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.


1861 A three-year-old elephant later named Jumbo is captured by traders in modern-day Sudan. Eventually he makes his way to Paris.
1865 Meets and befriends the dashing Matthew Scott, who will remain his lifelong trainer and caretaker. Scott arranges with the London Zoo for Jumbo to be traded for a rhinoceros.
1882 P.T. Barnum purchases Jumbo from the London Zoo for $10,000 to the great dismay of the British people.
9 Apr 1882 Jumbo makes his debut in New York City at Madison Square Garden, bringing in $30,000 for his first performance.
15 Sep 1885 While crossing a track in St. Thomas, Ontario, Jumbo is struck and killed by a train. As he lies dying, he offers the distraught Matthew Scott a final embrace with his trunk.
17 Sep 1885 After having his skin and bones preserved, Jumbo's body is cremated. Over 3,000 attend. Study of his teeth and bones show that at the time of death Jumbo was still growing.
1889 Jumbo's stuffed hide is donated to Tufts University in Medford, MA, where he becomes their loyal mascot; his bones are donated to the Smithsonian Institute. Barnum's original $10,000 investment is peanuts: the pachyderm alone had brought in over $1,000,000 dollars profit.
16 Apr 1975 A fire breaks out in the Barnum Museum at Tufts, destroying both the building and Jumbo's remains. His ashes are preserved in a peanut butter jar in an athletics department safe for good luck.

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