And Now You Know: What happened to Floto’s remains?

Published 12:10 pm Saturday, November 16, 2019

(Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a two-part series.)


After Floto was killed, the crowd gathered around the carcass of the elephant. Young boys began to climb on the carcass, others stood near, looking and touching the dead elephant. People were enthralled! They were able to have contact with a beast that at best they had only seen from a distance in a circus. That it was dead did not seem to matter, it was a real elephant.

Orange had made national news when the rampage of Floto was reported the day before. This day, the wire service would report on the death of the great beast.

With cameras being a bit of a rarity in Orange in 1921 there are only a couple of grainy pictures of the death scene. Both show boys and young men standing on the carcass and people crowding next to the body of Floto.

In an event like this where so much happens so fast and so many people are involved, there are as many stories to tell as there are people to tell them. “Take this with a grain of salt” applies. The truth is in there somewhere.

At least two people have been given or claimed credit for firing the fatal shot. Two different caliber rifles are said to have been used to fire the fatal shot.

A trapper named Pavell is supposed to have skinned the carcass and then taken possession of the hide. Floto’s hide sort of fades away after that. This writer wonders if Pavell had a hide he did not know how to preserve and the hide rotted and had to be thrown into the river, which was accepted disposal in those days.

In reading about Floto in several accounts over about a 30 year period, I have never found any accurate mention of where the skeleton and skull of Floto were taken after his death. One report in “Buckle’s Blog” said that the skeleton was buried near “the old water tower” but gives no clue as to where the water tower may have been.

The two tusks should have been the major trophy and kept in Orange somewhere. The only mention I found of the tusks in Orange said one was displayed in the First National Bank lobby for a “short time.”

A contributor to “Buckle’s Blog” wrote that he had a small ivory ball numbered “41” that was made from a tusk. Dewey Godfrey, the man who claimed firing the fatal shot had some small pieces. Godfrey said that some ivory had been used by Remington Arms. No other mention of the tusks has been found.

Interestingly, there were reports of people cutting “large chunks” of meat from the carcass to “take home, cook and can.”

One wonders how the “cooking and canning” of elephant meat may have been carried out and if, when cooked, the meat was palatable. This writer has never found an account of “the cooking of Floto.”

The source “Newspaper Archives” does not have any copies of any the Orange Leader for several years in the 1920s. Sadly, 1921 is one of those years. Most written records of the event are “I was told” type stories.

“Buckle’s Blog” and “The White Top”, the magazine of the Circus History Society and Bandwagon, have been the sources of information about Floto’s rampage and death.

Since this event occurred nearly 100 years ago, no one is left that was a witness. We are left with stories handed down in family histories.

Everyone with a story is convinced that they have the correct history of this or any other event. I first read about Floto in a small history journal. I have found stories online in social media that people have posted, I discovered the blog and magazine related to circus life and circus history. The story of Floto was important to the circus people and they made efforts to report accurately. It seems that circus people love elephants above all other circus animals.

When Otto Floto saw the news about the rampage and death of his namesake elephant, he was in his office at the Denver Post. He put his head on his desk and cried.

Stories like this one about Floto bring to mind the old saying, “I may not remember it correctly, but I remember it clearly.”

“And now you know.”