46 years ago, a herd of circus animals trekked through the Lincoln Tunnel

Posted On Wed, May 17, 2017 By

Posted On Wed, May 17, 2017 By In History

On May 17, 1971, a nationwide rail workers strike left a number of circus animals from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus stranded five miles from their performance at Madison Square Garden. While most of the circus caravan traveled to the show by truck, 19 elephants, a zebra, a llama and a pony marched from South Kearny, N.J. to MSG via the Lincoln Tunnel.

According to a New York Times article reported the day after the incident, more than 1,000 spectators showed up just after 10:30pm to watch the animals walk through the Lincoln Tunnel. Four trainers rode on the backs of the elephants, and policeman from Weehawken, Hudson County, the Port Authority, and New York City guided the animals. The Times wrote, “The trek evoked amusement and interest rather than annoyance, even though there were extensive traffic tie-ups in Weehawken.” The toll for the caravan to cross into New York was $9.

Similarly, nearly a hundred years prior, 21 elephants crossed the Brooklyn Bridge to prove it met safety requirements. In May 1883, P.T. Barnum led his 21 elephants, 7 camels and 10 dromedaries from the bottom of Cortlandt Street across the arches of the bridge. Unfortunately, the “Greatest Show on Earth” is closing for good this month after 146 years of shows. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ last performance will be May 21 at the Nassau Coliseum.


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