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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.
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In May of 1883, the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge was big international news. The bridge had been under construction for 13 years, and its unveiling was a highly anticipated event. Showman P.T. Barnum, never one to turn down a PR opportunity, offered authorities a novel way to show–and show off–the safety of the new bridge: He’d walk his troupe of elephants across it.
At first, his proposal was rejected. But in 1884, after a woman fell on the side stairs on the Manhattan side, causing a stampede that killed 12 people and making others wary that the bridge would collapse, Barnum’s “elephant walk” (the subject of a June, 2004 New Yorker cover) happened. It was to the amazement of New Yorkers who happened to catch the sight of 21 elephants, 7 camels, and 10 dromedaries (basically furry camels) trekking from the bottom of Cortlandt Street across the illuminated arches of the bridge, with Barnum’s celebrated seven-ton African elephant Jumbo bringing up the rear.