Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mumbo Jumbo

Jumbo is best known as the star of Barnum & Bailey's traveling circus in the late 19th century. But he actually lived most of his life at the London Zoo in Regents Park, where attendance multiplied exponentially when patrons realized that the 21-year-old African elephant was being sold to the Americans. Less than 3 years later, in 1885, he lay dead on the tracks (IMAGE ABOVE), having been hit by an unexpected locomotive while being led to the next venue in Ontario, Canada. His remains were parceled out by P.T. Barnum, who had Jumbo's hide prepared and mounted so he could continue to tour with it. He donated the beast's skeleton to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where it has been on and off display ever since. And he sold the heart to Cornell University. When Jumbo – in taxidermied form – finally retired from show business, he was donated to Tufts University, but went up in flames in 1975. All that remains are his ashes and his tail, which had previously been added to the university's special collections. Nothing is said in Jumbo's biography about the disposition of his flesh at the time of the accident, but I hope it was put to good use.


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