Do you think that farming is “the loveliest of all professions on the face of the earth?” Would you argue that agrarian work is “the vocation on which all prosperity rests?” Or would you be so bold as to say that working on a farm “brings men into contact with that mysterious principle of life, that essence of God in the world?” If you answered yes to any of these, then you should have gone to the Maryland Agricultural College in 1895! This small land-grant college that eventually became the University of Maryland, College Park (my alma mater!) was originally a school devoted to training farmers and using agriculture experimentation to support the state’s farms. In order to really understand the college’s role in agriculture in the late 1800s and early 1900s, I think the best thing to do to get acquainted with Richard Silvester, the 16th president of the school.
When I was researching for my “Dutch Belted Cow” post, I came across a neat 1886 newspaper article called “The True Story of a Pet Land Turtle Named Jumbo.” Being a University of Maryland graduate, this story of a huge terrapin that could perform tricks and was a beloved family pet was a lot of fun to read.
Jumbo the terrapin was a seriously impressive creature! Weighing in at around 100 pounds by the author’s estimate, Jumbo could walk around his yard with a boy balancing on his back and liked to eat bananas and other fruit that his mistress would feed him. Jumbo was devoted to his mistress and liked to lay his head in her lap, especially whey she had some tasty fruit for him to munch on! He also loved company and would play with the cat and anyone who would spend time with him. I’ve transcribed the entire article below so you can read the whole thing. Continue reading “Jumbo: A “Civilized” (and Giant) Terrapin”