Have a weird summer!

By DAVID SCHARFENBERG  |  June 16, 2010

The first known elephant was Big Bett, who may have arrived onboard the America in New York Harbor in 1796. Purchased by one Hachaliah Bailey, who would later be called the “father of the American circus,” she was leased out to keepers up and down the East Coast who would show her to curiosity-seekers for a price.

In the summer of 1816, a keeper made the mistake of walking Big Bett across the land of a particularly religious farmer in Alfred, Maine. The display of exotic animals was viewed, in some quarters, as an ungodly distraction from prayer. And the farmer shot and killed the beast.

Bailey’s second pachyderm, Betty the Learned Elephant — or Little Bett — also went on tour. But she was destined to meet the same sad end. On the night of May 25, 1826, for reasons that are not entirely clear, she was shot by musket as she crossed the Chepachet River on a wooden bridge.

On the 150th anniversary of the assassination, the town unveiled a plaque commemorating the event on the bridge that presently spans the river. And in 2000, as part of an ill-fated tourism campaign sponsored by the state in partnership with Hasbro — “Rhode Island: The Birthplace of Fun” was the tagline — communities around the state sponsored 47 Mr. Potato Head statues.

Glocester’s Potato Head spent some time at the Manton Free Public Library before moving over to the Town Hall’s front lawn. A landscaping project a couple of years ago sent the Potato Head over to the Highway Department, where it still sits.

Workers there say the statue gets an occasional visitor. But it lives mostly in memory. One story has the statue disappearing from the Town Hall lawn one day, with only a “Gone Fishin’ ” sign in its place.

Town employees found Betty at the Spring Grove swimming hole, a beer in one hand and a fishing pole in the other.

David Scharfenberg can be reached at dscharfeberg@phx.com.

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  | 
Related: Cinema paradisos, Noir comes to Providence, Summer treats, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Brown University, Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   LIBERAL WARRIOR  |  April 10, 2013
    When it comes to his signature issues — climate change, campaign finance reform, tax fairness — Whitehouse makes little secret of his approach: marshal the facts, hammer the Republicans, and embarrass them into action.
    A key Brown University oversight committee has voted to recommend the school divest from coal, delivering a significant victory to student climate change activists.
  •   HACKING POLITICS: A GUIDE  |  April 03, 2013
    Last year, the Internet briefly upended everything we know about American politics.
  •   BREAK ON THROUGH  |  March 28, 2013
    When I spoke with Treasurer Gina Raimondo this week, I opened with the obligatory question about whether she'll run for governor. "I'm seriously considering it," she said. "But I think as you know — we've talked about it before — I have little kids: a six-year-old, an eight-year-old. I'm a mother. It's a big deal."
  •   THE LIBERAL CASE FOR GUNS  |  March 27, 2013
    The school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut spurred hope not just for sensible gun regulation, but for a more nuanced discussion of America's gun culture. Neither wish has been realized.

 See all articles by: DAVID SCHARFENBERG