On September 15, 1885 a westbound Grant Trunk Locomotive struck and killed Jumbo the Elephant of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Jumbo was the most famous elephant in the world, and beloved on two continents. His death was world wide news. It is likely the most widely reported event to take place in Elgin County history.
The name and image of Jumbo has become a recurring theme through St. Thomas history. The most obvious reminder of this event is the statue of Jumbo in the City's west end. Civic celebrations have commemorated the event, businesses have invoked his image, and the name “Jumbo” has become a byword for, “supremely large” in the language of advertising.
Although the death of Jumbo is a tragic, and largely random event, the deeper one studies the characters and circumstances surrounding this magnificent animal, we are drawn into a complex world of money, fame, exploitation, and in some cases deep caring and affection.
Trainer Matthew Scott, empresario P. T. Barnum, zoologist Abraham Dee Bartlett, or taxidermist Carl Akeley all have their own stories, all tied to Jumbo and his fate.