The Elgin Military Museum may well be the only military museum on the continent that has a room dedicated to an elephant. However, Jumbo, the largest elephant ever held in captivity, met his demise here in St. Thomas, Ontario on September 15, 1885. In 1985, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of his death, a life-size monument of this gentle animal was installed on the brow of the hill a hundred yards up the street from the Museum. Finding a home for the monument had proved to be a significant problem until several members of the museum board (who just happened to serve on the Jumbo Monument Committee) convinced other members of the museum board to permit the statue of Jumbo to be placed in the parking lot the museum had just built on Talbot Street.
Name became a Symbol of all Things Large
Born in present day Mali, Africa in 1861, after capture, Jumbo was sent first to the Paris Zoo and then on to the London Zoo. In 1882, zoo patrons petitioned Queen Victoria asking that she step in and not permit him to be sold to P.T. Barnum for his circus. His size was reported to be 10 feet 7 inches (3.25 metres) when in the London Zoo, and at the time of his death, he was said to be approximately 13 feet 1 inch (4 metres) tall. His name, Jumbo, has now come to mean anything extraordinarily large - an ignominious end to the story of such a noble creature.
Met his Demise
A much repeated, if not totally accurate story, states that after an evening performance of the Barnum Circus in St. Thomas, Jumbo and a young elephant known as Tom Thumb were being led by their trainer, Mr. Scott, to their special rail cars. When an unscheduled freight train came down the track, Jumbo pushed his trainer and Tom Thumb to the side but was unable to get out of the way himself and was killed. It is said by some that elephants are terrified of ditches like those beside the tracks and perhaps this is the reason he failed to step out of the way into the ditch.
Hannibal is Waiting for You
The Jumbo room contains artifacts relating to the life of this great elephant and the lore which has grown up around him. If you have any items relating to Jumbo that you would consider loaning or donating to the Museum, please let us know and we would be happy to discuss this with you. Hannibal, an original carousel horse from the Conklin midway, looks out the window at Jumbo.