Jumbo The Elephant arrives in New York


In 1882, Abraham Bartlett, superintendent of the London zoo, sparked a national controversy with his decision to sell Jumbo to the American entertainer, Phineas T. Barnum of the Barnum & Bailey Circus for £2,000 (US$10,000). This decision came as a result of concern surrounding Jumbo's growing aggression and potential to cause a public disaster. The sale of Jumbo, however, sent the citizens of London into a panic, because they viewed the transaction as an enormous loss for the British empire. 100,000 school children wrote to Queen Victoria begging her not to sell the elephant. John Ruskin, a fellow of the Zoological Society, wrote in The Morning Post in February 1882: "I, for one of the said fellows, am not in the habit of selling my old pets or parting with my old servants because I find them subject occasionally, perhaps even "periodically," to fits of ill temper; and I not only "regret" the proceedings of the council, but disclaim them utterly, as disgraceful to the city of London and dishonourable to common humanity." Despite a lawsuit against the Zoological Gardens alleging the sale was in violation of multiple zoo bylaws, and the zoo's attempt to renege on the sale, the court upheld the sale. Matthew Scott elected to go with Jumbo to the USA. The London Daily Telegraph begged Barnum to lay down terms on which he would return Jumbo; however, no such terms existed in the eyes of Barnum.In New York, Barnum exhibited Jumbo at Madison Square Garden, earning enough in three weeks from the enormous crowds to recoup the money he spent to buy the animal. In the 31-week season, the circus earned $1.75M, largely due to its star attraction. On May 17, 1884, Jumbo was one of Barnum's 21 elephants that crossed the Brooklyn Bridge to prove that it was safe after 12 people died during a stampede caused by mass panic over collapse fears a year earlier.

Arrived, 1882
Exhibited, May 17, 1884

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