 1846 Welch joined forces with Dan Rice to run a circus in Philadelphia.