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 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.