Friday
Nov032006

Jumbo the Elephant

Perhaps no animal has been as famous and certainly no animal has been the focus of such a range of public emotions in both life and death than Jumbo the elephant. When P.T. Barnum purchased him from the Zoological Society of London 1882, a patriotic outcry ensued in England. Jumbo had been a favourite at Regent’s Park (London’s zoo), carrying innumerable children on his back: a national treasure was being given up to a transatlantic rival. Despite the public protest, Jumbo was shipped to America, along with his lifelong caretaker and trainer, Matthew Scott.

jumbo.jpgJumbo was the star of Barnum’s American Museum until he was killed by a train on September 15th, 1885 while crossing railroad tracks in St. Thomas, Ontario. The collision derailed the train, and 150 people were required to haul the elephant's body up an embankment. Barnum commissioned what was called the largest taxidermy project ever undertaken. He gave the skeleton to the American Museum of Natural History, and the stuffed Jumbo was the centrepiece of Barnum’s travelling circus for four years. Eventually, Barnum donated Jumbo to Tuffs University, MA where he instantly became the university’s beloved mascot until a fire finally destroyed him in 1975.

 

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Friday
Jan192007

Alice the cranky

After Jumbo died, Barnum sought a new elephant for his show. The English uproar over Jumbo's departure was not repeated when the Zoological Society sold Alice to Barnum four years later in early 1886 for 200 pounds. As the Daily News reported on April 24th, "There was no demonstration of public silliness over her emigration as there was with the removal of the renowned Jumbo, since defunct; and no one who in the establishment was acquainted with her temper, and the manner in which she had developed into a nuisance, mourned her departure.  It was, if all the truth must be told, a very good stroke of business to displose of the beast for so round a sum, since the last resource of shooting her would probably have been forced upon her owners before long."