The Elephant Kicks, 1891

This article first appeared in an 1891 newspaper. The elephant discussed here was built by famed Met Opera technical director Edward Siedle.

Update: I found another article which claims this elephant was built by Woolson Morse. I now think Siedle built the elephant for the 1904 remount of this show.

Actor DeWolf Hopper’s big elephant that drinks a quart of beer every night and on Saturday afternoons at the Broadway Theater, threatens to become troublesome to the management, says the New York Sun. The elephant has been kicking vigorously for a week past. The kick comes from the elephant’s hindquarters. In order to understand the full significance of the insubordinate behavior it is necessary to explain that in private life the “Wang” elephant is Mr. James Flynn and Mr. Mike Stevens Holahan. Mr. Flynn is the accomplished front legs and beer-drinking trunk of the elephant, and Mr. Holahan is the hind legs, and it is he who initiated the kicking. Mr. Flynn shows a disposition to join in the protest, and favors an elephantine strike.

When he is not the hind legs Mr. Holahan is the property-man of the opera company. He has to look after the costumes and wax candles, spears, bits of cut paper, Wang’s treasure-chest, and a lot of other miscellaneous stuffs used in the stage production. He was requested the other night to work on Sundays, too, and look after the distribution of display posters along Broadway on that day, and to paste the posters on the bill-boards. He intimated that this was crowding him a trifle too much, and that he did not propose to dabble in paste-pots at all. The matter was compromised by hiring a professional bill-poster to do the work.

Mr. James Flynn’s complaint is based on the plain ground of overwork. Mr. Flynn is a strong man, but he asserts that it is getting to be pretty tough work on hot nights carrying Mr. de Wolf Hopper on his head, and working the trunk of the elephant at the same time. Mr. Hopper is about seven feet high and weights in proportion to his towering stature. Mr. Flynn says this weight, combined with a Turkish bath atmosphere inside the papier-mache head of the elephant, and the necessity of keeping track of the innumerable pulleys that operate the rubber trunk of the elephant, gives him a headache every night. Moreover, he says that after he escapes from his half-hour imprisonment in this oven, he has to appear as a dancing master, and lead a dance of Emperor Wang’s twelve Siamese daughters-in-law, and later he has to climb on stilts and become a high priest—considerably higher, in point of fact, than Mr. Hopper himself. Mr. Flynn says that he quits the performance completely played out after his triple achievement. Manager Ben Stevens said last night that he thought he could square matters temporarily by allowing Mr. Flynn to partake of a bumper of beer as generous as that consumed every night by the elephant.

A funny thing in connection with the discontented elephant is that any number of children and adults, too, have written to Manager Stevens to find out whether the elephant is really alive. A Broadway merchant made a bet a fortnight ago, after he had seen the elephant drink its beer, that it was really a live baby elephant. He bet a new white tile on the point.

“The Elephant Kicks.” The Morning Call [San Francisco] 8 June 1891: 7. Print.

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