America’s First Elephant

Little Bronze "Lucky" Elephant (LEO Design)

On this day in 1796, America’s first elephant arrived in New York City.  Captain Jacob Crowninshield purchased her in India and sailed from Calcutta.  The captain bought her on speculation—for $450, including transit—expecting he could profit from exhibiting her. And exhibit her he did!  For more than a dozen years, she was trundled from New England through the Carolinas and back, stopping in any small town which promised a curious crowd.   Newspaper reports trace her travels throughout the Northeastern United States and Americans, who had never seen such a creature, paid 50 cents to see her. Occasionally—once in Boston, once in Philadelphia—the locals balked at the high admission price and it was reduced to 25 cents.

As the Nineteenth Century progressed, single animals were no longer a sufficient draw for audiences.  Promoters established menageries, bringing-in more exotic creatures like giraffes, rhinos and hippos.  In time, these exhibitions evolved into permanent zoos.

Today, we better understand the physical and psychological needs of elephants, including the complex social structures of herds and the emotional trauma which captivity can induce.  Some argue that elephants don’t belong in zoos or circuses.  Nevertheless, elephants still intrigue human audiences—just as they did when the first poor elephant landed on America’s shores.

The elephant, pictured above, above does extremely well in captivity.  He is made of cast bronze and will thrive sitting on your desk, mantle or  bookshelf.  The letters L-U-C-K are impressed into the bottoms of his four feet.  Click on the photo to learn more about him.


LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (

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