"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

The elephant is not always in the living room.  She can sometimes be found in the kitchen!

 The "New York Times," February 22, 1891:
Hermann Reiche of 147 East Fifty-seventh Street is a dealer in wild animals. He does a large business as an importer of elephants, tigers, snakes, and other features of menageries. Last April he brought from Ceylon to his establishment up town a very intelligent young elephant, four years old, which he christened Fanchon. The animal soon manifested an unusual degree of intelligence and such an adventurous disposition that Mr. Reiche concluded to educate her as a trick elephant. His man, George Brown, became her tutor. Brown cares for the animals, and lives, with his wife and three children, in apartments over the stables.

Fanchon became proficient in bicycle riding, walking on pegs, dancing on a stool, and like elephantine accomplishments. She was soon to be shipped to Paris. She had developed no fault, except an overweening curiosity. Up to yesterday, however, this had led her into no serious escapades.

Fanchon's diet consists entirely of a porridge of barley, wheat, and oats, which is cooked for her regularly three times a day in the kitchen above the stable. Her luncheon hour is noon, and when the stable clock strikes twelve Fanchon elevates her trunk and blows a trumpet call for food.

Yesterday morning Mr. Reiche and Keeper Brown went out together to purchase horses, and they did not get back until long after the noon hour. Fanchon tooted at 12. There was no response. Five minutes passed and no porridge came. Fanchon's patience gave out, and slipping her foot strap she set out for the kitchen to investigate. From the stable to the kitchen above is a long, wide, and steep stairway with over thirty steps and a turn. The animal--she weighs three tons--began the ascent to the kitchen. Mrs. Brown heard a familiar snorting in the hallway. 

Running to the door she was amazed to see the elephant poking her way into the kitchen. Mrs. Brown's little girl baby was asleep in the kitchen, and the mother was terrified. She darted through a side door, seized her child, and slamming all the doors ran down stairs and into the street shrieking "Fire!" A policeman came up on a run, but when he heard the story he was at a loss to know how Fanchon was to be "run in." The news of the elephant's doings spread, and in a few minutes 500 persons were in front of the menagerie. Just when the excitement was highest the kitchen window was pushed up and Fanchon dropped her curling trunk out through the opening and peered mischievously down at the gaping crowd.

In the midst of the confusion Reiche and Brown appeared. Brown found that the elephant had been playing havoc with whatever was in range in the kitchen. Pots, kettles, and pans, flour, vegetables, and cooking utensils were scattered, the result of Fanchon's search for porridge.

The problem now was to get the unwieldy creature down. Descent by the stairs would be unsafe, for Fanchon's ballast is so placed that she would be apt to roll end over end to the bottom. The only feasible method was to build a substantial gangplank from the kitchen window to the high iron fence next to the walk, and then, with a gradual slope, to the ground. That will involve work all day to-day. To-morrow the question will arise, Will Fanchon consent to squeeze through the window and try the descent? The experiment will be watched by hundreds.

Last night Fanchon was provided with a bed in Mr. Brown's upper hallway. She appeared to be contented.

After five carpenters worked three days to build a toboggan slide, Fanchon was gently urged out of her kitchen--not without some reluctance on her part, as she had made herself exceedingly comfortable there--and New York's free show was finally over. And hopefully, all those humans learned a much-needed lesson about the importance of timely elephant lunches.

I was unable to learn about Fanchon's subsequent career, but I hope she went on to live a long, happy, and well-fed life.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, one shouldn't keep a multi-ton customer waiting for her meals. Elephants are apparently as much creatures of habit as cats; I'm glad my cats don't have the capacity to do what Fanchon did when their food is a little late.


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