An elephant in the archives

Today’s post is from VCU Libraries Special Collections and Archives.

Holding out the hope of a ride on the back of P.T. Barnum’s recently purchased Jumbo, this 19th century trade card, printed by J. H. Bufford’s Sons, advertises “Prospective fun for the children” along with the Richmond Stove Company.

M439 B3r Richmond Stove Co Elephant crop resz

Jumbo was an African bush elephant captured as an infant in French Sudan. Sold first to a German menagerie, he was imported to France, then transferred to England. He became famous for giving rides to children at the London Zoo until he was sold to the Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1881. When the prospective sale became public knowledge 100,000 school children wrote to Queen Victoria begging her not to sell the elephant. Jumbo did come to America where he was a great sensation and where, unfortunately, he died in a railway accident in 1885. His skeleton was given to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and his stuffed hide was donated to Tufts University where it resided in P.T. Barnum Hall for many years. Today, Jumbo is the official mascot of Tufts.

This card is one of many fascinating items in the Charles E. Brownell Collection of Architectural and Decorative Arts Ephemera (M 439 Special Collections and Archives) which you can see in person on the 4th floor of VCU’s James Branch Cabell Library.

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