In Circus history, it's not only the human performers who are remembered. Certain animal acts are also remebered in the fondest of terms. In the case of Indian elephants, Romeo and Juliet, both are remembered, but only one of them is remembered fondly.
Romeo stood 19 1/2 feet tall and weighed 10,500 lbs. He also had a nasty habit of killing his keepers.
By the time he died, in the summer of 1872, Romeo was responsible for the deaths of five people, and at least 25 horses. He also nearly tore apart a theater in Chicago, and terrorized the cites of Delavan & Lake Geneva when he had escaped from his pen, one winter day.
By contrast, Juliet, was a gentle giant. A charming animal, who was loved by her trainers, and people all over the country.
Originally from the area that is now known as Sri-Lanka, Juliet came to America in 1851, to work in P.T. Barnum's Asiatic Caravan.
It was during the 1850's, that Juliet was paired up with Romeo, and the two would perform a musical act. Romeo would turn the crank on a hand organ, while Juliet would dance.
In February of 1864, Juliet died at the Circus' winter camp, along the northern banks of Lake Delavan (where Lake Lawn Resort is today). With the ground frozen solid, it was ordered that Juliet's body be dragged out to the frozen lake, and left. Then once the lake melted, the body would, and did sink to the bottom. It is said, that it was Romeo who was forced to drag Juliet's body across the frozen lake (the Circus would later use this experience as the reason why Romeo turned mean, and to garner sympathy, to prevent him from being exterminated after each of his attacks).
Some say it wasn't Juliet's death that turned Romeo mean, but the death of another elephant, by the name of Canada (whether this was before or after Juliet's death, is unknown by this author).
Canada died when she fell through the floor of a train car as it traveled over a bridge in Iowa.
Before Canada fell, it was Romeo that held onto her for over an hour. When it became apparent that Canada could not be saved, and for fear of losing both elephants, trainers forced Romeo to let go of his hold on Canada. Canada fell. Severly injuring herself, she had to be exterminated.
It is belived by some, that this was the moment Romeo turned bitter, violent, and most of all,
hold a grudge.
Over the next few years, Romeo became impossible to control. His rampages became folly for the newspapers, who reported on every death, and every violent outbreak. At one point getting so bad, that on February 25, 1872, the New York Times told it's readers, that "Romeo has outlived his usefulness."
On June 7th, 1872, Romeo died in Chicago, from an infected foot. Upon death, his body was removed from the Circus grounds, and taken to the public dump, where it was left to rot.
Today, the only reminder that Romeo ever existed, is the statue of him that sits on the corner of
E. Walworth Ave. and N. 2nd St., in Delavan. But if there was an elephant mean enough to return from the great beyond, it's Romeo.