There are Elephants in the Room … # 13

There are Elephants in the Room … # 13

A cure for my 1951 Elephant Fixation was in sight.

 Believe me. I was almost there … 

Until I discovered …

‘JUMBO’  ~ THE AMAZING MECHANICAL ELEPHANT

Jumbo and keeper

Convinced that the world needed gasoline and electric-powered mechanical elephants, British theatrical prop builder Frank Stuart founded a company in called Mechanimals, which put these powered pachyderms into production in the early 1950s. Though estimates vary, it’s believed that a total of 10 were built before Stuart declared bankruptcy.

In 1951 he produced Mechanimal #2 and named it JumboJumbo was delivered to its first owner in the United States in 1951. Purchased by Cunningham Drug Stores, Jumbo was used to promote “Jumbo Photo Prints” and “Jumbo Milk Shakes.” 

mech-elephant-billboard23jun1951

This is a Detroit  newspaper clipping from June 1951.

A mechanical elephant ride, built in England, has been delivered to Cunningham Drug Stores. Device will be taken to 100 stores of the drug chain and to schools and playgrounds to give youngsters free rides. According to the drug company, the mechanical elephant is the first to be used in this country. It is in the shape of an elephant and powered by a gasoline engine. Moving on pneumatic rams which simulate a walking motion, its speed ranges from 2 to 27 miles an hour, and the robot gets about 15 miles to a gallon of gasoline. It is 12 feet long and 8.5 feet high. Seats accommodate about 10 children.

mech-elephant-billboard7jul1951

Another clipping from June 30 1951

Jumbo took a tumble in July 1951. Poor thing broke his leg.

mech-elephant-billboard4aug1951

jumbo-syracuseheraldjournal17jul1951-x640

jumbo-leg-collapse-51

 Jumbo was soon restored to the rudest of health and continued his job for Cunningham Drug Stores for the next 2 years. 

In July 1953 he was put up for sale.

mech-elephant-billboard-18jul1953

 Jumbo was sold to a new owner. After passing through a few more hands, Jumbo was repurchased by Cunningham Drug Stores in 1961, but used for static display purposes only.

All these years later and Jumbo is still alive and kicking. He has had a number of owners and rebuilds along the way and has even changed his name to Wendell but he is doing fine. In 2016 he was put up for auction on Saturday, September 3, 2016 and sold for $275,000.

Looking good Jumbo ... Looking good.

Looking good Jumbo … Looking good.

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4 responses to “There are Elephants in the Room … # 13

  1. What a fascinating story! A good pet for the owners – no food to purchase or dung to clean up!

  2. Wow, that is one of the strangest stories I’ve read. So 1950s too.

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