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Miller, William J. Wilmington, Del. Modjeska, Helena. Memories and Impressions: An Autobiography. Modjeski, Ralph. Report on Manhattan Bridge. Louis, Mo. Chicago: H. Moisseiff, Leon S. In fact, however, the departure was delayed for nearly two months, during which Barnum happily reaped further publicity.
He was aided in the slowdown by the stubbornness and cupidity of Matthew Scott. The travelling cage was nearly a month in the building, but finally, pulled on a huge four-wheeled trolley by a half-dozen magnificent dray horses, it called for Jumbo at the zoo on Saturday, February 11, Scott managed to coax his elephant as far as the wooden ramp leading to the cage, and then he retired inconspicuously to the door of the elephant house. Jumbo, at the urging now of Newman and A. Bartlett, director of the zoo, placed a ponderous forefoot on the planks but could be induced to go no farther.
When two hours of gentle persuasion and sugared buns did not convince him, they had to give in and call Scott to come lead Jumbo back to the elephant house for the night. Nothing daunted, Newman conceived a new plan. Tomorrow he would walk Jumbo to the river, where, in quieter surroundings, he would be less apt to balk. The British press, it seems, had decided that Jumbo hesitated only because of a true sense of loyalty to English soil, but it was his behavior the next day that made English hearts go out more than ever to their beleaguered pet.
Bright and early on February 12 Jumbo plodded with his characteristic grace behind Scott down the gravel paths of the zoo to the entrance gate, thence to be led on foot to the dock from which he would embark. Halfway through the gate the animal stopped short and then backed nervously into the zoo grounds again.
Scott, in earshot of a horde of reporters, began to scold the elephant coarsely. Jumbo caressed Scott piteously with his trunk and moaned and whimpered so loudly that the birds in the nearby parrot house screeched in terror, starting up a wave of frightened tumult that reached to the far ends of the zoo.
Scott was staging the entire business. They dashed off in hansom cabs to file their stories while Scott led Jumbo back to the elephant house and Newman presumably threw up his hands. Whether the American saw through Scott or was purposely playing fall guy remains a fascinating question. What shall we do? The publicity is worth it. In the ensuing weeks publicity was plentiful. British hucksters were not ignorant of the storm of mawkish sympathy, and they immediately cranked out an avalanche of Jumbo products. There were Jumbo boots, Jumbo perfumes, Jumbo earrings, and Jumbo cigars, not to mention Jumbo letterheads, ties, fans, hats, collars, overcoats, and underwear.
Much poetry was written on the subject—little of it good, though one versifier suggested a remarkable remedy:. Take the Right Honourable and go! Leave Jumbo. And as the public temper over Jumbo rose daily, so did the number of his visitors. On one day in March, , Jumbo was seen by 4, sorrowing admirers compared with a crowd of the same day a year before , many of whom brought gifts to the elephant, which naturally were presented to his keeper. Therein lay one reason why Scott was delaying the removal for as long as possible. He was getting rich! So was the zoo.
Packed farewell receptions for Jumbo, on the grounds, grossed fifty thousand dollars to its treasury. It was suggested in the London Fun that the British lion be removed from the coat of arms and be replaced by the celebrated elephant, with the motto Dieu et Mon Jumbo. Justice Chitty, who ruled that public remorse over a perfectly legal transaction was not enough to cancel the contract.
By early March, Barnum had gained free publicity worth considerably more than the ten-thousand-dollar price tag. He had realized that Jumbo went wherever Scott led him but, fearful of becoming separated from his beloved keeper, refused to be sent away; and that Scott had carefully refrained from leading Jumbo toward the travelling cage or the dock.
Then Bartlett laid down the law to his troublesome underkeeper: Jumbo would be leaving England with or without him. Scott chose to so along. On Wednesday, March 15, Newman had the cage placed in position once more, and Scott led Jumbo to the door, where the huge elephant paused a moment, testing the floor, then lumbered calmly inside.
He was hauled to St. It took but eight minutes to hoist cage and elephant aboard and lower them into their specially reinforced hold. Jumbo took the crossing well and consumed in transit some two tons of hay, two sacks of biscuits and three of oats, and one sack of his favorite treat, onions. That beast has cost me fifty thousand dollars. And Scott, difficult as ever, demanded his own terms—and got them. When somebody produced a quart of whiskey, the keeper without hesitation gave it to Jumbo.
Barnum, a believer in temperance, was aghast. But Scott paid no more attention to Barnum than he had paid to Bartlett. He gave Jumbo a chaser of ale and affirmed that the elephant got beer daily and, when feeling poorly, a medicinal dose of two gallons of whiskey. Jumbo was a financial venture—a thirty-thousand-dollar venture—and Barnum was making every effort to get his money back. When the Greatest Show on Earth went out on its annual tour, Jumbo proved to be just as popular on the road as he was in New York, shattering all previous records of income; and if he had shown any signs of discontent in London, he lost them with the circus.
He was a superb performer and a natural-born traveller, but his easy adjustment to the strenuous life was no doubt due to the continuous presence of Matthew Scott, whose hypnotic power over the elephant never wavered. Whenever Jumbo felt lonely while Scott was sleeping, he would tease and annoy his keeper by groping through the door with his trunk and snatching such small articles as sheets and blankets. Man and beast still shared their daily quart of beer, and the story is told that one night, for some inexplicable reason, Scott forgot to share and guzzled the whole quart himself.
Surprised and obviously hurt, Jumbo waited until Scott was fast asleep before reaching through the door with his trunk and picking the rudely awakened Scott right out of his bed and setting him on the floor by the empty bottle. Scott never forgot again. So it went for two seasons—Jumbo enjoying his new life and Barnum raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars. After more than a hundred stops covering some eight thousand miles the circus train pulled into the town of St.
Thomas, Ontario, in the wee hours of September 15, As the train rolled into the Grand Trunk Railroad yards east of Woodworth Avenue, it was shifted to a siding. The main-line track ran in an eastwest direction; the siding that held the circus train was to the south of it, separated by only a few feet of gravel roadbed. On the north side of the track was a steep six-foot drop, at the bottom of which was a right-of-way fence and beyond that a vacant field where the big tops would be set up.
As the long train stopped on the siding some men uncoupled it near the middle, and the forward part was pulled up a few yards, to make the unloading and later the loading of the animals faster by eliminating the long walk around the end of the train. Everything seemed routine. Fred R. Armes, the operator in charge of the Grand Trunk Railroad depot at St.
Thomas that night, requested or so it was later claimed the circus men not to begin loading the elephants until that night, long after a westbound express freight was due to pass through. Even then they were to wait for a yard crew and, as still another precaution, to use a designated crossing, far up the track by the station. But the impatient elephant handlers tore down a section of right-of-way fence directly between the huge tents and the circus train and proceeded early in the evening to march the elephants up the embankment, across the main-line track, and into their cars.
They had been used to close the act, and it was about eight fifteen when Scott led the elephants through the dismantled fence and up the embankment and walked eastward with them down the main track to the waiting cars. Thomas rail yard, pulled by high-wheeled, diamondstacked locomotive It was not scheduled to stop in St. Thomas, and as it neared the rail yard it entered a downgrade and gained speed. To engineer William Burnip everything was going routinely.
But as he scanned the track ahead he saw—or thought he saw, in the pitifully weak light of the kerosene lamp above the cowcatcher—a hulking gray silhouette, a shade lighter than the surrounding night, looming over the rails. As the train roared closer Burnip, thunderstruck, dimly perceived not one blur but two— elephants , plodding toward him!
Reacting frantically, he lunged for the Johnson bar, throwing the engine mechanism into reverse, and blew three short blasts on the whistle for brakes. It was two years before the installation of the Westinghouse air brake, so all the braking had to be done manually by the brakeman, who turned the great handwheels at the end of each boxcar. Slowly, car by car, the wheels locked with a banshee screech, shooting glowing sparks high in the air, as did the high wheels of the locomotive, now churning backward as the engine reversed itself.
But Burnip must have known the situation was hopeless. The feeble head-lamp had not reflected the dull gray hides of the elephants until it was too late, and moreover the train was still gaining speed on the downgrade. Seeing that collision was absolutely inevitable, Burnip and his fireman could do nothing but save themselves, and they leaped from the cab at the last instant.
Exactly what happened next is, to the present day, not definitely known, and several totally irreconcilable versions have been published. Some forty years later a Barnum and Bailey circus clown with a fine sense of the dramatic said that Jumbo stood his ground, facing the oncoming freight, bellowing with rage.
But what actually happened, as far as can be determined, was unromantic. Scott was running beside Jumbo, desperately urging the beast to run down the steep embankment to safety, but Jurnbo refused to try it. Instead he tried instinctively to outdistance the train, but sadly for him elephants are incapable of genuine running—they can only walk fast—so he was doomed to lose. Scott saw that there was no chance of reaching the end of the circus train and ducking behind it—the express would catch them long before that. But there was the break where two cars had been uncoupled to let the animals pass through.
Yes, the break! When they were at last a bare three car lengths from the narrow opening, the speeding express freight crashed into Tom Thumb, who had been lagging farther and farther behind. The cowcatcher caught him low on the hind legs and spun him off the track, down the embankment into a telephone pole and finally into a fence, with a broken leg.
Just as he stopped and before he could turn around, the locomotive slammed into his backside. Jumbo went to his knees, and the train skidded off the rails with such driving force that it shoved him violently under the heavy iron wheel-carriage of a circus car, pulverizing the massive skull and driving a tusk back into his brain. Burnip and his fireman picked themselves up from the ground, badly shaken but not seriously injured. Some circus men pulled the crippled Tom Thumb to his feet and helped him down the track.
He would live, though he would limp for the rest of his days. Scott was stunned as he approached the crumpled body of his companion of twenty years.