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Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Big Charlie - A Giant Contemporary

Salt and Sauce may have been Britain's most famous elephants, but "Elephant" Bill Williams ensured that a contemporary of theirs - a prospective "husband" in fact - was immortalized in words almost half a century before my book will be published. Williams was a good friend of my grandfather's, Dick Chipperfield Snr., and mentions our circus family several times in his first book "Elephant Bill". "Big Charlie" was his final book.

Big Charlie - A Giant Contemporary

It is difficult to say when Salt and Sauce’s fame peaked. After Salt’s death, the Kentish Gazette recalls a dubious “40 years” of visits to the city by the two well-known elephants. Whether the overwhelming response to Salt’s death by the inhabitants of the city can be seen as a reflection on her fame, as the journalist suggests, or just simply because many had seen her trapped in the lake, we will never really know. Sadly it is most likely the latter. By the time “Saucy” was sold to Harry Coady a new name had already been decided for her: Jumbo. She would be called “Saucy” again when she appeared at Butlin’s Holiday camp in Skegness, but, although she was featured on many of their postcards and souvenirs, such as mugs and toys, her fame existed only in the considerable shadow of another grey giant. His name was Big Charlie and if Salt and Sauce were the elephant queens of British Circus, Charlie certainly ruled as the king tusker of Butlin’s Holiday Camps.

Charlie’s fame really hit its height when Billy Butlin decided to move him from his Holiday camp in Ayr, Scotland. Originally Sauce was to be scheduled to be his “bride” when he arrived at Butlin’s larger camp in Filey, Yorkshire. However, it was decided that she was too old and was instead used in an attempt to replicate Charlie’s success at Butlin’s Holiday Camp in Skegness. In a move that was part-request-part-publicity stunt, the holiday camp innovator placed an advert in “The Times” offering £1,000 in cash for the safe delivery of Big Charlie from Ayr to Filey. Of the recorded 3,500 applicants, Billy Butlin chose elephant expert Colonel J.H. “Elephant Bill” Williams to act in an advisory capacity alongside Charlie’s former owner, Willie Wilson. Wilson had moved Charlie before, from his zoo in Craigend to Ayr. Williams was brought in mainly for his fame, but also helped a lot with the move. He had written two books, “Elephant Bill” and “Bandoola”, which detailed his experiences with domestic elephants in Burma (now Myanmar), and it was thought he would help add to the public profile of the move.

As predicted, the advertisement caused a media storm and Big Charlie became an overnight celebrity. He was described by Butlin’s publicity as “the largest elephant in captivity” and Williams was so impressed by him that he wrote his last book about the move and Charlie’s life entitled “Big Charlie”. The journey took three days and over the period, Williams absorbed a lot new knowledge about circus elephants, such as Charlie, and became very impressed by Charlie’s dedicated mahoot, Shaik Ibrahim.

Unfortunately Charlie, like Salt and Sauce, was also notoriously dangerous. He was a bull elephant, which was something the British circuses generally tended to keep away from. Williams had argued quite a few times with both Ibrahim and Willie Wilson about the dangers of not controlling a bull elephant when it came into “musth”. Musth was the sexual condition that male elephants experienced periodically around the year. The most obvious sign of an elephant coming into musth was the large secretion of moisture around his cheeks. As Charlie matured his temper at these times became worse. Shaik Ibrahim was really the only man who could properly control Charlie and it was upon his death that serious problems arose resulting in Charlie’s tragic death.

Charlie had been coming into “musth”, which made him, as a bull elephant, become unmanageable and very dangerous. Famous Director, Dick Chipperfield had foreseen Charlie’s dangerous potential, when Mrs. Cotrelli first purchased him in India. Dick shared the same ship as Charlie and on being fully aware of the damage a bull elephant could do when in must he made a point of purchasing an elephant gun when he arrived back in UK. This was all in spite of the fact that Dick had nothing to do with Charlie; the elephant did not even appear on his circus. He was sure that one day someone was going to require the services of an elephant gun and someone who knew how to use it. Years later the call came from Andy Wilson, who ran his zoo at Craigend. He now owned Charlie who he feared had now become uncontrollable and was a dangerous liability. Dick arrived ready to take on the task, but as he approached Charlie his heart sank. Dick later told me how he apologised to Andy that he could not shoot such a “beautiful animal” for no real reason.

Allegedly the RSPCA were called in years later when it was once again decided Big Charlie was unmanageable and therefore dangerous. Once again, the order was given for Big Charlie to be killed. Apparently the method decided upon was by gassing. On hearing the news of Charlie’s eventual demise, Dick Chipperfield lamented “what a tragic end to such a magnificent creature”.

Sources: WILLIAMS, J. H. "Big Charlie" London, Rupert Hart-Davies. 1959.
Also: Reports given to me by my father through his conversations with my grandfather, Dick Chipperfield Snr.
©Copyright. Jamie Clubb 2007

Deleted Introduction of "The Legend of Salt and Sauce"

Continuing on from my previous post, I decided to publish another entry that did not make it into my completed book "The Legend of Salt and Sauce". This time it is one of many attempts at an introduction. Back in March 2004 I was quite confident that the whole story of Salt and Sauce had been told. Little did I realize that I would be receiving information that would change and unveil so much about their lives three years on from that date. In fact, I was still uncovering information and establishing great contacts during the month of the deadline Aardvark Publishing had set. Looking back on the introduction it is quite sad to see the name of at least one person who has died during the writing of the book, Clinton Keeling, and also amusing to see the cultural approach I took back then regarding Music Hall and Circus. It's amazing to see how much has changed in the past few years.

This book deals with the past. It begins in the Victorian era, sometimes harking back even further, the main action of the tale covers the Edwardian decade, The Great War years through to the Second World War and finally we go through the late forties, the fifties and coming to a conclusion in 1960. It is the result of work contained in three bulging folders of information and several out of print books. Two thirds of the information in the folders comes in the form of cuttings or photocopies of old newspapers most easily over half a century old and some over the whole century. Yet the writing of this story for me didn’t begin with the reading any of these primary sources. It started with an email dictated by my father and typed by me, an email that was never finished, but evolved into the book you are about to read.

I work for my family’s firm in the Cotswolds, supplying and training exotic animals for the film industry. Years ago my parents ran a circus and before that my mother’s parents were part of a famous travelling showbusiness legacy that stretched back to the 1600s. I have grown up in the world of entertainment and animals. My father is a keen zoo and circus historian. The two businesses are very far apart in Britain today, but their histories are closely linked, as I was to discover when researching the lives of Salt and Sauce. Dad grew up in an age when the two openly traded animals with one another and joined the circus for a last hurrah in wild animal training before the industry began its decline in the UK. Today he is often consulted by both zoo and circus enthusiasts, helping them with their research, information he has often gleaned from contemporaries of the time or their relatives. Dad has the advantage being both a scholar and an experienced veteran in his field of study.

It was October 2001 and my father received an email from Rob Vaughan, a zoo historian. An article had recently been published in “Zoo!” magazine entitled “A Pachyderm Puzzle” by zoo curator and historian Clinton Keeling, which had raised many questions about two famous captive elephants known as “Salt” and “Sauce” of the first half of the twentieth century. Dad began answering Sam’s questions and correcting some of Clinton’s mistakes in a very matter-of-fact way. The email was going fine until Dad became unsure about a few facts. As time went on, so did the email. After a week or so Dad was bringing in all the information he had on the elephants and before long we were noticing some big contradictions. It soon became obvious that the research we were doing and the work were compiling fitted something far larger than a simple email response. Quelling Sam Whitbread’s requests for updates on our answers to his questions, Dad announced we were going to write an article.

It wasn’t long before extra books were bought and we began contacting other people who had written books that mentioned Salt and Sauce. Soon we were receiving research from various members of the public and performing contemporaries of the elephants. Relatives of the families who were involved with the elephants also sent copies of their research notes and newspaper clippings. This had become a large project. We had sources in several fan-based publications that were happy to publish the resulting article and even serialise it, but it seemed to me that these two amazing elephants deserved a lot more than this.

They had helped sell countless numbers of circus and music hall tickets. Newspapers and books recounted episodes featuring the two elephants. Several radio broadcasts concentrated on them, a major motion picture featured them, hundreds of flowers had been left in memorial of the death one and souvenirs had been sold off the continuing success of the other. They even lent considerable weight to two business arrangements. They had become a part of circus folklore and episodes of experiences with them had been re-told around the proverbial campfire for many generations. Some were awed by the amazing skills the two elephants were trained in, others sold their tales on the elephants’ notoriety. No, a simple series of articles didn’t justify the first complete recounting of such celebrated histories.

I suggested to Dad that we should look towards publishing it as a booklet. He was already building a collection of photographs and postcards of the elephants and agreed. However, the idea of turning into a book didn’t take long. Dad was interviewed by an author of a book on animals in films. I took the opportunity to ask for the professional writer’s help. He assisted me a lot and put me in contact with an excellent agent, Laura Longrigg, who has been a constant objective yet enthusiastic guide to me.

Being the son of a wild animal trainer and an employee of a company that provides animals for the world of entertainment, it will be of no surprise to readers that I didn’t take the animal rights route. Having said this, it would have been easy for me, with the materials provided, to write a sentimental story of poor animals torn from their natural environment and unnaturally trained by greedy men only to be exploited for the whims of a decadent society. The truth of the matter is that I didn’t see a life of cruelty in the histories of Salt and Sauce, and I don’t believe it would have been respectful to their memories to have recorded it in this way.

There are many accounts in newspapers, books and off contemporaries of the animals that they often wondered wild on the circus grounds they occupied. They lived to good ages and were often regarded affectionately in spite of their infamous reputations for killing and destroying. I don’t believe they lived a life of luxury anymore than many of the humans who lived alongside them. However, they were never hidden from the public and in spite of being transported in an era where live exotic animal exportation was in its infancy as was veterinary work and animal husbandry, Salt and Sauce triumphed over disease and disaster to perform for six decades.

The world of circus and music hall today is looked upon with a snooty derision by the country that gave birth to it. In the British comedy series, Blackadder Goes Forth, the following comment sums up the modern era’s attitude to the old world of variety: “Oh yes, the great music hall tradition; two men with incredibly unconvincing cockney accents going ‘what’s up with you then?’ ‘what’s up with me then?’, ‘yes what’s up with you then?’ ‘I’ll tell you what’s up with me, I’m right browned off, right browned off.’ Get on with it!”

As for circus, I have far more personal recollections of the condescending scorn poured on it. Recently a circus friend of mine invited me to a touring comedy show. The performance was being held inside a circus tent and my friend was in charge of organising its dismantling and erection; what in the circus world is known as a tent master. The last comedian on the bill had a constant problem with a heckler. All of the comedians were enjoying a socialist stance, but couldn’t resist making derisive comments about the tent, ironic when I think how the working classes supported the circus throughout its heyday in Britain and how circus gave many a working class individual the chance to make his fortune. This particular comedian responded to the heckler’s cries to entertain him with: “I see, you thought this was a circus. You were expecting to see some poorly treated animals and clowns that pretend to chuck water over you.”

It’s fair comment to say the institutions in Britain didn’t move enough with the times. Nell Stroud speaks in her book “Josser” of how she dreamed of becoming a part of a romantic traditional circus, but to her dismay often found circus artists trying to piggyback off the latest media craze. The result in most cases is a tackiness that takes much away from the romantic’s idea of the unique institution that is circus. The best have been guilty of it. As a child growing up my parents circus I loved our attempt of using a Star Wars gimmick in order sell the legendary “Gina in the Moon” act, Shirley Fossett’s fantastic aerial display. Ironically when Shirley first did the act it was completely original and was often imitated. There have been rare examples when the imitation far exceeds the product it is deriving inspiration from. Eva Garcia, who died from a tragic accident at Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus whilst I was writing this book, sold her aerial silk act as the “Tomb Raider” character Lara Croft and provided a scene that was far more beautiful and had far more substance than anything the video game or empty feature film could hope to achieve.

Nevertheless circus remains the outside art form, despite being the most versatile; appealing to virtually every part of society. There are circuses in nearly every country in the world. In Europe the traditional circus is revered. The same could be said for Asia and the Middle East. America is home to the famous Ringling Brother’s, Barnum and Bailey Circus that has become such a large institution that it has toured with more than one unit for decades now. However, in Britain the only circus that is given respect by the media is the Canadian import, Cirque du Solei. Although a brilliant spectacle it draws little from the foundations for the modern circus set down by Phillip Astley in 1768. There is sometimes no ring and never any horses.

Yet for all Britain’s embarrassment over their centuries old tradition the mark of the circus can be found across the land. Buildings with names such as the Hippodrome, Empire, Coliseum and Arena were created by circus people for the showing of circuses. It was in buildings such as this that Salt and Sauce lumbered through their routines and packed houses. They would live deep within the bowels of the building and be visited by the same public who cheered through their displays. They could be seen through the streets of London, Manchester and many others, linked trunk to tail often stopping traffic and, one occasion, even the King of England himself. Outside of the large cities and across the countryside these two magnificent icons trod their path from one circus ground, or tobre, to the next. Even the coastlines of Britain saw the elephant duo mingling with holiday makers and immersing their great grey hides in the sea.

Salt and Sauce touched the hearts of many generations. They were celebrated creatures of over a half century that, in spite of the fear they inspired through the legends spread about them, were present at three weddings and brought happiness to at least one child member of the public who rode on Sauce’s back. Salt and Sauce are part of my people’s culture and history, they are also part of yours.

Jamie Clubb March 2004
©Copyright. Jamie Clubb 2007

The Indian Elephant: Wild and Domestic (Deleted Chapter from "The Legend of Salt and Sauce")

The following is an early version of a chapter I completely re-wrote for my book "The Legend of Salt and Sauce". Salt and Sauce were Indian elephants not, as it is occasionally been stated, Singhalese. The Asiatic elephant was, up until the 1960s, the most popular type of circus elephant. The large African counterpart (Loxodonta africana) only became popular in the later 1960s onwards.

The Indian Elephant: Wild and Domestic

Most historians begin the Salt and Sauce story from their arrival in Brighton, when George Lockhart Snr, the elephant trainer, took delivery of them. Yet the two elephants had already passed between at least two countries before they arrived in Britain and had been through at least one other trainer’s hands. I thought that if I intended to do as thorough job on the history of Salt and Sauce as possible, I could at least spend a chapter looking at their real roots and the institutions that were responsible for their capture and exportation. After all, Salt and Sauce were not born into the lively Victorian theatres or travelling circuses they would be forever associated with. Their lives began as newborn members of a herd of elephants in the jungles of India.

Elephas maximus, otherwise known as the Asian or Asiatic elephant, has been captured and domesticated in India and its surrounding countries for centuries. Generally speaking the Asian elephants’ temperaments prove to be far calmer than their African counterparts, which make them safer to work with. In addition to this, the two species have a few physical differences as well. The most obvious of these is that the African elephant, or Loxodonta Africana, has comparatively far larger ears than its Asian cousin and is also noticeably bigger in stature. Another conspicuous distinction between the two is that the African has a convex forehead, whereas the Asian has a hollow space at the top of its skull. On closer inspection we see that the African elephant also has three nails, known as hooves, on its rear toes compared to the Asian’s four, sometimes five rear toe hooves. Just for the record both elephants have five hooves on their front toes and both possess huge, wide columnar-shaped feet.

The modern-day elephant originated in Africa and are of the family Elephantidae.
They evolved from a semi-aquatic plant-eating African species called Moeritherium, which lived over forty million years ago. These creatures were pig-like in appearance with long bodies and short necks. Popular theory has it that as they increased in height Moeritherium found it more difficult to eat plants and therefore developed their upper lips and noses into trunks.

Around forty five million years later the animal had evolved into a creature known as Stegodon, which resembled the shape of the modern day elephant. There were still further biological developments for the animal to undergo and the most celebrated variation of the order was the enormous Mammoth. This fifteen-foot tall behemoth, believed to be the ancestor of the Asian elephant, lived up until nine or ten thousand years ago, when either through a dramatic climate change or excessive hunting by man the species was wiped out. At the time of writing scientists are attempting to clone a mammoth using genetic material from preserved remains and a current day female Asian elephant.

Elephants spread throughout Europe, Asia and North America. Over two hundred and seventy species of elephant have said to exist, of which the African and Asian are the only surviving members. Popular theory has Elephas maximus first occurring in Syria, Iraq and southern Asia. Today their wild numbers are restricted to the Asian continent, where large numbers have been captured and trained.

The female or cow of the Asian elephant species is a natural herd animal, living in large groups sometimes reaching a hundred members, but most commonly between fifteen and forty. One dominant female leads the group. These herds are proof of the extent of the species’ intelligence as their movements are thoroughly organised. Sometimes the herds divide up into sub-units and at other times they converge en masse into one large “clan” that can amount up to two hundred elephants in one area. This is quite different to the males or bull elephants, which are usually quite solitary once they have hit puberty; although they have occasionally been known to form small “bachelor” groups.

The Asian elephant has a head and body length measuring between 550 and 540 centimetres and the height from the shoulder to the ground measures between 250 and 300 centimetres. Males weigh over 5,000 kg and females, just less than 3,000 kg.
The animal’s entire body is covered in a thick grey to brown hide, occasionally mottled about the head, trunk and chest with flesh coloured blotches. The skin, which is surprisingly sensitive, is scarcely covered by long bristly hairs.

Evolution doesn’t seem to have been generous with improvements on the modern-day elephant. The short-necked Moeritherium’s ghost can be seen in the restricted head movements of the animal. Of its seven neck vertebrae only three are functional. Another biological shortcoming of the animal is its digestive system. The elephant can only digest forty-four per cent of what it can eat, which explains its consistent devouring of food all day long.

The elephant is not only unique in the respect that it is the largest land animal alive; it also has other distinguishing features, the most unusual being its trunk. This highly adapted prehensile part of the animal’s face is used not only for breathing but also as a highly effective tool. The trunk is long, flexible and strong. It functions like an extra limb and picks up food that it pushes into its mouth, or dirt that it throws over its back also as a method of cooling down. At the end of the trunk there is a small finger-like part that is sensitive enough to pick up very small objects. The trunk is also able to suck up water and spray the elephant’s body when it bathes.
Another outstanding feature of the species is its tusks, used both for digging during draughts and as weapons when fighting challenging elephants. Because of its tremendous size, weight and strength, the elephant has few natural predators. Tusks are most noticeable in the male elephant, but females also have them, albeit generally a shorter version. In places such as Sri Lanka, males rarely have them and the females never do. Ironically this lack of a defensive tool protects the Sri Lankan species from the elephants’ greatest enemy: Man.

The trade of ivory has been one of the most dramatic impacts on the lives of elephants. Large amounts of their wild number were hunted for their tusks, which reached high prices all over the world for the various ornaments and furniture that can be carved out of them. This large-scale destruction reached its zenith in the early nineteenth century, resulting in a huge reduction of numbers in Sumatra, Thailand and the Malaccan peninsula. In addition to this the increasing population of humans brought man and elephant closer together in a rather less than friendly relationship. Over the centuries the Indian wild elephants were pushed back into the jungle as their natural habitat became destroyed. In response to the human intrusion considerable numbers of elephants wrecked farmland, causing major economic problems within the native crop industry. The danger of these rampaging herds was quite significant too. Even as late as 1989 it was reported that between 100 and 150 people were killed annually in India during elephant crop raids. The humans reacted to the problem with one swift solution; the animals were culled. As a result of this and the ivory poaching, today elephants are a registered endangered species.

However, elephants have been a part of Indian culture for almost as long as there has been civilisation in Asia. You only have to look at images of the Indian Hindu god of prophecy, Ganesa, who is represented with an elephant head, to see the cultural regard such a creature is held in. The tradition of capturing them from the wild goes back at least 5,500 years and its origins can be traced to the historical Indus Valley.

The process of capturing these magnificent animals was an operation steeped in ritual for the villages that took part and became their sole means of profit. The trap the elephants were herded into was a fenced-in area known as a Keddah. It stood four metres high, surrounding an area of more than a kilometre and a half. This fence was made up of tree trunks sunken two and a half metres into the ground and lashed together by ropes and jungle creepers. It had a huge V-shaped entrance where a heavy trap door was positioned above the herd’s eye view and held in place by thick ropes that were tied to trees ready for the gate-men’s sharp knives to sever. Time passed and the monsoon season came, bringing rain that had washed the scent of man away from the Keddah, making it look as if it were a natural part of the jungle.

Scouts who made their living by delivering information to Keddah contractors were sent out into the jungle to observe herds of elephants as they drew nearer to the trap. Eventually news arrived at the Keddah village that a herd of elephants had moved into position.

One day in around the year 1901 the herds Salt and Sauce belonged to were startled by a gunshot and the sudden presence of humans – thousands of them. In blind panic the animals charged through jungle undergrowth towards their orchestrated capture. Onward they ran finding themselves heading for a series of bamboo-bridges strategically positioned ahead. As they crossed, two huge walls of fire, lit by the bridgemen, sprung up around them to narrow their passage.

Having lit the fires, the men who had been honoured with this task rushed away, as the bridges themselves erupted into flames behind the charging herd of elephants. Escaping the blaze the herd would rush through the Keddah’s gateway and into the awaiting darkness. With split second timing the ropes would be cut and the trap door dropped sealing their fate. From here the village would select appropriate elephants and release the rest.

The chosen elephants would be trained in basic obedience and then be auctioned off to various purchasers. In most cases the elephants were used to transport teak logs down the Indian rivers, as general beasts of burden and also as steeds for hunting. The elephant is a majestic looking creature and royalty, along with other people of high standing, ride on top of the animals in richly decorated howdahs. In addition to this, they are raced and there are historic records of huge amounts of Asian elephants even being used in battle from 1100 BC to AD 1500.

It was in this country that the traditional industry of capturing wild elephants in some way contributed to keeping the animal away from the threat of extinction. Before the days of funded conservation, the only way to prevent mankind from wiping out endangered species was if that species became a desirable commodity alive. So long as these animals were needed as beasts of burden or ceremonial showpieces their species would remain. There was also another institution where man would have a large place for elephants: the world of entertainment.

The mid-nineteenth century saw an increasing interest from Europe and America to see live elephants as well as other Asian and African animals. These unusual creatures were now being transported back to the menageries and circuses that were fascinating the western world. By touring, these shows were bringing animals, normally only seen in zoos, to a far wider audience. Soon western adventurers were going out on safari to bring back exotic specimens for the growing demand back home. As contact with foreign animals grew, so did public sympathy. Even during the regency era, when ivory was in incredibly high demand; the elephant touched the hearts of celebrities such as the poet, Lord Byron. He remarked once on his happy experience he had visiting the London Tower Menagerie when the resident elephant enchanted him. Byron, like many others, kept a small private collection of exotic animals and was famed for sharing his university boarding quarters with a trained bear.

I am not about to argue that the people who caught, sold and bought elephants did it consciously to preserve these animals. However, I think it is interesting to note that after the potential threat of having the entire elephant species wiped out by the ivory fashion; man’s tastes once again changed the course of natural history.

During the 1880s huge numbers of elephants were being exported to the west. As animal husbandry improved so did the elephants’ survival rate. Once they arrived they had to be fit enough to be exhibited. Those who had the ability to organise the successful selecting and importation of large numbers of elephants could more or less name their price to huge circuses such as Barnum and Bailey’s in America. Elephant trainers began to come into their own, making their fortune by presenting these gigantic creatures.

The elephant would soon replace the horse in becoming the most popular animal in the circus. Words such as elephantine and mammoth would enter the English language to describe great size. Even the English word “jumbo”, meaning huge, came from the legendary circus and showbusiness pioneer Phineas T. Barnum’s gargantuan elephant of the same name.

The female elephant calves soon to be known as Salt and Sauce, along with two others who would share equally eccentric Cruet names, “Mustard” and “Pepper”, were destined for to be sold to the entertainment history. Soon they would be cruelly removed from their mothers and the rest of the herd, but mercifully saved from a possible fate with a poacher’s bullets. In such cases the lucky ones would die, whereas the wounded would be left to a lingering death caused by infection and starvation. Man was not their only predator either. The hot humid weather of Southeast Asia presented ideal conditions for the breeding of parasites. Such diseases as these thrived within the Indian jungles and swamps, where elephants frequented. We know for definite that such a disease already had infected at least three of these baby “Cruet” elephants.

Perhaps the four calves were related or maybe they were caught on separate occasions. We will never know. One can only imagine the frightened animals listening as all around them the Indian village began celebrating as the sun rose over their Keddah after a successful elephant catching operation had been completed. Being very young it is unlikely that their captors would have bothered training them. Such attention was normally reserved for the older elephants. They were displayed, still wild, in front of many bidders and traders that came to India.

Amongst these people was an agent for the German animal trainer, zoo-owner and catcher Carl Hagenbeck. Hagenbeck was born on 10th June 1844, the son of a fishmonger, who almost by accident had chanced upon the wild animal trade. Over the years Hagenbeck had carried on his father’s business, building up zoos around Germany and also running circuses. He was amongst the first trainers who advocated what he called the “gentle” or “gentling” methods in training animals. This food reward system would be the foundation to what would much later be known as “positive reinforcement” training and was soon readily picked up after his high-profile international demonstrations in the 1890’s. This was in opposition to the aggressive methods often used by wild animal exhibitors, which pretty much amounted to fighting the animals on display.

The reach of Hagenbeck was considerable. He had a number of experienced and famous animal catchers on various assignments all over the world tracking down large quantities of animals for zoos, circuses, menageries and various other exhibitions. However, it was the considerable popularity of the elephant in late nineteenth century England and America, which helped push his business to new heights. At the turn of the century such success was demonstrated in his buying of a new four and half acre property in Stellington near Hamburg. Hagenbeck had gradually outgrown each of his zoos and had helped revolutionise the care in captive animals in the process. He transferred everything he had from his old zoo in Neuer Pferdemarkt to the new location and, with the help of investors, bought land in-between Hamburg and Stellington. This would be a new beginning for the zoological pioneer as he rose to international success in the captive animal world.

His new zoo opened in 1902. This was the same year that he sent his elephant man, William Philadelphia, to Great Britain with the future Cruet members. They arrived at the doorstep of a very unique individual. This man was a true representative of the Hagenbeck-style of training and also an innovator in his own right. At different times both this man and his brother would be given the title “the greatest elephant trainer that ever lived.”

Previously he had purchased his first elephants whilst in Asia and was credited by some press as starting the elephant craze in Europe. Americans were also accused of trying to imitate his elephants’ comedy and musical routines. According to newspaper reports of the time, because of this man, agents were “scouring” the continent in order to find acts containing elephants. Perhaps he was indirectly responsible, in part, for the numerous elephant orders Hagenbeck was now getting on a regular basis.

Two of the four members of the Cruet would be connected with their new owner’s name for the rest of their lives and over half a century after his death. They would be known as Salt and Sauce. Their relationship with him would result in both their fame and their infamy, for they would be both his protégés and his killers. And this was only part of what the future held for them as they stepped out of the remains of their wooden containers and into the life of George William Lockhart.
©Copyright. Jamie Clubb 2007