Jumbo’s stroll over New York’s Brooklyn Bridge

The ‘world’s biggest elephant’ helped to raise awareness about the famous bridge’s safety, while also promoting P.T. Barnum’s circus.

Following 13 years of construction, New York’s Brooklyn Bridge was opened in 1883. It was a marvel of engineering and the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time.

Only six days after its opening, tragedy struck. Somebody fell down the steps of the bridge causing panic. The stampede to get off resulted in the death of twelve people.  The public began to have doubts about the bridge’s stability and safety.

Seeing an opportunity, P.T. Barnum hatched a plan to put the public’s mind at ease about the bridge. He took his troop of elephants, led by the famous Jumbo, for a walk across the bridge’s expanse. Barnum’s ploy was a success. The sight of twenty elephants as they crossed the bridge quashed rumours about the bridge and was a great promotional opportunity for Barnum’s circus.

For more watch Jumbo: The Life of An Elephant Superstar

Available on CBC Gem

Jumbo: The Life Of An Elephant Superstar

Nature of Things