Judy’s Jolly Jaunt

QUESTION—How does an elephant travel?

ANSWER—Any way he wants to.

In this case, the elephant was a she. In 1943 Lincoln Park Zoo bought a 35-year-old Asian female named Judy from Brookfield Zoo for $2,500. The purchase price did not include shipping. So on the afternoon of July 2, two Lincoln Park elephant handlers went out to Brookfield to collect their new elephant.

The plan was to transport Judy by truck. But Judy didn’t want to leave Brookfield. Twenty zoo workers tried to load her. In the process, the 7200-pound elephant wrecked the truck.

"Any way he wants to"

“Any way he wants to”

A phone call to Lincoln Park advised the director of “the little difficulty” the crew was having with Judy. The director decided the reluctant elephant would have to be moved the old-fashioned way. “Let her walk,” he ordered.

In 1943 the most direct way to get from Brookfield to Lincoln Park was straight up Ogden Avenue. That idea was discarded because of the heavy traffic on Ogden. A more circuitous—but more sedate—route was chosen instead.

At 7 p.m. Judy left Brookfield Zoo and began walking north on First Avenue. Her party included the four handlers from the two zoos, a motorcycle police escort, three support trucks, and twenty armed attendants. Ahead of them was eighteen miles of suburb and city.

The caravan traveled up First Avenue to Maywood. At Washington Boulevard they turned right and moved east into River Forest. At Des Plaines Avenue in Forest Park they stopped at a gas station so Judy could get some water. Then they were moving again, through Oak Park and into Chicago.

There had been no public announcement of Judy’s trek. Seven decades ago, there was no social media. Yet somehow, the news got out. Think of a guy in Maywood phoning a friend on the West Side of Chicago, saying “Hey, there’s an elephant walking down the middle of Washington Boulevard!” In any event, thousands of people turned up to watch the unplanned parade. The Tribune reported that the fans gathered along Judy’s route made it “a veritable victory march.”

Judy at home and at peace

Judy at home and at peace

By 10 p.m. Judy and her party had reached Garfield Park. They rested there for two hours while Judy snacked on some hay. Now at midnight, as they set off again, they were into the home stretch. Traffic was thinning when they swung onto Ogden for the final few miles. At 2:15 a.m. on July 3, Judy arrived at her new home. Once settled into her quarters, she promptly went to sleep.

Judy’s road trip had taken a little over seven hours. In the course of her 18-mile journey she’d lost 250 pounds. One of the attendants who’d walked along with her had his feet swell so badly he couldn’t get back into his shoes for two days.

Chicago’s Great Elephant Walk took place in the middle of World War II, and gave people a few chuckles in the middle of a grim time. Judy herself remained one of the star attractions at Lincoln Park Zoo until her death in 1971.

—30—

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2 Responses to “Judy’s Jolly Jaunt”


  1. 1 Melvin December 13, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    This is such a great story. Thanks, and go Judy go!


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