April 13, 1796 — The first elephant arrived today in the United States from India. Captain Jacob Crowninshield brought it aboard the America, which set sail from Calcutta for New York on December 3, 1795. Upon speculation, he had purchased the pachyderm in India and brought it to America. The entire venture cost him $450.
Ten days later, the elephant was exhibited in at the corner of Beaver Street and Broadway. A Welshman named Owen offered to buy it for $10,000. From there, it seems the elephant went on tour constantly for many years.
The circus, as we know it today, was long in evolving and in colonial America, individual wild animals were put on display and an admission was charged. Slowly, exhibitors began adding more animals to their show; and by the early 1800’s, full fledge menageries were the trend.
The second elephant, brought to the United States in 1804, was named Old Bet. Hachaliah Bailey had purchased the menagerie elephant for $1,000. Old Bet lived until July 24, 1816, when it was killed while on tour near Alfred, Maine by local farmer Daniel Davis who shot her, and was later convicted of the crime.The farmer reportedly thought it was sinful for people to pay to see an animal.
In 1821, the Barnum’s American Museum in New York announced that they had bought the hide and bones of Old Bet and would mount the remains at the museum. The elephant was memorialized in 1825 with a statue and the Elephant Hotel in Somers, New York.
It is estimated that there were once more than 350 species of elephants in the world. Today we only have two of them left – the Asian and the Africa species.
Words of Wisdom
Some kinds of animals burrow in the ground; others do not. Some animals are nocturnal, as the owl and the bat; others use the hours of daylight. There are tame animals and wild animals. Man and the mule are always tame; the leopard and the wolf are invariably wild, and others, as the elephant, are easily tamed.