Jumbo the Elephant: Statue and Ashes
Jumbo was the world's first true celebrity elephant, a behemoth whose name has become an eponym for thick-skinned peanut-eaters everywhere. His owner, P.T. Barnum, promoted Jumbo as the largest elephant on earth, and circus-goers from every civilized nation came to pay him homage.
Tragically, at the peak of his popularity, Jumbo was run over by a freight train on September 15, 1885. A lesser elephant would have been bulldozed into a pit and forgotten. Not Jumbo. His skeleton was preserved and is in the collection of New York City's Museum of Natural History (though mostly kept in storage). His 1,500+-pound hide was scraped clean, stuffed, and put on display at Tufts University. After generations of students embraced him as their own, he became the school's official mascot, and teams are still called The Tufts Jumbos.
Tragedy struck again in 1975, when a mysterious fire destroyed the now highly-combustible elephant.
But Jumbo's memory would not be snuffed out. Phyllis Byrne, a Tufts athletic dept. administrative assistant, had maintenance man George Wilson wade into the smoking debris and scrape Jumbo's ashes into a Peter Pan Crunchy Peanut Butter jar. Jumbo's concentrated remains were then locked in a safe in the University's athletic department (A fragment of Jumbo's tail is filed in the Tufts Archives).
Jumbo's aura still lingers over Tufts. A life-size statue of the elephant is to be unveiled on the Quad in late 2014. And Tufts athletes who rub the peanut butter jar before their games report good luck.
[Note: Jumbo II died in 1936 from eating glass.]