The first elephant to arrive in the USA was in 1796, and was exhibited around the country, so it was a question people asked — “Have you seen the elephant?”

1797 Pamphlet

In the mid 1800’s it was an idea often expressed in the West of America when someone was dying —  “You’ve seen the elephant!”—  meaning they’ve seen and experienced everything worthwhile in this world and it was now OK to die. http://www.awb.com/dailydose/?p=1097

Cartoon by Navie

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