Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Jumbo the Tufts University mascot

The mascot for Tufts University is “Jumbo,” an elephant that belonged to P T Barnum’s circus and was later displayed at Tufts’ Barnum Hall. Jumbo’s story is a great one. He was born in Africa and was displayed at zoos in France and England before coming to America. He travelled with Barnum’s circus for many years and was tragically killed in a collision with a train in St. Thomas, Ontario in 1885. 

One story is that he saved the young elephant Tom Thumb in the collision but this is not proven by historical accounts. He was said to be the largest elephant in captivity and began the use of the word jumbo to mean large in size.
Jumbos’ remains were split up:  His skeleton went to the American Museum of Natural History in NY where it is today and the hide went to Tufts University. Barnum was a longtime benefactor and director at the college. It was long a favorite of the students hoping for good luck on exams or in sports. Coins would be placed in his trunk; it also appears he was a favorite with the ladies.

One story at the Tufts athletics website states that University of Bridgeport made a push for the remains:
 In 1949, Jumbo's place at Tufts was threatened by the University of Bridgeport, who also wanted to claim the enormous pachyderm for its own mascot because Bridgeport had been home to Barnum and his circus. This challenge was based on the grounds that Barnum owned only half of Jumbo (with Bailey owning the other half), and he could only bequeath his half of the elephant to Tufts.
[Tufts] President Leonard Carmichael answered Bridgeport's request by gracefully stating that since Tufts had been good stewards of Jumbo, the college had the right to choose which half of the elephant it wanted and naturally decided upon the front. Bridgeport declined to take Jumbo's rump, but as a gesture of goodwill Tufts gave the albino elephant that stood beside Jumbo to the Connecticut school.
In 1975, Barnum Hall burned to the ground and Jumbo was destroyed. A bit of his tail was found and preserved and some ashes were placed in a can which is still kept by the athletics department.

 The best Jumbo story I found is in the Tufts University magazine:

American heritage article:

The Barnum museum in Bridgeport, Connecticut has a Jumbo exhibit

There’s even a thorough blog on Jumbo:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Frank Booma, UNH student and World War I casualty

My wife Stephanie Toland-Tufts’ great- great uncle Frank Booma is memorialized in Portsmouth, NH and at the University of New Hampshire. He was a University of New Hampshire student (then New Hampshire College) and was the first casualty from Portsmouth where the American Legion post is named for him. He is remembered at the Memorial Union Building at UNH. (Please see my previous blog on his nephews who were star athletes at Dartmouth College.)
 Frank Everett Booma (Junior) was born Jan 24, 1893 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Frank E. (senior) and Martha (Field) Booma. Frank senior was the son of Francis Booma of Deep River Connecticut. I have not found much information on Francis. Census records indicate he was from Canada but this is not confirmed. The book French-Canadian Emigrants to New England, An account of the Booma family may have the answers. It is in several libraries including the Baker Berry library at Dartmouth but I have not seen it (yet). Frank senior may have been a hotel worker around the time of his marriage in Lancaster, NH. He is listed in the census (along with many other hotel employees); and the occupation is illegible [looks like “Barber.”].

1880 Lancaster NH census
1900 Portsmouth NH census

By 1900 the Boomas had removed to Portsmouth where Frank Sr. was a pressman or printer. Frank enjoyed childhood in Portsmouth. He even made the paper when he was injured at the railroad station according to this report in the Portsmouth Herald. Later he recovered enough to compete in numerous sports.  Many sports articles can be found in that newspaper relating his accomplishments.

1898 Portsmouth Herald

Frank Jr. attended local schools and was a star athlete. He played football and basketball at the YMCA and graduated from Portsmouth High school in 1910.He took post graduate classes and captained the 1911 football and basketball teams. Before college he worked for Silas Pierce Company as a clerk.
In 1915 he attended New Hampshire College (which became the University of New Hampshire).  While there, he was a member of the football team, basketball team, and the rope-pull team.
 "class of 1917 football team-unidentified"
 The rope pull was a competition between classes

Cadet Corps 1917
I have not found information about whether he was a 2- or 4- year student , but when America joined the war in 1917 he was at Plattsburgh, NY for training with the Reserve Officers Corps. This could have been part of his participation in the cadets at NHC.  The training center was where he was when he filled out his draft card.
 After graduating with honors, he was commissioned with the rank of second lieutenant and assigned to the 151st Field Artillery. The 151st was a Minnesota National Guard unit and was part of the newly formed 42nd Division. This division was made up of numerous National Guard troops from many states. They trained and assembled in Long Island before shipping overseas in October 1917. The journey was a difficult one due to ship conditions, rough seas, and the danger of attack by German submarines.

Frank’s unit trained hard once they arrived in Europe. He wrote home in November 1917 and reported training with the French artillery and studying their language. This was related in the Portsmouth Herald November 15, 1917. His unit and others were moved to the front in February 1918 in the Lorraine section of the line. They were well involved in the battle there and even though not much ground changed hands, they traded artillery barrages daily. In June they were relieved and moved to the Champagne area where the Americans were directly in the face of a German offensive. Lt Booma was killed by a shell in the town of Vadenay on July 15. (Other reports may state July 11.) The newspaper printed the death notice on page one on July 30.The notice was followed by notices of his memorial and commentary. These can be seen at or possibly the Portsmouth library.
Frank Booma’s body was initially interred in France but in 1921, it was removed to Portsmouth where he was memorialized and buried in the south cemetery. A memorial is also on the green by the baseball park on Islington Street in Portsmouth. Lt. Booma never married and left no descendants. His niece, Emily Catherine Booma Dame (my wife’s great- grandmother) has living descendants in the seacoast area. The rest of Frank’s relatives may also have living descendants, but they have not been researched. 
151st Field Artillery

Link to Portsmouth memorial story: The scrappy genealogist blog:

Another history of the 151st:

Photo credits:
UNH library digital collections