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1967: Dead Elephant Her Valentine

On February 14, 1967, the city of Corvallis, Oregon welcomed a new resident: a 150-pound (68 kg) Indian pygmy elephant. Although the animal was deceased, it had been kept in a walk-in cold storage unit at Oregon State University until its new owner, DeWayne Williams, could stuff it. 

He had purchased it as a Valentine’s Day gift for his 21-year-old wife. She said that she was pleased to receive the gift, but noted that “It’s not as big as I thought it would be.”

The elephant was originally purchased five years prior by a carnival owner, but it did not survive. So, he had the elephant placed in cold storage as evidence in a case against the previous owner, who he claimed had sold him a sick animal. However, the plaintiff never returned for the evidence or paid the storage fee, which led to the Terminal Ice and Cold Storage Company in Milwaukee to auction it off to the highest bidder.

Williams, an amateur taxidermist with an interest in wildlife, successfully bid for the elephant at the auction for $51 ($460 today), just one dollar more than another offer from the Midwest. He then placed the frozen elephant into the trunk of his car and brought it to Corvallis.

A native of Tallahassee, Florida, Williams grew up surrounded by wildlife and collected specimens for mounting. At one point, he even had a small museum of preserved fish, fowl, and animals.

The 23-year-old scientist had to part with several of his prized mounts and preserved skins when he moved from Florida to Oregon. However, he still had a collection of specimens in deep freeze, including two beavers, a mink, a herring or seagull, 20 mice and rats, and a golden eagle (which he confirms was legally obtained after hitting his car on the highway in Nevada).

Williams planned to mount the baby elephant and sell it if the price is right, otherwise, he was going to keep it for his growing museum. He also jokingly added that he thought it could be an appropriate addition for the Republican Party.

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