The most highly publicized elephant in the history was Jumbo, whose name has been added to our permanent vocabulary for denoting enormity. Barnum bought Jumbo from the London Zoological Gardens for the sum of $10,000. The bull had been a resident of Paris and London zoos since he was captured as a baby. He was over eleven feet high and he weighed about one ton less—6½ tons. So far as anyone knows, Jumbo was the largest elephant ever measured in captivity. As soon as the sale was made public, the English created a marketing bonanza for Barnum by demanding that it be cancelled. Thousands of school children and even Queen Victoria herself urged that the beloved Jumbo be kept on British soil. But their pleas fell on deaf ears; for by now, Barnum knew what he had gotten, and he boasted that he would even turn down an offer of 100,000 pounds to void the sale.
By the time Jumbo arrived in New York, he had generated such a sentimental hullabaloo on both sides of the Atlantic that he became the single biggest draw in Barnum’s career. The world went “Jumbo-crazy,” and for his part, the now gentle Jumbo seemed to love all the attention. For three and a half years, he was the much-loved feature attraction on the circus. In his career, he sold millions of souvenirs and photos on which he was portrayed, and gave “at least a million children” rides on his back. When he was killed by a passing freight train on September 15, 1885, in St. Thomas, Ontario, millions all over the world mourned him. Jumbo’s stuffed hide eventually went on display at Tufts University, where Barnum was a trustee, and it remained there until it was destroyed by fire in 1975. Jumbo’s bones were mounted and given to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, City.