Ringling Brother's Most Famous Elephant is Recalled in Ontario Community

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Ringling Brother's Most Famous Elephant is Recalled in Ontario Community

A Journey into Canada

News of the demise of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus triggered many thoughts.

Among them was about Jumbo The Elephant - the actual and the life-size monument in the elephant's memory that is located in St. Thomas, Ontario.

Jumbo was an African elephant born in 1861 in the French Sudan (now Mali). At age four he was exported to France and two years later he was sent to the London Zoo. According to the Mysteries of Canada website, in 1882 he began to "act up" and was sold for $10,000 to the "Greatest Show on Earth", the Barnum & Bailey Circus in New York City. Jumbo settled down and went on the road as the show's new headliner.

Jumbo is tied to St. Thomas because that is where the elephant was killed.

While out exercising, he tripped and fell on train tracks, impaling himself on his tusk and dying instantly. Shortly after his death, an unexpected locomotive ran over his body. Barnum told the story that he died saving a young circus elephant, Tom Thumb, from being hit by the locomotive, but other witnesses did not support this. The most popular version of the story has the elephant being struck and killed by the locomotive.

A life-size statue of the elephant was erected in 1985 in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada to commemorate the centennial of the elephant's death. It is located on Talbot Street on the west side of the city.

Jumbo's statue was made in New Brunswick and designed by Winston Bronnum, who also designed other well-known New Brunswick attractions, including the Maugerville Potato, the St. John Horse, the Penobsquis Mule, the Cow Bay Moose and the Shediac Lobster and Fisherman.

The Jumbo statue weighs 38 tons and stands in a base that weighs 100 tons. It is made of concrete with steel reinforcing rods. As this clip notes, it was constructed in New Brunswick. To make the 1,722-kilometre (1,070-mile) trip to St. Thomas possible, the upper legs and body were poured separately from the lower legs and base

Also in town, Railway City Brewing Company brews "Dead Elephant Ale," an IPA, in recognition of Jumbo's connection to St. Thomas's railway history. In 2006, the Jumbo statue was inducted into the North America Railway Hall of Fame in the category of "Railway Art Forms & Events" as having local significance.