Jumbofrom Ontario, Canada
Jumbo was the first international animal superstar, and the first African elephant to reach modern Europe alive. He was born in East Africa, and captured there by Arabian hunters in early 1862. He was sold first to an Italian animal dealer, then to a menagerie in Germany, and then to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. Officials of the Jardin traded him to the London Zoological Gardens for a rhinoceros. Jumbo lived in the London Zoo for about 16 years, where he delighted visitors by taking them on trips around the zoo grounds in the howdah on his back.
Jumbo was the biggest elephant in captivity. Due to this, American showman P. T. Barnum wanted Jumbo in his circus, eventually buying the elephant in 1882 for $10,000. Jumbo's sale initiated public outrage in Britain, and drew notice around the world. The British objected to the sale, and wrote letters to Queen Victoria urging that Jumbo remain in London. The courts ruled in Barnum's favor however, and the elephant was shipped to the United States. "Jumbomania", a fad for all things Jumbo, was born at this time. The civilized world was flooded with Jumbo neckties, jewelry, soaps, and other ornaments and souvenirs.
Jumbo debuted in the United States on Easter Sunday 1882 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He toured with Barnum's circus for three years. On September 15, 1885, Jumbo was killed in a railway accident in St Thomas, Ontario, Canada, at age 24. His death was met with worldwide grief and sorrow.
Barnum sued the railway, but settled for much less than he asked because he needed the goodwill of the railway to move his circus around Canada. Many conspiracy theories sprang up after Jumbo's death. One accused Barnum of causing the elephant's death with a pistol shot to the animal's eye. This theory was proven false after an examination of Jumbo's skull.
Jumbo attracted as much attention after his death as he did in life. His hide was stuffed and his bones preserved. Both were displayed first with Barnum's circus, and then with museums. Jumbo was donated to the Barnum museum at Tufts University where it became the school mascot. His hide was destroyed in a fire at Tufts in 1975. His skeleton was displayed for many years in the American Museum of Natural History, New York City. As time passed, people forgot who Jumbo was, and the skeleton was put away. Jumbo's greatest legacy is his name. In the English language, it means "huge" or, at least, "very large".