When P.T. Barnum wanted big, he knew where to go: London Zoo, in England, where a 20-year-old elephant named Jumbo had been on display for all his life. Captured from Central Africa as a baby, he'd grown up to a hefty 7 tons and 11.5 feet high. Barnum approached the London Zoological Society and offered to buy the animal from them for his circus.
Controversy happened, to Barnum's delight, as the residents of London begged for him not to be sold and shipped off, and declared a national treasure. The Society, on the other hand, was more than happy to get Jumbo out of the way, and the $10,000 price probably helped convince them as well. Jumbo was shipped to America, along with his lifelong caretaker and trainer, Matthew Scott. He truly became Barnum's Prize Elephant, the focal point of the Barnum Circus, and was seen by millions.
Three years after joining the circus, tragedy struck. Well, actually, train struck; while crossing a track in St. Thomas, Ontario, Jumbo took it in the shorts by an oncoming locomotive and was killed instantly. It took 150 men to haul his carcass out of the way.
Under other circumstances, that would be the end of the story, but this is P.T. Barnum we're talking about; he had Jumbo stuffed and put on display with the circus for the next few years, along with the skeleton. Matthew Scott, heartbroken, stayed on as a caretaker for other animals at the circus, until his death a couple decades later.
Jumbo's legacy lives on, of course. Disney's "Dumbo" was a play off the original name, as Jumbo had come to symbolize the name for all elephants, and it wasn't until that massive Elephant came across the stage that "Jumbo" became synonymous with "Big" in America. Let us raise a Jumbo cup to his memory.
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