Vote and rate on Jamie Clubb's Work by clicking on the following links. Thank you!

Monday, 17 December 2007

Who was Wilhelm Philadelphia?

The expression "celebrities in their day" can be aptly applied to many of the characters I have researched for my upcoming book "The Legend of Salt and Sauce". The two elephants themselves were described in one objective contemporary book as currently the most famous elephants in the UK when barely a decade later, Sauce's name was changed to "Jumbo" to garner public attention on Cody's Circus. The name was to be changed back again to Sauce or "Saucy" by Billy Butlin her final owner when she appeared at his holiday camp in Skegness. However, one character who certainly seems to have been well known in his day, but there is little surviving evidence of is Wilhelm Philadelphia. The man has the recognition of being Salt and Sauce's first ever trainer.

In his book "Grey Titan: The Book of Elephants", George Claude Lockhart, the famous ringmaster, described the troupe of elephants his father purchased as being "wild". Apparently the marks of their rough handling in India were visible on their legs. This wildness is given as a reason for why they were so unruly during the 18 months or so his father, George William Lockhart, trained and presented them. The fact of the matter is that George Snr would have had to have been an incredible trainer to put wild elephants through the routine they are pictured doing with him in the short amount of time. There is also one other factor that counts against him being the elephants' first trainer and that is the credited presence of Wilhelm Philadelphia. George Jnr. names him in his book and in other sources as the man responsible for delivering the group of four elephants. Young George also remarks that Philadelphia had previously been injured by elephants and his body contained steel plates as a result.

Other historical information later revealed photographs of Philadelphia pictured with a lion and then we found another piece of compelling evidence - Philadelphia lining up a group of four baby elephants at Hagenbeck's Zoo on a photograph dated 1900. He was clearly a well respected and experienced elephant handler.

The fate of Wilhelm Philadelphia is not clear. Here is the footnote I wrote for "The Legend of Salt and Sauce" on the man:

"I recently discovered a fairly objectively written piece on the keeping of elephants in captivity on the “Elephant Country Web” website that lists several examples of people killed by elephants. One of these people, according to the article, was Wilhelm Philadelphia. The article states “Ross, the cow elephant, crushed the trainer Wilhelm Philadelphia to death on the wall of her box at the Sarrasani Circus in 1921”. The date, of course, contradicts the archival information we have on Philadelphia’s appearances on Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus".

No comments: