Ed Gotwalt and Miss Ellie.
The late Ed Gotwalt and Miss Ellie.

Mister Ed's Elephant Museum

Field review by the editors.

Orrtanna, Pennsylvania

The late Ed Gotwalt had elephants on the brain. That's what friends and visitors told him -- frequently. So when he saw a sculpted human head in Mexico, tiny elephants bursting from the skull, he had to add it to the collection at Mr. Ed's Elephant Museum

According to Ed, his passion for pachyderms was not all that unusual. "There are elephant collectors by the thousands," he told us. "Almost everyone who walks through the front door here either has a collection, or knows someone who collects, maybe 3 or 400 pieces. But when they see this," Ed fanned his hand at the knickknack-crowded shelves, "it blows them away."

Ed collected over 5,000 elephant-related pieces for his museum, which first opened in 1984. The museum is now run by his granddaughter, and Ed himself passed away on his 84th birthday in Februray 2021

Elephant sculpture.

Ironically, he was once a peanut dealer, and traced back a hobby gone nuts all the way to 1967. When Ed passed that 3- or 400-piece milestone, nothing could slow him down. He traveled around the world in pursuit of rare elephant items. "I'm trying to find really unusual pieces," Ed said as he pointed to various favorites. While he fawned over his eclectic sculptures and carvings, he also had a soft spot for folksy elephantalia.

"This is an actual elephant potty chair -- useable -- made right over in Chambersburg...."

The bulk of the displays, along with news clips and posters, are arrayed in two long narrow rooms. There are photos of celebrities that Ed met over the years. A red, white, and blue pin from 1976 shows an elephant squeezing a large peanut with his trunk: "Don't Settle for Peanuts, Elect Ford." Many items are tiny, cute, or more serious objets d'art, arranged on narrow glass shelves. Nothing is labeled, presenting a significant handicap to today's visitors. Back when Ed ran the place, he was always ready to tell the story behind any particular treasure, even down to recalling price-by-price bartering at flea markets and antique shops.

Ed and the Elepotty.
Ed and the Elepotty.

As Ed was fond of saying, "Yes, I have elephants on the brain."

Mister Ed's Elephant Museum

Address:
6019 Chambersburg Rd, Orrtanna, PA
Directions:
Rt. 30, 12 miles west of Gettysburg.
Hours:
Daily 10-5 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
717-352-3792
Admission:
Free
Save to My Sights

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