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Jumbo: Marvel, Myth, and Mascot

Curated by Dr. Andrew McClellan

September 11 – December 7, 2014
Koppelman Family Gallery

In the fall of 2014 Tufts University will celebrate the 125th anniversary of the arrival on campus of our mascot Jumbo the Elephant with the unveiling of a life-size bronze statue on the main quad by Carmel, CA-based sculptor Steven Whyte and an exhibition at the Tufts University Art Gallery entitled Jumbo: Marvel, Myth, and Mascot, curated by Tufts Professor of Art History and Museum Studies Andrew McClellan.

Jumbo came to Tufts as a gift from P.T. Barnum, one of the University's founding trustees. Jumbo arrived posthumously in 1889, a few years after he was killed in a railroad accident and subsequently prepared for display by the noted taxidermist Henry Ward of Rochester. Jumbo was the centerpiece of the campus natural history museum (now Barnum Hall) until a fire burned the building and its contents in 1975. Jumbo lives on as the Tufts mascot and we aim to commemorate his arrival in grand style in the fall.

The exhibition will be the first of its kind to narrate Jumbo's life story from star of the London Zoo to college mascot by means of original images (posters, couriers, photographs, etc.) and artifacts drawn from public and private collections in the U.S. and Canada. A fully-illustrated book will accompany the show. The exhibition is comprised of three sections. Jumbo as Marvel will be devoted to Jumbo's journey from Africa and his rise to celebrity at the London Zoo. Section two focuses on Jumbo's purchase for Barnum's circus, "The Greatest Show on Earth," and his transformation into a larger-than-life "mythic" creature and household name. The final section documents his tragic death in a train accident and afterlife in popular culture, as the centerpiece of the Tufts natural history museum, and as beloved college mascot.

Jumbo: Marvel, Myth, & Mascot
A lecture by Andrew McClellan, Professor of Art History at Tufts
October 16, 2014

Alumnae Lounge

This lecture draws on a trove of rich images to celebrate the extraordinary life and legacy of Jumbo the Elephant, the most famous of animals and most distinctive of college mascots. 2014 is the 125th anniversary of Jumbo's arrival on campus, a gift of founding trustee and benefactor, P. T. Barnum. Tufts is commemorating the anniversary with a new, life-size bronze statue statue of Jumbo on the Medford campus as well as Professor McClellan's book and exhibition at the Tufts Art Gallery titled "Jumbo: Marvel, Myth, & Mascot." The exhibition runs at the Tufts Gallery from September 11-December 7 and will be open before and after the lecture. The book is available at the Gallery and by phone order from the Tufts Bookstore.

Jumbo Sculpture >

Documentary about Jumbo >


Jumbo: Mrs. Potts cold handle sad irons, n.d., Ink on paper, Courtesy of the Tibbals Digital Collection