This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Now that winter is finally here, deer and elk are spotted in neighborhood streets. Sooner or later a cougar will take refuge in some suburban garage. We're used to those winter visitors, but how would we react to an elephant running through the backyard?
In the early years of the 20th century, when the Salt Lake zoo was in Liberty Park, Princess Alice was the undisputed favorite of visitors. Beloved by the schoolchildren who had helped to purchase her from a traveling circus, the large elephant consistently drew the largest crowds.
Princess Alice had to work for her keep. On occasion, loads were chained to her massive frame, and she willingly - usually - obliged by throwing her strength into towing her burdens.
But on the afternoon of Nov. 14, 1916, Alice objected to her chores. Zookeepers needed to move a wooden shed and chained the building to Alice. She moved it a few feet. The building struck a tree. The chains broke. Princess Alice seized the moment and made her break.
Moving at a rapid and steady pace, Alice jogged out the west side of the park. Ignoring zookeepers who tried to turn her back, Alice moved southward, zigzagging through the blocks between 300 and 500 East. Wooden fences slowed her not a bit, nor did the two cars carrying zookeepers who chased behind.
Reaching 2100 South, Alice turned eastward, passing through lots rather than traveling on the road. She picked up a necklace of barbed wire but maintained her steady flight. One of Alice's keepers managed to come close enough to grab at her ear; Alice merely shook him off.
Children fled in every direction. Homeowners and farmers looked on the destruction of fences and trees without attempting to stop her. Small boys took up the chase, following until they were winded. Carloads of Salt Lakers joined pursuit. But every time the zookeepers approached, Alice picked up her pace. Otherwise she seemed to ignore everyone in her single-minded dash for the mountains.
Near 900 East, Alice turned southward again, trampling vegetable gardens and outhouses. At some point, her barbed-wire necklace was joined by a collar of chicken wire. "Like one of the mighty armored tanks of the European war front," exclaimed an onlooker, "she drove through and over everything."
Veering now east, now south, Alice ran for miles. The only time she slowed was when she entered a barn, where she tossed around the hay and knocked down a few stalls before finding her way out.
No one knows where Alice intended to go on her cross-country jaunt. Whatever she had in mind, she pursued her course to the mouth of Parleys Canyon. When she finally slowed, zookeepers and park rangers surrounded her. Expert elephant trainers E.M. "Dutch" Scheider and Harry Petchall calmed and steadied her, while others slipped chain hobbles around her ankles.
Guided by her captors, Princess Alice turned homeward. This time she walked at the sedate pace of her human guides, following the highways and city streets. Onlookers gazed in amazement; crowds fell into the procession behind her, following Alice all the way to her home in the zoo.
Princess Alice posed for her picture the next morning, as calm and regal as ever. She remained a Salt Lake favorite for years, especially after giving birth in 1918 to a baby dubbed Prince Utah - sadly, Prince Utah lived only a few days.
Princess Alice sometimes exerted her will in quiet ways, as in 1926 when she went on a 10-day¬ hunger strike until a favorite but recently fired zookeeper was rehired¬. She sometimes broke out of her inadequate enclosure in the park and tore up neighboring yards, but she didn't head for the hills again until 1931, when she moved into the new Hogle Zoo in the mouth of Emigration Canyon.
Ardis E. Parshall is a Salt Lake historian and writer.