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Season 2, Episode 3 · 3 years ago

Episode 203 - Dinner With Jumbo

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Here you are, the years one thousand eight hundred and eighty four. It's thirty in the morning and downtown Manhattan, and just ahead of you is the grand expanse of the recently opened Brooklyn Bridge, and marching across it is a site not exactly typical in the financial district. Today, a parade of twenty one elephants and seventeen camels is slowly making its way across the bridge, bound towards Brooklyn. The people of New York are wary of the safety of this new bridge, and a man has taken it upon himself to prove the bridges of sound structure by putting on a pretty bizarre parate. Leading the march is jumbo, the largest and most famous elephant in the whole world, weighing in at seven tons. Jumbo's backstory is a bit of an odd one. It begins when he is captured in Sudan and brought to be displayed in the London Zoo, where he spends some time on display before he catches the eye of none other than P t barnum, the preeminent entertainer of the nineteen century.

He was the CO founder of the greatest show on earth, or Barnum and daily circus. And, of course, what would the greatest show on earth be without an exceptionally large elephants to serve as its poster boy? Meanwhile, elsewhere in Manhattan, a man by the name of Karl Akleys also engaging with nature in an unnatural way. He's trying to make do with a small hat making business. The Fashions of Victorian Era America were interesting to say the least, and woman's head where of the time was no exception. The style of the time was to wear hats decorated loudly with, quote unquote, exotic bird feathers, beaks and sometimes entire bodies, source from Egret Swan's Eagles and humming birds. Akley, who failed to get his feet planted in taxi orm, he turned a hat making instead. Akley and Barnum's paths will cross later on in our story when Barnum and jumbo end up saving his career. Barnum wanted jumbo for a circus and ended up paying twozero pounds, or about three hundred thousand dollars in today's money, to take over custody from the London Zoom. In his autobiography, Matthew Scott, who is jumbo's handler, describes how jumbo...

...felt about crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. All my add jumbo was very interested in what was going on round him. He knew just as well as myself that we were passing through an experiment and as he looked down from the great promenade to the two lines of rails, all everly fright you with human beings, he seemed to appreciates our position. Jumbo was very much amused at looking down into the river below. He did not evidently understand the meaning of a steamboat Russian along under his legs, so to speak, and all felt rather funny. As I'll watches can intelligent high the bond between jumbo and his handler, from Scott's accounts, in his writings at least, was one of a unique and close nature. Jumbo, now owned by P T barnum, would travel alongside Scott to be on display all over the North American continent. He was an awe inspiring spectacle everywhere he went, even causing the death of a four year old Brooklyn girl who's so excited to catch a glimpse of jumbo that she leaned too far out of her apartment window and fell to her death. All...

...of this commotion, the Spectacle, the control, the exploitation of Jumbo's life would suddenly come to an end on a fateful day in Ontario. I'm you and Shannon, and you're listening to here you are. This is episode two of our second season, nature reconstructed. I've just told the account of jumbo the elephant and how he was made to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. In eighteen eighty four coming up, I'll continue to discuss the life and legacy of jumbo and the humans that controlled his life and how his story tells us a lot about empire spectacle on entertainment in nineteen century America. Keeping with the theme of the season, also discuss how an animal that soon became a typical example of nineteen century tax and army became so for the most untypical reasons. On September fifteen, eighteen eighty five, at a train yard in St Thomas,...

...jumbo and his fellow performing animals are being led into their box cars after a day of performing. The elephant is making his way across a set of train tracks and off in the distance, a train is coming through on the same track. His great bulking form can't make it across quickly enough to avoid the engine as fast approaching. Jumbo is blindsided by the train and dies within minutes from his injuries. In a way just as spectacular and jarring as his performances for the public, Jumbo's life comes to an end. Immediately after his death, train workers and caretakers huddled around the elephants body to post for a photograph. Even lying on his side. His size is impressive compared to the men standing around him. Although the actual train that struck jumbo was derailed in the collision, and the background of the photograph is a pristine and rather smug looking engine, a symbol of American expansion. Photograph posing with its kill of the day. Barnum, upon hearing of Jumbo's demise the following day, knew he had to come up with a more heroic death for the animal to tell the...

...press. Rather than being panicked and fearful, Barnum set that jumbo had saved Scott and another elephant named Tom Thumb by tossing them out of the path of the locomotive and then turning to charge the Lafaya than of the rail head on dying a magnificent and noble death rather than a messy, instinctive one. The argument could be made that this was in fact the second time jumbo died. His first life ended when he was taken from Sudan, and a second on a set of tracks in Ontario. It is at this point, then, where jumbo's third life begins and our story really starts to get odd. But before we get to that, let's rewind a little bit. On the surface it might seem like Barnum, always keeping his eye out for spectacle, realize this new money making opportunity once jumbo had died and immediately got to work finding someone brave enough to take on such a massive project. In actuality, nearly every step that Barnum took in preserving jumbo's body was planned years in advance, as shown in his eighteen eighty three correspondences with the taxidermist and Natural History Collector...

Henry Ward does. Sir, on my return home I found your letter of August twenty ninth. I shall have my managers understand that if we lose jumbo, which Heaven Forbid, you must be telegraphed to immediately, and hope you will lose no time in saving his skin and skeleton. As to other animals, I will talk with them on their return to close up season a fortnight. Hence truly yours, pet BONHAM. When jumbo's death did in fact become an unfortunate reality, Barnum got his wish and word got straight to work on jumbo. Who took charge of stretching jumbos high during the mounting process? One of the men in charge of stuffing the hide was Carl Akley, who we last saw stuffing birds for fashion in Manhattan. At the request of Barnum, Jumbo was actually constructed twice. His skeleton was assembled and mountain on a frame for one display and a skin for another. The idea of making jumbo's tests detachable floated around for a while, but barnum refused, wanting to keep jumbo as true to original as possible, even if it meant making transporting such an...

...immense specimen more difficult. After months and months of work, jumbo is once again ready to be put on public display, this time at the powers building in downtown Rochester, New York. Although appearing stiffer and a little boxy in his taxidermid state, Aquey did a fantastic job preserving the presence of jumbo and even looking at photos of him as a taxidermad Husk of what he wants was, jumbo looks surprisingly animate. The contrast is unnerving at the least, but it didn't seem to face Barnum's dinner guests at Jumbo's taxidermy debut on February twenty six, one thousand eight hundred and eighty six. At the dinner the guests sit down and dig into their meal. The dessert course arrives at their tables and, after his guest settle their host Barnum decides to inform everyone what exactly they've been tucking into. The Dessert in question putting of Elephant, one elephant in particular. Jumbo's tusks were replaced with a different set when war taxiderma at him, and a pound and a half of Jumbo's original ivory was ground up...

...and mixed into some sort of Jelly. As author less harding put it, it must have been the only time in history that the guests at a memorial banquet not only heard tributes to the deer departed but eight part of him as well. Even in death, Barnum saw jumbo first and foremost as a spectacle, not a scientific specimen, not a zoological marvel, and certainly not as a living thing removed from its home. In a way, jumbo was forced to be an unofficial ambassador of the Imperial Image of Africa, with no agency in life and somehow with even less in death. As a result, BARNUM's wealth continued to flourish and Equalis career got a strong push forward after jumbo. He went on to create the famous Dioramas of African wildlife that are on display at the Museum of natural history to this day. Although jumbo died in eighteen eighty five, he was never really allowed to rest in peace. In addition of being stuffed, mounted and served to unknowing patrons, jumbo had his heart sent to Cornell for research and dissection, but it disappeared shortly after. His skeleton went to the Natural History Museum in New York and, although not on...

...display, it's still there today, not too far from the Brooklyn Bridge where jumbo made his crossing in eighteen eighty four. His taxidermy parts made their way to tough university, where they stayed on display until fire in one thousand nine hundred and seventy five. We're all of jumbo was lost, except for his tail that was allegedly stolen by a fraternity as a prank shortly before the fire, which ended up saving it. Although jumbo may live on only as toughs mascot in a set of bones in a museum closet, his third life, in many ways, is still going strong today. He's not only present every time we open up a box of animal crackers or watch a certain Disney movie. Here's a hint. It rhymes with jumbo, but nowadays he serves as a Lens, a sort of focal point through which we can look back at the culture and values of an age in society that shackled and displayed him. In jumbo we see an animal that was taxed or mate not for scientific study, but for the insatiable drive of one man and his desire to make a as much money from his attractions as he could, whether those attractions were dead...

...or alive. This has been here, you are, a podcast from the Department of History at the University of Rochester. The lead researcher for this episode was me, you and Shannon. This episode was produced by James Deats and sound engineering was by Bren Whiting, who also voice Scott, the handler. Adrian go voice PT Barnet. Music for this episode was provided by Joshua Kafferman, chat crouch, wibo loco and jockers dance orchestra. The coordinating producers for the season of here you are are my leapard and Liam Gusio's. The executive producers are Thomas Fleischman and Stephen Wrestler. Here you are is made possible by the teaching innovation grant at the University of Rochester, and be sure to check out the other episodes of here you are season two. Nature reconstructed at here you arecom thanks for listening.

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