Monday, 20 January 2014

"Tiny" elephant in store window, and a storm-tossed "dwarf" elephant on a "snake-laden ship"

Two newspaper archive reports of "pygmy" elephants have come my way, once again thanks to Richard Muirhead.

The one below is from the Tacoma Times of March 23 1909, describes the "tiny" elephant "Little Hip" performing in the window of Ryner Malstrom's Drug Store on Pacific Avenue (presumably in Tacoma, Washington State.) This is almost certainly a trained baby or infant Asian elephant. Pygmy Elephants goes into detail about several performing infant elephants in the employ of the great circus impresario PT Barnum, and relates the sad story of what happened to one of them when he was too big to be a cute "trick elephant" anymore.

A baby or infant elephant is the likely explanation for the "Snake Laden Ship" article from an unknown New York newspaper of 18 February 1911 (see top). It tells the story of the Manchester Castle arriving in New York from "the Orient" with 20-foot "snakes by the dozen" and a "'dwarf' elephant of three-foot height" after an eventful, storm-tossed voyage. As I go into in Pygmy Elephants, baby or infant elephants were much easier to transport across Oceans than well-nigh impossible to ship adult elephants. Note the quotation marks in the article around "dwarf" - as if the author (or sub-editor) knows it's not a real dwarf we're dealing with.

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