Tufts’ Monumental Mascot: Jumbo by Steven Whyte

Engage with this Energetic, Enduring Elephant

The first time I saw Steven Whyte’s Jumbo statue on the Tufts University campus I had big plans to post about it. That was in April 2015 when it was first installed and celebrated.  Now four years including several visits later, I know that the massive range of Jumbo’s stories kept me from a decisive post. Today I’ll try to step back and share a bit of the big picture through my photos with informative excerpts from stories by other writers, plus links for learning more.

“The latest incarnation of Tufts’ beloved mascot, Jumbo, brought audible gasps of awe from the hundreds gathered to watch as it was unveiled in front of Barnum Hall on the Medford/Somerville campus on April 17…The life-size bronze sculpture of the world’s most famous pachyderm—nearly 12 feet tall and 18 feet long and weighing in at 5,000 pounds—is impressive not just for its proportions, but for its energy. Trunk held high, Jumbo gazes serenely across the campus, as if he might at any moment saunter about and explore his new home.” ( quote from report by Gail Bambrick April 2015, Tufts Now) 

Barnum, one of the school’s founding trustees, had Jumbo prepared by a taxidermist after the elephant was struck and killed by a train in Canada in 1885. After traveling with Jumbo’s remains for several years as part of his circus act, Barnum shipped Jumbo to the school, to go on permanent display at the newly constructed Barnum Museum of Natural History. In 1975, however, the mascot was destroyed in an electrical fire that burned the building to the ground…That elephant was later replaced with a papier-mâché and concrete model from a New Hampshire amusement park, which, until recently, had been on school grounds since the 1990s….Shifting away from the cartoonish look of the latest mascot, Whyte’s statue is based on the actual appearance and size of the famous elephant that captivated audiences during performances in the 1880s.” (quote from article April 2015 for Boston Globe by Steve Annear)

Key Resources

“Tufts University Finally Receives Long-awaited Jumbo Statue” by Steve Annear, Boston Globe April 10, 2015

 Steven Whyte website, Public Art 

“Big Man on Campus” by Gail Bambrick, Tufts Now, April 21, 2015

“Tufts Celebrates Storied Elephant Mascot Jumbo” by Sebastian Smee, Boston Globe, Sept. 06, 2014


One comment

  1. Love this, thank you for the kind words – Steven Whyte Sculptor

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