Wednesday 15 September 2010

Alas Poor Jumbo

It was on this day in 1885 that the famous T.P. Barnum elephant Jumbo was killed, struck by a locomotive while crossing the tracks in a marshalling yard at St Thomas, Ontario. The collision derailed the train, and it took 150 people to haul Jumbo's body up an embankment. The melancholy scene is pictured above. Barnum of course couldn't leave it at that. In what was then the largest taxidermy project ever undertaken, he had Jumbo stuffed so that he could carry on touring with the circus. After four years, Barnum let Jumbo go, donating him to Tufts University, where he became the university's much-loved mascot - until he was destroyed in a fire in 1975. His ashes are now kept in a 14-oz Peter Pan Crunchy Peanut Butter tin in the office of the Tufts athletics director, but his tail, which had been removed earlier, resides in the Tufts archives. That peanut butter tin troubles me - surely Jumbo deserves a more dignified resting place after all he's been through...

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