Jacksonville's Elephant History Didn't Start with Rani's Birth

By Foley, Bill | The Florida Times Union, July 4, 1998 | Go to article overview

Jacksonville's Elephant History Didn't Start with Rani's Birth


Foley, Bill, The Florida Times Union


Rani the local elephant turned 2 years old the other day, about

72 years and an entire civilization after Miss Chic,

Jacksonville's signature elephant, stepped off a boat from

Hamburg.

Rani was born here, to Ellie, head elephant of a handful of

pachyderms at the swank digs of the Jacksonville Zoological

Gardens, successor to the twobit zoo Miss Chic got off the

ground before there was even a decent road to the place.

About 2,000 persons turned out to say happy birthday to Rani in

a wholesome and scientific observance somewhat in contrast to

the hoopla surrounding the arrival of Miss Chic in June 1926.

About the only things the two elephants have in common is that,

well, they are elephants, and both were named in public

contests.

Rani, pronounced Ronnie, was named for the title of an Indian

princess. The name was chosen over other elephant favorites

suggested, like Greg, Bertha and Olympia.

Miss Chic was named after St. Elmo "Chic" Acosta, the city

commissioner who pushed most heartily for her acquisition.

Acosta was nicknamed Chic after Lake Chickamauga, Tenn., where

he had once played baseball. "Chic" was an easy call for an

elephant name, as opposed to St. Elmo the Elephant, which

sounded a little stilted.

The first bridge across the St. Johns River in Jacksonville

also was named for Acosta, which makes him what many believe the

only city official in the United States to have both a bridge

and an elephant named for him.

Miss Chic, of course, had a name before she got here and was

renamed Miss Chic, but the real name of Miss Chic has long since

been lost to history. As far as I know, nobody knows what they

called Miss Chic before she arrived in Jacksonville. Maybe Greg

or Bertha or Olympia.

The local newspapers record that the town elephant was met at

the Clyde Line docks downtown at about 4 o'clock on a Thursday

afternoon by Acosta, a couple of other city officials and what

the papers said were scores of men and boys.

There was no band or anything and the boat, the Clyde liner

Ozark, was a couple of hours late.

The elephant was lowered over the side in a great big crate,

which was opened on the dock, where the elephant posed with a

couple of locals on her back and then was loaded on a truck. …

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