Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

January 4, 2009

Old Ben a Kokomo landmark for 90 years

Steer known around the world.

Many cities have landmarks for visitors to observe and help to mark the identity of the community.

Some landmarks are renowned: the Empire State Building, Eiffel Tower, Gateway Arch.

For Kokomo, it is the mounted form of the world’s largest steer, Old Ben.

The steer was well known in Indiana and the Midwest during the first half of the last century, but that all changed during World War II.

The story goes that during the war, Midwest soldiers related the tale of the world’s largest steer and requested a photograph from the Kokomo Tribune to prove their point.

What was sent back was a picture taken by Maurice Tull in 1943 of Old Ben with Phyllis Hartzell Talbert standing in front of the steer with her arms outstretched. The photo was mailed to servicemen around the world.

Old Ben was born in 1902 in Miami County, tipping the scales at birth at 125 pounds. He was gaining approximately 100 pounds a month, and after 20 months weighed a ton.

By 1906, Old Ben topped two tons and became a celebrity at Indiana fairs and festivals. His fame was such that the Nickel Plate Railroad ran a spur line to the farm of Mike and John Murphy to help in his transport.

Old Ben was never fed a special diet, but was pastured with the other cattle on the Miami County farm where many visitors would go to watch him on his home ground. Numerous sideshow and circus owners tried to buy him, but the Murphys turned them all down.

They preferred to show him themselves in a private tent at fairs all over Indiana and at the state fair. In February 1910, Ben slipped on some ice and broke his leg. With understandable reluctance, the Murphys called in a veterinarian from Marion and had him shot.

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