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Ron & Donna Miller - Publishers

The Most Famous Elephant Was
Named Jumbo, Not Dumbo

Undoubtedly, the most famous elephant that ever lived was Jumbo. His fame spanned several decades and two continents, and his fans included Queen Victoria of England and that American King of Show Biz, P.T. Barnum. Jumbo’s fame was so great that his name itself was introduced into the language meaning anything that is “extra large.”

The history of Jumbo began in 1865 when he was traded to the Regent’s Park Zoo in London by the Jardin des Plantes Zoo in Paris. The then-little African elephant took his name from a derived African word that at that time meant “a clumsy or unwieldy fellow.”

For the next 17 years he grew, gave rides on his back and generally became a great favorite of English zoo-goers.

But by 1880, Jumbo was reaching full maturity and showing signs of being dangerous. Zoo officials were faced with the need to dispose of him before he killed someone.

At this point, Barnum entered the picture. He offered the London Zoological Society $2,000, and this generous offer was quickly accepted.

The outcry from the public press, and even the Queen, was instantaneous and loud. Jumbo added to the story himself as he knelt down on his way from the Zoo to the docks and refused to move.

Barnum was ecstatic over all of the uproar. He cabled his reaction, “Let him lie there a week if he wants to. It is the best advertisement in the world.”

Jumbo eventually got back up, and on April 10, 1882, arrived in New York aboard the Assyrian Monarch. “Jumbomania” arrived with him.

Barnum‘s ad for Jumbo’s appearance the next day at Madison Square Gardens appeared in the New York Times, heralding “That Colossus of Elephants now here, JUMBO, the biggest and most famous animal in the world.”

For the next three years, Jumbo traveled in a specially designed railway van dubbed “Jumbo’s Palace Car,” and he thrilled audiences wherever he went.

Then on September 15, 1885, while Jumbo was being led along a train track at St. Thomas in western Ontario, he was struck by a freight train and killed.

A variety of items are available to anyone interested in “Jumbomania.” A piece by a Staffordshire pottery would be a good find. In fact, there were so many things made at the time that one London newspaper complained of “Jumbos in India-rubber, Jumbos in terra cotta, Jumbos in porcelain, Jumbos in ivory, Jumbos in Meerschaum.”
In the United States, souvenir production on the fancier side included a pressed glass butter dish with a frosted glass elephant as the knob on the lid and a spoonholder designed to stand on a table and consisting of an ornate glass column over a foot high on top of which is a frosted Jumbo.

On the inexpensive side, there were cards that were given away with thread, charms, photographs, paper hats, pull toys, peanut butter jars, cigarette boxes and a Jumbo metal Crackerjack premium.

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‘Snow’ Scene Paperweights Have Had
Many Years Of Popularity

Enesco made these half-dome snowdomes for each month of its Precious Moments line. In this one, the “snow” is actually small butterflies.

The earliest snowdome, or snow-and-water paperweight, may have been what was shown at the Paris Universal Exposition in 1878. In the book Snowdomes, by Nancy McMichael, the author quotes a report from that event describing “Paper weights of hollow balls filled with water... and a white powder which, when the paperweight is turned upside down, falls in imitation of a snow storm...”

Today, so many different types have been made that a collector almost needs to decide on a specific type or theme on which to base his snowdome collection. Probably the most popular area and also the one with the greatest selection is the Christmas theme, although the general category of “souvenirs” is close behind.

The popularity continued through the first half of the 20th century, but by the 1950s, plastic had replaced glass in the making of the domes. More complex interiors were also being made.

In Germany, plastic snowdomes were produced by several manufacturers; two of the main importers to America of these novelties were B. Shackman and Kurt S. Adler, Inc. They continued to import plastic domes from Germany into the 1960s. In addition to the round shape, many were made as half domes, usually with blue backs. There were also a few other simple shapes used.

By the mid-1960s, Hong Kong manufacturers had also discovered the appeal of colorful plastic snowdomes and they became a staple of their export business. They were influenced in their production by their American importers, of which Kurt S. Adler became one of the primary ones.

Another major importer was the Enesco Corp. It began importing Christmas snowdomes from the Orient in the 1970s, both the standard round kind and other more elaborately designed shapes. The importing trend continues, and snowdomes are available in most places where inexpensive giftware is sold.

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