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Poster: Jumbo the Children's Giant Pet.

Jumbo the Elephant: Statue and Ashes

Field review by the editors.

Medford, Massachusetts

Died 1885

Pet Cemetery.

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 on April 4, 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).

Lucky Ashes of Jumbo.

Jumbo's aura still lingers over Tufts. A life-size statue of the elephant was unveiled on the Quad in April 2015 (A paper mache stand-in statue, bought from the closed Benson's Wild Animal Farm in the 1990s, was quietly removed in 2014). And Tufts athletes who rub the peanut butter jar before their games report good luck.

Note: Jumbo's successor, Jumbo II, died in 1936 from eating glass.

Also see: Elephant Burial Ground | Roadside Pet Cemetery Team Field Report

Jumbo the Elephant: Statue and Ashes

Tufts University

163 Packard Ave., Medford, MA
Jumbo's ashes are kept in a jar in the Athletics office -- you can stop in an ask for a quick viewing. A life-size statue of Jumbo was unveiled outside Barnum Hall in April 2015.
Save to My Sights

Life-Size Jumbo the Elephant, He Died Here

Talbot St., St. Thomas, ON, Canada
West edge of town. On the north side of Talbot St., next to a caboose. Just east of Hwy 4 and north of the train tracks.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Washington Command Monument and TreeWashington Command Monument and Tree, Cambridge, MA - 2 mi.
Easter Island FishermanEaster Island Fisherman, Cambridge, MA - 1 mi.
Uncle Sam Birthplace StatueUncle Sam Birthplace Statue, Arlington, MA - 2 mi.
In the region:
The Ship Stone: Knights Templar, Westford, MA - 20 mi.

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