This broadside advertises the appearance of, probably, the first elephant brought to the U.S. The unfortunate elephant's child was bought in India and shipped on the vessel America. The captain planned to make money exhibiting it.
With kind permission of the New-York Historical Society.
The broadside is a nice mix of inaccuracy and loftiness. The Elephant is apparently the one known elsewhere and later as “Old Bet.” Female.
“...[B]y his intelligence, [he] makes as near an approach to man, as matter can approach spirit.” Humans, that spiritual species, enjoyed offering alcohol to The Elephant.
“He... drinks all kinds of spirituous liquors; some days he has drank 30 bottles of porter, drawing the corks with his trunk.” Even when sloshed, the elephant “never attempted to hurt any one.” Yet beware. “The Elephant having destroyed many papers of consequence, it is recommended to visitors not to come near him with such papers.”
Why did The Elephant destroy papers of consequence? (Why would a person going to see an elephant bring papers of consequence along?)
My knowledge of animal behavior does not suggest an answer. My knowledge of cheesy fiction would suggest that the elephant associates papers of consequence with bills of sale and of lading, and its own unchosen journey from India and subsequent exile, and therefore responds with rage to the sight of documents – but that seems too pulpy to be true. A family member with knowledge of correct social behavior suggests that the elephant finds the flourishing of papers rude. That the elephant would react the same way to cell phone use.
“Hi, guess what? I'm looking at The Elephant right now! Yes! It's awesome. Oh, it's huge. Totally respectable. It's uncorking bottles – ooh, now it's looking at me! It's coming over! The trunk is – WHOA--!” (Sound of phone being stepped on.)
This makes sense to me. The respectable elephant knows what is polite and what is not – and, fueled by alcohol, starts enforcing the rules. I suppose that Miss Manners never goes on drunken etiquette rampages, or we would have heard about it.