JUMBO THE ELEPHANT AND P.T. BARNUM
Lot 371
JUMBO THE ELEPHANT AND P.T. BARNUM
Sold for £3,840 (US$ 6,270) inc. premium

Lot Details
JUMBO THE ELEPHANT AND P.T. BARNUM
Papers of A.D. Bartlett, Superintendent of London Zoo, relating to the sale by him of Jumbo the Elephant to Phineas T. Barnum in 1882, comprising:

(i) Autograph letter signed by Barnum, to A.D. Bartlett, enquiring about the possibility of the sale ("...My Manager Bailey called you over my name asking price for your tall elephant... Our Agent Warner writes that your elephant is so nervous it would be impossible to get him alive to New York. This may be correct, but I don't like the word 'impossible' and I fancy that with care, watchfulness, kind treatment and plenty of chains we could land him in New York... If you will kindly write us the lowest sum in cash that will buy him, also your ideas about his temper, age, &c if you conclude to sell him, I shall feel obliged..."), and sending best wishes ("...I am quite well and cheerful, as I sincerely hope you are..."), 2 pages, 8vo, slight staining, especially on blank verso, Waldemere, Bridgeport, Connecticut, 14 December 1881

(ii) Autograph letter signed by Barnum, to Barlett's son Clarence, Assistant Superintendent at the zoo, written after the sale ("...Through your untiring exertions in aiding us to remove Jumbo from the Zoological Gardens, I am in a large degree indebted for the privilege of exhibiting in the United States the great Elephantine wonder which is now so well known throughout the civilized world...") and sending him a watch [not present], 3 pages, 8vo, autograph envelope, some staining, Waldemere, 26 May 1882

(iii) Presentation stirling bowl with serving spoon and fork, the base engraved: 'A.D. Bartlett. From His Friend/ P.T. Barnum/ June 1st 1882', chased with Gilded Age motifs in oriental taste, 780 mm. high x 2250 mm. long [see the associated letter in the Christian Fechner Magic Collection, Swann Galleries, 27 October 2005, lot 2054022]

(iv) Autograph letter signed by the African explorer Sir Samuel Baker, to Mr Bartlett, about Jumbo ("...I thank you very much for your kindness in sending me these beautiful photos of the African Jumbo - I send them to Messrs Macmillan & Co who will have them engraved, and take the greatest care of them; after completion of the drawing they will return them to you..."), 2 pages, 8vo, second leaf laid down, Sandford Orleigh, 19 November 1889

(v) Album compiled by the Bartlett family, including autograph letters etc., mostly to A.D. and Clarence Bartlett, by P.T. Barnum (proposing to call in on London Zoo, 10 October 1873, on 'Barnum's Great Museum Menagerie and Circus' headed paper), Sir Clements Markham (about Scott's 1901-4 expedition: "Mr Barrow says that you will kindly let us see the dogs for the Antarctic Expedition", 5 July [1901]), Sir Richard Owen (recommending a taxidermist), Sir George Grove ("...it gave me great distress not to be able to come to your father's funeral...What a good, delightful, man he was..."), Phil May, Lillie Langtry (signed card), and others

Footnotes

  • "EXHIBITING IN THE UNITED STATES THE GREAT ELEPHANTINE WONDER": P.T. BARNUM BUYS JUMBO THE ELEPHANT FROM LONDON ZOO.

    Jumbo the Elephant had been captured as a two-year-old calf in 1861 in the French Sudan, bought by a collector, and sold on to the Jardin des Plantes, Paris. In 1865 he was transferred to London Zoo, where he was named by his keepers (possibly from the Swahili 'Jumbe', for chief), and became a national institution, giving rides to thousands children. Barnum himself recalled in his autobiography Struggles and Triumphs: "I had often looked wistfully on Jumbo, but with no hope of ever getting possession of him, as I knew him to be a great favorite of Queen Victoria, whose children and grandchildren are among the tens of thousands of British juveniles whom Jumbo had carried on his back. I did not suppose he would ever be sold". But in 1882, as a result of our letter to Bartlett, Barnum secured his wish, and Jumbo was purchased for $10,000. There was an outcry, and attempts were made to stop the sale. The Daily Telegraph summoned up the national mood: "No more quiet garden strolls, no shady trees, green lawns, and flowery thickets... Our amiable monster must dwell in a tent, take part in the routine of a circus, and, instead of his bygone friendly trots with British girls and boys, and perpetual luncheons on buns and oranges, must amuse a Yankee mob, and put up with peanuts and waffles". Once across the Atlantic, Jumbo garnered Barnum even more publicity, and revenue, until, on 15 September 1885, he was struck down and killed by a train while crossing the tracks at St Thomas, Ontario. Barnum had his skin mounted which he toured for four years, and then presented to Tufts University, where it was to be destroyed by fire in 1975. The skeleton Barnum presented to the American Museum of Natural History. (For a full account of Jumbo's history, see Susan Wilson, 'An Elephant's Tale', in Tufts Magazine Online, Spring 2002).

    Barnum's correspondent, Abraham Dee Bartlett (1812-1897), served for many years as Superintendent at London Zoo, where he was assisted by his younger son, and eventual successor, Clarence (c.1848-1903): "To the public, Bartlett was the zoo, a familiar figure in his long coat and top hat. Among notable zoo events with which he was associated was the controversial sale of the famous elephant Jumbo to P. T. Barnum. As a child he had seen an elephant run amok at the Exeter 'Change menagerie, and knew Jumbo had become too dangerous to remain in the zoo" (ODNB). He is the great-great-grandfather of the present owner.
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