Since the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in May of 1883, elephants have crossed into lower Manhattan. It was a hallowed and wholesome tradition, started by world-famous showman, P.T. Barnum. That is, until the laughter and cheers of yesteryear were supplanted with screams of horror and the sounds of bones crunching under elephant foot. October 29th, 1929, to some, is known as Black Friday… The day of the great stock market crash. To others, it is known as the Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede…One of the most horrific land mammal tragedies in our nation’s history.
This year was more even more publicized than most as the circus advertised the arrival of its new star: Jumbo! The thirteen-foot-tall African elephant was to lead other elephants across the bridge and crowds came from miles around to see Jumbo in all of his massive glory as he led the greatest show on earth into the greatest city on earth.
However, before Jumbo and the other elephants could complete their journey, something upset the animals and a slow and deliberate cross suddenly became a deadly stampede to freedom for Jumbo and a pair of elephant crusaders. The elephants bulldozed anyone and anything in their path. Bones were crushed. Bodies impaled upon tusks. Helpless citizens dragged through the streets like rag dolls. Then it was down Broadway to Wall Street where more chaos unfolded. While the distressed leaders of the financial sector descended into panic, many taking their own lives, The Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede would go down in history as the greatest single animal-driven disaster of the modern era.
When all was said and done, two of the elephants lay dead in the city street. The third, Jumbo himself, was last seen running to freedom through the Holland tunnel. While no firm evidence exists either way, rumor has it he survived and lived out his days in an elephant sanctuary. The Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede Monument is dedicated to the triumph of the will of these elephants…and the poor souls that stood in their way.
Press play when arriving at each location and listen to history brought to life as told by
New York City Rock-n-Roll Legend, David Johansen.