Jack was the pet and assistant of paraplegic signalman James Wide, who worked for the Cape Town-Port Elizabeth Railway service. James “Jumper” Wide had been known for jumping between railcars prior to an accident where he fell and lost both of his legs. To assist in performing his duties, Wide purchased the baboon named “Jack” and trained him to push his wheelchair and to operate the railways signals under supervision.
An official investigation was initiated after a concerned member of the public reported that a baboon was observed changing railway signals at Uitenhage near Port Elizabeth.
After initial skepticism, the railway decided to officially employ Jack once his job competency was verified. The baboon was paid twenty cents a day, and a half-bottle of beer each week. It is widely reported that in his nine years of employment with the railroad, Jack never made a mistake.
After nine years of duty, Jack died of tuberculosis in 1890. His skull is in the collection of the Albany Museum in Grahamstown.