Celebrating the NPS Centennial in the Jackson Hole Wildlife Park

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and to celebrate this major event, we’re remembering the creation of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Park.  In 1948, New York Zoological Society trustee and future NYZS president Laurance S. Rockefeller worked with NYZS and the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to establish the park, and in 1962, the park was donated to the National Park Service for inclusion in Grand Teton National Park.

Laurance Rockefeller at the opening of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Park, July 18, 1948. WCS Photo Collection

Laurance Rockefeller speaking at the dedication of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Park, July 1948. NYZS President Fairfield Osborn is seated second from the left. WCS Photo Collection

Jackson Hole Wildlife Park opened to the public on July 19, 1948 to great acclaim.  The New York Herald Tribune called the opening an “important step in our nation’s general conservation movement,” while the Washington Post heralded it as a “substantial addition to the faculties enabling Americans to view one of their great natural resources in primitive state.”  Americans indeed took advantage of the new park: according to the 1948 NYZS Annual Report, within the park’s first year, its guest book contained signatures from all 48 states—as well as signatures from 12 other countries.  

Jackson Hole Wildlife Park map drawn by Lloyd Sanford, 1948. WCS Photo Collection

Jackson Hole Wildlife Park map drawn by Lloyd Sanford, 1948. WCS Photo Collection

Visitors were no doubt drawn by the promise of viewing bison and elk in a natural setting.  In spite of this natural setting, however, the bison were actually introduced to the park as a captive herd—bison having been absent from the area since at least the 1800s.  And, while drawing crowds, the bison display was controversial.  As an NPS history explains, one of its biggest critics was “Jackson Hole resident and renowned biologist Olaus Murie[, who] objected to the display, calling the fenced park the ‘antithesis’ of a healthy wildlife habitat.”  The NPS eventually abandoned the display after 1968, when the captive group broke through the park’s fences and began a free-ranging herd that continues today.

Jackson Hole Wildlife Park drawing by Lloyd Sanford, 1953. WCS Photo Collection

Jackson Hole Wildlife Park drawing by Lloyd Sanford, 1953. WCS Photo Collection

Of greater success than the animal display was the park’s research facility, known originally as the Jackson Hole Research Station of the New York Zoological Society.  Before the park even opened, NYZS hoped that it would serve as an “active outdoor laboratory,” and in 1947, the Society reported on the activities of John and Frank Craighead, who, while working on their PhDs, mapped the region’s communities of plants and animals and conducted a study of its predatory birds.  

Cover of Jackson Hole Biological Research Station brochure, 1960s. WCS Archives Collection 2016

Cover of Jackson Hole Biological Research Station brochure, 1960s. WCS Archives Collection 2016

NYZS-sponsored students and professors conducted work at the station, and early projects focused on issues of wildlife management; over time, ecological and and behavioral studies dominated the station’s research.  As a 1960s brochure for the station explained,

“A wide variety of biotic communities is accessible which affords excellent opportunities for qualitative and quantitative ecological studies of both terrestrial and aquatic communities.  The diversity and abundance of plants and animals provide excellent opportunities for taxonomic, distributional, and life history studies as well as studies involving their interrelationships.”

Along with the Craighead twins, dozens of renowned biologists conducted studies at the Jackson Hole Research Station during its existence, including George Schaller, Margaret Altmann, and Howard E. Evans, and research topics ranged from the “vascularity of the brain of Amblystoma” to “effects of human use on wild lands in the Tetons.” In 1953, NYZS entered into an agreement with the University of Wyoming under which the university assumed responsibility for the station’s administration.  As NYZS’s internal conservation programs began to take shape, the Society ended its affiliation with the Jackson Hole Research Station in the mid-1970s, and in 1977, the University of Wyoming moved the research station to the AMK Ranch on the eastern shore of Jackson Lake to establish the UW-NPS Research Center.

Preserving Herpetological History… and Beyond

In January 2016, the WCS Archives began a project to preserve WCS’s historical photographic negatives. Since then, another intern and I have been going through these negatives one by one, inspecting them and creating an inventory, noting any information we can glean about their title, date, and physical condition. To ensure their long-term preservation, these negatives are being rehoused and placed into new acid-free envelopes and boxes. The approximately 50,000 negatives in this collection include both acetate film and glass plate negatives, and the oldest images date back to 1899. During this first phase of the project, I have been working with around the first 10,000 negatives in the collection, which represent the earliest of WCS’s photos, ranging from 1899 to the early 1940s.  This project was funded by the New York State Program for the Conservation and Preservation of Library Research Materials.

The collection includes photographs featuring a wide variety of different subjects, such as zoo and aquarium exhibits, patrons at the park, zookeepers interacting with various animals, and many series of images featuring zoo and aquarium animals.  Among this extensive and varied collection are images related to the work of Raymond Ditmars.

Raymond Ditmars with camera, April 1934. WCS Photo Collection

Raymond Ditmars with camera, April 1934. WCS Photo Collection

Raymond Lee Ditmars (1876-1942) was a prominent herpetologist who began working with the New York Zoological Society in 1899, four months prior to the opening of the Bronx Zoo (then known as the New York Zoological Park). He was employed as the Assistant Curator in Charge of Reptiles.  Snakes and other reptiles from his own personal collection formed the core exhibits of the Reptile House. Ditmars would continue with the Society for the rest of his life, a working relationship that spanned over forty years.

Measuring snake eggs, March 1932. WCS Photo Collection

Measuring snake eggs, March 1932. WCS Photo Collection

Over the course of his career, Ditmars played a major role in running the zoo. By 1926 he was also named the Curator of Mammals, and he continued working extensively with reptiles as well.  He was instrumental in bringing new species into the zoo’s collection, and he launched several expeditions to Central and South America to seek tropical specimens for the zoo. Ditmars was also highly interested in both still and motion picture photography.  He produced a number of films for the Society, and experimented with a variety of cinematic techniques such as high-speed and slow-motion photography and stop-motion animation.  Several of these films can be found in WCS’s film collection, which is currently undergoing similar inspection and inventorying work as the photography collection.

Keepers showing length of reticulated python (then known as a regal python) at the Bronx Zoo, June 1904. WCS Photo Collection

Keepers showing length of reticulated python (then known as a regal python) at the Bronx Zoo, June 1904. WCS Photo Collection

In terms of the photography collection, there are hundreds of images of snakes and lizards that represent Ditmars’s contributions to both the Reptile House and the field of herpetology. These photographs of scientific and educational importance contain images of the reptiles themselves, as well as snake eggs and zookeepers handling reptiles. Several images show groups of keepers holding massive pythons, displaying the tremendous size and length of the animal. One image even features a very comfortable-looking ball python curled up inside of a keeper’s hat.

Ball python curled up in keeper's hat, September 1925. WCS Photo Collection

Ball python curled up in keeper’s hat, September 1925. WCS Photo Collection

There are also images in the collection of the Ditmars horned lizard (scientific name Phyrnosoma ditmarsi), a species that was named in honor of Ditmars and his role as a prominent herpetologist who worked hard to educate the public about reptiles.

Ditmars horned lizard (Phrynosoma ditmarsi), March 1932.

Ditmars horned lizard (Phrynosoma ditmarsi), March 1932.

With the continuing work the Wildlife Conservation Society Archives is doing to preserve images like the ones related to Ditmars, they also eventually hope to digitize these images so that they can be made more accessible.  This project represents first steps toward achieving this goal and ensuring that such a significant part of history is preserved for the future.

This post was written by Savannah Campbell, a student in NYU’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation program, who interned with the WCS Archives during the Spring 2016 semester.

Correspondence from Raymond Ditmars to William Hornaday can be found in WCS Archives Collection 1001.  The Archives also holds a small collection of Ditmars’s records; for more information on this, please email us.

Zoo Letterhead: Midwestern U.S. 1962-1971

Letterhead-USMidwest-008-Cincinnati-a-CroppedForThumbnailHere’s the third post in our series on graphic design in letterhead. This installment features stationery from zoos and aquaria in the U. S. Midwest, and includes multiple examples from a couple of zoos: Cincinnati Zoo appears to have had multiple letterheads in the early 1960s, and both it and Cleveland Zoo redesigned their stationery at some point in the decade.

I must admit that I prefer the whimsy of Cincinnati and Cleveland Zoos’ early 1960s designs to their late-1960s counterparts.

 

1a & b.  Cincinnati Zoo

Cincinnati Zoological Park / Zoological Society of Cincinnati, December 7, 1962 – Lion

Cincinnati Zoological Park, December 11, 1962 - Kangaroo

Cincinnati Zoological Park / Zoological Society of Cincinnati, December 11, 1962 – Kangaroo

 

2. Zoological Society of Cincinnati, a decade later

Zoological Society of Cincinnati, July 1971

Zoological Society of Cincinnati, July 1971

 

3. The (old) Cleveland Aquarium, not to be confused with the new Greater Cleveland Aquarium

Cleveland Aquarium, June 1962

Cleveland Aquarium, June 1962

 

4. Cleveland Zoological Society, former parent organization and current membership arm of the Cleveland Zoo (which is now the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo), early 1960s

Cleveland Zoological Society, October 1963

Cleveland Zoological Society, October 1963

 

5. Cleveland Zoological Society, late 1960s

Cleveland Zoological Society, February 1969

Cleveland Zoological Society, February 1969

Not reproduced is the reverse of the stationery sheet, where most of the  Zoo’s trustee listing, other than the executive board, was moved. (The bleed-through is faintly visible in the image.)

 

6. Fort Wayne Zoological Society (parent organization of the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo)

Fort Wayne Zoological Society, February 1971

Fort Wayne Zoological Society, February 1971

 

7. Indianapolis Zoo

Indianapolis Zoological Society, February 1963

Indianapolis Zoological Society, February 1963

Note that this letter was written before the Zoo’s opening date, in April 1964.

 

8.  Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago

Lincoln Park Zoological Society, October 1963

Lincoln Park Zoological Society, October 1963

While many zoos–including the Bronx Zoo–are founded by their sponsoring zoological societies, the Lincoln Park Zoological Society was founded several decades after its zoo had opened.

 

9. Shedd Aquarium, Chicago

John G. Shedd Aquarium, December 1962

John G. Shedd Aquarium, December 1962

How the American Bison Became Our National Mammal

Bison at the Bronx Zoo being crated for transport to the Wichita Forest  and Game Preserve (now known as the Wichita Mountains Wildlife  Reserve), October 1907. William Hornaday appears on the left.  WCS Photo Collection

Bison at the Bronx Zoo being crated for transport to the Wichita Forest and Game Preserve (now known as the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Reserve), October 1907. William Hornaday appears on the left. WCS Photo Collection

This week, President Obama signed a law making the bison the US’s first national mammal.  To celebrate this momentous event, we’re looking back on the history of protection for the American bison with a blog post over on Medium.  Check it out here:

http://medium.com/@WCS/how-the-american-bison-became-our-national-mammal-eace49467768#.qva9dat56

WCS NDSR Project Post: “{Let’s Get Digital} Recap”

Our NDSR Resident, Genevieve Havemeyer-King, was recently one of the organizers of a free, all-day symposium on digital preservation held under the auspices of the Metropolitan New York Library Council, the Archivists Round Table of New York, and the Brooklyn Historical Society.

As an attendee, I can say that the event was a rousing success!  In her latest post on the NDSR-NY Resident blog, Genevieve showcases the day’s highlights and links to slides and other resources from the presentations and workshops:

http://ndsr.nycdigital.org/lets-get-digital-recap/

Check it out!

The African Plains: “A New Vista to the Wonders of Nature”

“A new vista to the wonders of Nature.”  This is how New York Zoological Society President Fairfield Osborn described the brand new African Plains exhibit when it opened at the Bronx Zoo 75 years ago next week, on May 1, 1941.  The exhibit—with its bringing together of several African species, including lions, zebras, nyalas, and many birds, into an expansive savannah landscape—was indeed a new vista for the Zoo.  Whereas previous Bronx Zoo exhibits were conceived around animal orders or families—what Osborn referred to as “man-made classification”—and often indoors—think of the old Lion House, the Monkey House—the African Plains brought together animals based on geography, and it placed them in a naturalistic setting.

Predators and prey are separated by discrete moats in the African Plains exhibit, 1941. WCS Photo Collection

Predators and prey are separated by discreet moats in the African Plains exhibit, 1941. WCS Photo Collection

For Osborn, in the context of the Society’s history, the opening of the African Plains was “not only notable in itself… but in what it means for the future.”  As he continued in the May/June 1941 issue of the Zoological Society Bulletin, “We have crossed a bridge and burned it behind us.  A turning point in the development of the Zoo has not only been reached but passed.  It is the beginning of the end of exhibiting our animal collections behind bars.”  Osborn went on to intuit that it would be several years before this major transition in zoo design would take place.  In fact, plans for a second phase of the African Plains, which was to include elephants, giraffes, and primates, were only partially realized with the development of the giraffe range several years later.  And while the Society had the architects of the African Plains, W. K. Harrison & J. A. Foulihoux, draw up a new Bronx Zoo master plan in 1941 to incorporate other continent-based exhibits, these continental areas were not developed until decades later and in different areas of the Zoo.  Still, the African Plains set the stage for other acclaimed exhibits like Wild Asia (opened in 1977), JungleWorld (opened in 1985), and Congo (opened in 1999).

NYZS postcard featuring the entrance to the African Plains exhibit, circa 1940s. WCS Archives Collection 2016

NYZS postcard featuring the entrance to the African Plains exhibit, circa 1940s. WCS Archives Collection 2016

Actually, other zoos had experimented much earlier with the African Plains’ style of naturalistic, bar-less enclosures, but what was pioneering about the African Plains was its intention to display the ecological relationships among animals and their natural environments.  Showing this ecological interdependence was central to Osborn’s vision for the Bronx Zoo.  A leading conservationist of the period, Osborn saw the African Plains exhibit as an educational tool for making the public aware of the need to protect not only wildlife but also the places in which they lived—a vision that continues to guide zoo design today.

Crowds gathered during the exhibit's opening month, May 1941. WCS Photo Collection

Crowds gathered during the exhibit’s opening month, May 1941. WCS Photo Collection

Osborn also believed that the exhibit was an important reminder to zoo visitors of the goodness of nature—a reminder that he felt was especially needed while the war escalated across Europe.  In his opening day address, a copy of which is held in the WCS Archives, he told the gathered crowd, “We are here to greet this sight, and millions of others will do likewise before the year is out, grateful for an hour of recreation, snatched from these troubled days.  We can be refreshed for a while from the spectacle of Man’s cruel and needless destruction of himself.”  As he exhorted, “We should have no patience with those unthinking persons who rant than Man, in his present cruelties, is reverting to primitive nature—to the so-called law of the jungle.  No greater falsehood could be spoken.  Nature knows no such horrors.”  He went on to condemn Hitler, saying that “whatever battles he may win, [he] is bound to lose in the end.  Man’s age-long insistence on freedom for the individual isn’t anything in the world but the straight, pure, unadulterated urge of any higher mammal.  Add to that Man’s spirit and soul.”  Nature, for Osborn, offered a powerful lesson for the war’s outcome: “The totalitarian system may be found among ants and bees—it is impossible for Man!”

African Plains opening day invitation, 1941. WCS Archives Collection 2016

African Plains opening day invitation, 1941. WCS Archives Collection 2016

The crowds gathered on that opening day heard from Osborn and Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, and Mayor LaGuardia performed the official opening.  Others at the event included the German opera star Frieda Hempel, who sang the National Anthem.  (There’s been no evidence of whether the exhibit’s anonymous benefactor–later revealed to be department store owner Marshall Field–was in attendance, but one suspects he was.)  Among those covering the event were CBS journalists, who reported on the event from a wooden crate placed inside the lion exhibit.

And all those seeking Osborn’s “hour of recreation,” and, he would hope, developing a new appreciation for the interconnectedness of the natural world, would indeed visit the African Plains: on the Sunday after the exhibit’s opening, nearly 85,000 visitors attended the Bronx Zoo—the largest single day’s attendance since the Zoo’s opening in 1899.

Crowds gathered during the opening month of the African Plains, May 1941. WCS Photo Collection

Crowds gathered during the exhibit’s opening month, May 1941. WCS Photo Collection

Have you been to the African Plains?  Do you think that Osborn’s vision is realized in it?  Are you surprised to know that it is 75 years old?

WCS NDSR Project Post: “Trojan Dots and DIY Solutions”

Our National Digital Stewardship Resident here at the WCS Archives,  Genevieve Havemeyer-King, has another post  on the NDSR-NY Program blog:

http://ndsr.nycdigital.org/trojan-dots-and-diy-solutions/

In this post Genevieve talks about her takeaways from a recent conference and describes one of the smallest challenges we’ve faced so far—so tiny, in fact, that we nearly didn’t see it!

Check it out!

The ‘Rubbish War’: Hornaday’s Home-Town Campaign

Wildlife Conservation Society_005575_Waste Paper East of Bronx River_BZ_05 00 12-watermarkedAt the Bronx Zoo the approach of Spring brings warmer weather, and thus increasing crowds enjoying the park.  As the season progresses the Horticulture, Maintenance, and Operations Departments, as well as various others, all find themselves increasingly busy with the work of keeping the Zoo presentable.  A century ago these departments’ predecessors also joined the fight to maintain the grounds.  During the early 20th Century, however, Director William Hornaday, treating the efforts to keep the Zoo clean like one of his conservation campaigns, gave what he called ‘The Rubbish War’ a hyperbolic air not seen in today’s spring cleanings.

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Zoo Letterhead – Western U.S., 1956-1971

Letterhead-USWestZoos-005-RioGrandePark-redacted-CroppedContinuing our series on graphic design in letterhead, this installment features stationery from zoos and aquaria in the western United States during the mid 1950s – early 1970s.   (Letterhead from the late 19th and early 20th centuries is the subject of another post!)

Which is your favorite?  (You can right-click on the images to open them in new tabs and examine them more closely.)

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