Wednesday, June 22, 2022

SearchResearch Challenge (6/22/22): Why is there an elephant statue in this Wisconsin park?

 I was driving through Delavan...

... a smallish town in southwest Wisconsin, midway between Chicago and Madison.  I drove past something so unexpected that I went around the block and parked just to be able to take this picture.  

To set the context, I'd been driving through lots of farmland, and then on several lakeshores.  On the road are the usual things (corn fields, tractors, bales of hay, pontoon boats on lakes, people fishing on bridges), but then I spotted this life-size statue of an elephant rearing up, threatening a clown.  

This made me look twice and take the pic, and it leads to the following SearchResearch Challenge: 

1. What's the story here?  Why is there an elephant in the middle of small-town Wisconsin?  Really?   I did a little digging and my mind is boggled.  Can any of this be true?  

Go ahead, dig into the backstory here and let us know what you find.  

MOST IMPORTANTLY:  How did you validate the story you found?  Is is possible to get to a clear / credible / valid version of this story?  

Search on! 

Idea credit to Meredith Lowe, who first mentioned elephants in Wisconsin to me over coffee in Delavan. Thanks!  


  1. I found a Delavan WI but no Delevan.

    1. Good catch. Typos on my part. Fixed in the post.

  2. I searched with your image and adding text [Delavan Wisconsin]

    There I clicked some photos and read which site was hosting the image.

    In Tribune Chronicle found it was the birth place of circuses.
    Also they mentioned Juliet and Romeo (which is the one in the statue)

    In a blog in WordPress, read about The Civil War Tree. Also about the giraffe statue

    And in Wikimapia, mentions is a tribute to the 26 circuses that made Delavan their winter home in late 1800s. The statue was created by F.A.S.T. and erected in 1986

    With [Romeo statue fast] and [Romeo elephant statue] searching for more information.

    1. A YouTube video with Romeo's Statue. His story (or stories) have been not verified. I think they're not true because why they kept him? Why make a statue if he was really a killer?

    2. Part A

      That's a good question. So, I did some looking (search term: romeo elephant devalan)

      * - This article (on a site covering off-beat roadside attractions, that's run by three men who've written travel books) tells a story about Romeo, and how he killed five people (which would explain why his statue shows him rearing menacingly). But, it states that many circus elephants were put down after one accidental killing, which leaves the question: Why wasn't he? And, why make a statue of him?

      I wanted more answers, so I did another search (delavan historical society romeo elephant).

      * - This article, by an arts foundation (I checked), details the history of Devalan as a center for the circus, plus each section in it comes from another source (which is listed). And, it includes one on the elephants Romeo and Juliet.

      Apparently, Romeo was deadly and had killed five people and 25 horses, while his partner, Juliet, was gentle. And, the story it listed was that Romeo became mean when he was forced to drag Juliet's body across a frozen lake (which the circus company gave as the reason for his cruelty, so as to keep him from being killed after he attacked). Another story is that, when they were on a train, he was with Canada (another female elephant) and held her for an hour before she fell through the train car's floor and was severely injured (and ultimately put down), after which he became mean and had a grudge.

      No matter the reason, he was famous for being mean.

      I kept searching, but didn't find anything else.

    3. Part B

      Eventually, by doing another search, I found, which was a list of circus elephant attacks in the U.S. (including several by Romeo), and which also included citations. I wasn't sure about the author or the work, though it gave me the idea to read about Romeo in older newspapers.

      (Search term: romeo elephant site:

      One result ( involved an interview with an elephant trainer who, among other things, discussed Romeo (whom he'd trained) and his bad reputation. And, the trainer said that he occasionally behaved poorly, but that was because he was handled poorly.

      Another ( went over Romeo's infamy, and said he was the "The worst elephant that ever walked in a circus parade in the United States..." (paragraph 1), after which it gave stories of his infamous actions, along with precautions that were taken to keep him under control (which included chaining him up and beating him for up to ten hours if he got angry).

      So, I think it's safe to say that he was a dangerous and violent elephant - though it sounds like his handlers were also quite rough with him.

      Having confirmed that he was dangerous, I decided to see if I could find out why there was a statue of this animal. I did a search (term: why is there a statue of romeo the elephant), and found an Associated Press article on it. Though I looked for the original article, all but one of the copies of it I found were locked up behind paywalls. So, I went with the only one I could access ( and read it. It went over Juliet the elephant (who was beloved), closure of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and Romeo the elephant, who was a larger-than-normal elephant. And, it said that he did kill five handlers in his lifetime, but that there were no verified stories as to why he was so brutal.

      I looked at another source ( ). But, though it told a plausible story of why Romeo was not put down even though he had killed people (the circus publicized him owing to his violent acts), there were no sources, plus the author was not an historian or a listed officer of the local historical society. But, it did have a photo of a plaque, which I looked up. And, based on what I read (at, it looked like Romeo's bad reputation made him famous, which apparently played a role in him getting a statue.

      So, yes, Romeo was a killer elephant and had a bad reputation, and this appears to be why there's a statue of him in Delavan, Wisconsin.

    4. Searched on Twitter (just in case something different was in there) when searching [elephant statue Wisconsin]

      And learned about the pink elephant statue also in Wisconsin.

      And also about The Hodag in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.

    5. Part C

      I was looking at different sources at Media Bias Fact Check this evening, and saw that one source I'd cited in one of my replies from earlier today (an AP news article that the Washington Times had run) was rated as a questionable source (, owing to having failed nine fact checks over the past five years, along with how its information was either not sourced or refers to other articles on that site (though it does also run articles from sources like the Associated Press). So, I saw I had to look into this, since it was my credibility at stake. (Note which I should've included earlier: Media Bias Fact Check is regarded as a useful site for evaluating the media, based on what the following sites have said:,,, and
      To evaluate this source, I then went to All Sides ( - Evaluation of it here: -- the takeaway is that you should use it with caution). But, though it listed its apparent political bias (leans Right), it said nothing about its credibility. So, I had to look elsewhere.
      I next turned to media evaluation site Ad Fontes Media (evaluation of it here: -- the takeaway is that you should use it with caution), and did a search for the Washington Times (washington times And, its analysis ( said it was generally reliable.
      After that, I looked at media evaluation service NewsGuard ( - information about it here:,, and; though I was unable to find that reviewer's rating of the Washington Times (you have to pay for it), I did find both an article at that publication that attacked it by calling it a "censor group" ( ), and that it hadn't given the Washington Times that high of a credibility rating. So, its reaction told me that it's probably not the most trustworthy source. Finally, media review site the Factual ( - review at said that the Washington Times was slightly below average in terms of how factual it was (
      In short, I realized that, even though that article I'd cited earlier today had been sourced from the Associated Press, it would probably have been best to avoid using the link from the Washington Times.
      So, I did a search for another source that had that article, by copying the first line, pasting it in a search engine, and enclosing it with quotes. And, I got a different source for this article ( The Tribune Chronicle, which is the newspaper for Warren, Ohio. Though it was the same article, I felt better knowing that I'd gotten it from a different source.

    6. With [Why Wisconsin was the house of circuses] Also changing house to home brings more historical articles

      Let's Go to the Circus! - Image Gallery Essay

      "Wisconsin’s circus heritage started 1847 when Edmund and Jeremiah Mabie set up the winter quarters for their Grand Olympic Arena and United States Circus in Delavan, one year before statehood...."

    7. With [Delevan Wisconsin famous for]
      From Wikipedia:On July 21, 1948 Centennial of statehood and Delavan was the site of Wisconsin's Circus Centennial.

      Also mentions the stamp already mentioned.

      Also interesting this:

      Delavan: Home to Some of the Greatest Shows. With 120 Years of Delavan’s memorable circus milestones

      And, found images of Delavan Wisconsin P.T.BARNUM Circus Centennial Token

    8. Found mateojose1 link to brownullstrupfoundation with [Juliet Romeo Delavan Wisconsin]

      Also with that query

      (2014) 6 huge historical Wisconsin happenings (that you never heard about)

      Peshtigo fire , Malted Milk, Juliet elephant and others

  3. After researching the attractive features of the statue of Pinkie the elephant I asked myself, why in DeForest, Wisconsin? To find the answer, I explored the history of DeForest, and discovered that while the birthplace of the American circus was in Somers NY, it soon lost its place to Deforest, which became known as the “19th Century Circus Capital.” In particular, the Ringling Brothers circus wintered here. It was thought the best winter site for the many circus animals because of the available land for winter grazing. It started with the Mabie brothers, Edmund and Jeremiah, who grew up on a New York farm and by 1847 were running the largest circus. So how did DeForest come into the picture? It was a stop on their way to Jamesville, and they fell in love with the place and started the Mabie Brothers Circus. Then other circuses came, at least for the winter. So, Pinkie the Elephant well could symbolize that part of the history of DeForest.
    I first read about the elephant attraction, then I researched why it was there. Using the background of the community, I found the town’s history with the circus, and thought it likely was connected.
    Mabie Brothers Circus's%20circus%20history%20properly%20begins,125%20horses%20and%20eight%20elephants

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Another historical society:
    Walworth County Historical Society

    Under Communities Delavan:
    “DELAVAN: Henry and Samuel Phoenix, founders of Delavan, were sympathetic with the temperance movement of the 1850's, and when they platted the town insisted on total abstinence in the town. They named the town after Edward Cornelius Delavan, a rich man of Albany, New York and a prominent temperance leader until 1870. To the best of anyone's knowledge, Mr. Delavan never visited the town.”
    I use historical societies in my personal research and generally trust them. In my experience, they are run by people with deep roots in the area whose agenda is to preserve and disseminate (accurate) information.

    I searched [why is an elephant in delavan wi] and [why is a clown in delavan wi]

    “At the time, this was the largest traveling show in America. From this a circus heritage was created, including for the next 47 years, more than 25 circuses, with hundreds of clowns and other performers, making their winter quarters in Delavan. The P.T. Barnum Circus, ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’, was founded in Delavan in 1871.”

    [p t barnum delavan wi] yielded which cmarlowe and remmij also found
    The last is from Wisconsin Public Radio: “Barnum and Bailey had grown out of a circus begun in Delavan, by Dan Costello and William Cameron Coup who’d wanted to cash in on the fame of showman P.T. Barnum.”

    I have struck gold at small town public libraries:
    This library has newspapers going back to the mid 1800s. Documents created at the time of an event are considered more credible than those created in retrospect (or so I’m told). This would be worth a visit.

    Searching [statue of elephant delavan wi] gave some more lighthearted results.

  6. Part 1

    I looked at the picture posted (a elephant on its hind legs with a clown under it) and read what others had posted about it, in particular their notes on circuses (which made sense, given what the statue looked like). But, as I'd never heard of Delavan, Wisconsin, I decided to look up the town on Wikipedia.

    *,_Wisconsin - It's about 45 miles southwest of Milwaukee, it has an interesting history (including being covered by glaciers during the last ice age, having large mounds built by people who lived there 1000 to 1500 years ago, once being part of New France, and being the home of 26 different circuses during the last half of the 19th century [1847 to 1894]). The last part seemed relevant given the circus-themed statue, so I looked at the reference listed for it (

    ...and ran into a broken link. So, I went to Google, typed in the operator "cache:", and pasted the URL immediately after. It was still broken, so I then went to the Internet Archive (, pasted the URL into the Wayback Machine, and got a few results. I moused-over the first date it had been saved (March 2012), right-clicked on the time, and saw the article in question.

  7. Part 2

    At this point, I could've read this article, taken notes on it, and posted it here. But, I'd been reading about evaluating online sources lately, so I wanted to check and see if this was a genuine source. To that end, I did lateral reading (or, having that link open, but opening up other tabs to read more about the source: See and for more information on this technique).

    Doing a web search for "Walworth County Today" did not lead to any results for a publication with that name (not even a Wikipedia entry), though it led to three newspapers for that county. As well, typing the link for that paper in my browser led to another broken link. The Internet Archive did have entries for it (, so I went there and looked. And, there were quite a few copies of that website that it had saved. The first one (from May 2009) looked like what I'd expect a newspaper website to look like, while the last one (from June 2022) had a note thanking people for visiting the site and directing them to a newspaper called The Gazette (in particular, the Walworth County news section in GazetteXtra). And, I found the Gazette ( looked like a real newspaper website, and was published out of Janesville. Checking the Wikipedia entry for that city (,_Wisconsin) confirmed that that was its city newspaper.

    Looking further at the Internet Archive's saved versions of Walworth County Today, I saw that, from 2018 onward, users had been directed to the Gazette, and that a version from February 2017 indicated that it was part of the Gazette. And, looking at the first saved version (from 2009) along with the one for the article the Wikipedia entry linked to, I saw that Walworth County Today had been associated with the Janesville Gazette (if not a part of it) for the whole time it had been saved on the Internet Archive.

    So, having confirmed that source's credibility, I went back to the March 2012 article on Delavan's 26 circuses ( And, it gave an explanation for the elephant and clown statue.

    Essentially, it was a memorial to that town's many 19th century circuses (there had been 26 there during much of the last half of the 19th century, including that of the Mabie Bros [largest in America in 1847] and P.T. Barnum's circus [which started in Delavan in 1871]). The elephant statue was of Romeo, a late 19th century elephant with the Mabie Bros. circus who was notorious for regularly getting loose and causing damage, to say nothing of how he'd killed three men. And, the clown statue's face was a copy of what had been on a 5-cent stamp from 1966 that commemorated clowns, and which was issued by Delavan's post office.

    1. I finally figured out how to comment here. (I had to allow 3rd-party cookies.)

      The last sentence of mateojose1's part 2 comment intrigued me, as I used to collect "First-Day Covers" ... specially decorated envelopes that contained a new stamp and was postmarked at the post office where it was issued.

      The 5-cent clown commemorative was issued BY the U.S. Post Office, of course ... but it was issued AT the Delavan Post Office.

      A simple search [clown commemorative Delaven] brings up lots of info, including the philatelic industry's standard Scott Catalog ID number for this stamp (#1309) and a wide variety of versions (including First-Day Covers) for sale on eBay and other sites. Most interesting to me was the 26-page program for the first-day festivities (, whose description included "It also describes Delavan's circus history, including circuses that originated or quartered in Delavan."

      Also found was this article in the Linn's Stamp newspaper that said the famous clown Lou Jacobs was the inspiration for the clown used on the stamp (

      That led me to search for info on Lou, finding biographies on Wikipedia, of course (, and also a new "-pedia" to me: Circopedia - The Free Encyclopedia of the International Circus ( Jacobs was in the first class (1989) inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame, which was founded in Delaven in 1987 (but moved to Milwaukee in 1997 and is now located in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

      Finally, I was interested in seeing if I could learn more about the history of the stamp and its artist. With this search [1309 circus stamp design history], I found instead a VERY detailed and fascinating history of P.T. Barnum and the history of circuses:

      "Barnum did not enter the circus business until he was 60 years old. In Delavan, Wisconsin, in 1870 with William Cameron Coup, he established “P. T. Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan & Hippodrome,” a traveling circus, menagerie and museum of “freaks.” It went through various names: “P.T. Barnum’s Travelling World’s Fair, Great Roman Hippodrome and Greatest Show On Earth,” and after an 1881 merger with James Bailey and James L. Hutchinson, “P.T. Barnum’s Greatest Show On Earth, And The Great London Circus, Sanger’s Royal British Menagerie and The Grand International Allied Shows United,” soon shortened to “Barnum & Bailey’s.” This entertainment phenomenon was the first circus to display 3 rings, which made it the largest circus the world had ever seen."

  8. Part 3

    It was a very interesting piece, but I wanted to double-check the information. So, I did another web search (search term: delavan clown elephant statue) and found an article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ( After looking into that newspaper (which I confirmed was that city's main newspaper and the largest in Wisconsin, and which Media Bias Factcheck [] indicated was highly factual), I read it.

    This piece gave a summary of Delavan's circus history (including how the Mabie Bros. circus kept their animals there during the winter, and also how circuses quit wintering there in 1894), and talked about sights to see there, including the elephant and clown statue in Tower Park (with it confirming that the elephant statue was that of Romeo). It also indicated that there were other animal statues in that park.

    So, given that I'd read two articles that gave the same explanation for those statues, and also given that snippets from other search results in the SERP (search engine result page) for "delavan clown elephant statue" all gave variations on that town's circus heritage, I concluded that the elephant statue was that of Romeo, and that both were a way of honoring Delavan's 19th century status as being a wintering location for circuses.

    * If you find an interesting article, verify its source by doing lateral reading. (That is, looking up the source and reading about it in open tabs, so as to evaluate its credibility.)
    * If you find a broken link, you can try getting around it by using either the cache: operator with Google or the Internet Archive. (Another way I know of for viewing cached [saved] versions of pages include clicking on the three dots next to the URL in Google and clicking on the word "cached" at the bottom of the window that opens up [in Bing, it would involve clicking on the upside down carat next to the URL and clicking on the word "cached"], to view the most-recent version of the page that the search engine saved.)

  9. Correction: The site goes over lateral browsing, which is similar to lateral reading, except it involves looking at several pages simultaneously to get a better idea of a topic. It's also a useful search technique, but it's not lateral reading.

    Some other sources you can look at to read more about lateral reading (aside from the lengthy paper out of Stanford that I'd pasted up there) are as follows:

    * (article about that paper)
    * (video that goes over lateral reading)
    * (short chapter out of an e-textbook on web literacy that gives an overview on lateral reading)
    * (entry that explains lateral reading, in brief)

  10. Replies
    1. A front-page article in the Nov. 29, 1855, Lafayette County (Shullsburg, Wisconsin) Herald described the auctioin sale of "part of a menagerie of wild beasts that had been on exhibition for some time past at the Hippodrome, New York."

      The animal sales included: "an elephant named "Canada" to Messrs E.F. & J. Mabie, of Delevan, in this state, for $1,400.

      (The article was attributed to Milwaukee American.)

  11. My first search was for Delavan Elephant and that turned up lots of items confirming the statue and that it was of an elephant called Romeo (who had a mate called Juliet). An interesting story I'd seen earlier about Juliet's remains was in the Chicago Tribune about draining the lake where Juliet was supposed to be.

    Delavan calls itself the circus capital of the world as in the 1800s it hosted multiple circuses who wintered there with their animals. Most of the sites were tourist type descriptions of the town - with some from reputable press sources but nothing definitive on the story.

    I then tried looking for any references from universities - nothing jumped out as giving much more although one did mention the Mabie Brothers which was my next search ("Mabie Brothers" Elephant Romeo). This gave a really good PDF giving the history and lots of detail about both Romeo and Juliet. - This included photos of the plaque under the statue confirming the history to an extent. (This image appears on other photos too). However is a family genealogy site and possibly so not reliable for this topic, So I searched for the author's name and "Carolynn Reyenga" pops up as an admin at the Delavan Chamber of Commerce and elsewhere - so she probably knows her stuff on the town. I also did a Wikipedia check on the town and looked at the references relating to Romeo and another story giving pretty much the same history was in a 2012 issue of the Walworth Country Today journal - now on ( This gives more history and I searched for the author - Ginny Hall. She is described at as one of Walworth County’s most knowledgeable and popular historians. So I think both her item and Reyenga's item are OK as sources on the overall history.

    I wanted to find some historical news stories about Romeo - and the deaths he caused but failed in a quick search. I'm sure that there will be local papers reporting this. I just didn't find them. However I thought that searching for some of Romeo's victims may turn up news reports and some were held on this site: - found by looking for "Long John" "elephant" "new Orleans".

    The lessons on verifying stories when no contemporary sources found are to cross-check multiple sources and also establish the probity of the authors (and then use material in what they wrote to do further sources).

  12. I began searching using Google Maps for [ Delavan elephant] to find the statue. Looking through the images I saw the historical marker that explained the history. The marker was placed there by the Wisconsin Historical Society. Remembering previous search lessons about using historical societies for primary sources, I searched for [ Wisconsin historical society ]. There I searched [ Delavan circus ] and found the newspaper clipping fo the marker unveiling and other articles. I also tried Wikipedia and Walworth County Historical Society which had a link to Delavan Historical Society. In their bit of history they write about the circus link to their town.

    Side note: Reading the history of Delavan, I saw that it had the temperance movement as its founding and name. I did a [ temperance] search remembering we had a search challenge regarding the temperance fountain here in DC. Using a Command-F I found no mention of Delavan. ;-)

  13. I did a Google search for the photo and got several hits, among them a WUWM radio article from 2016 which outlines Wisconsin's history with the circus from 1847 into the 20th century. In particular, "Delavan was once home to over 20 traveling circuses".
    Also according to this article, this is a statue of Romeo the elephant who had a bad reputation for trying to escape and killed 5 handlers over his lifetime.

  14. I admired the strategic placing of the clown. Real elephants are mighty impressive down there.