We’re celebrating the 122nd anniversary of the New York Aquarium! In December 1896 the Aquarium opened in Castle Clinton at Battery Park, and WCS took over its management from the city in 1902. After being closed in 1941 and temporarily relocated to the Lion House at the Bronx Zoo, the Aquarium reopened at Coney Island in 1957. This postcard depicts the Aquarium and its surrounding area at Battery Park circa 1931.
We are excited to share that the Charles Townsend records have been processed and a finding aid can be viewed online!
Charles Haskins Townsend was the first director of the New York Aquarium (NYA) under New York Zoological Society management in 1902 and remained in the position until 1937. He found a love for nature early in life, stating in an autobiographical article that “I was too fully occupied with the natural world to consider the supernatural,” in regards to not following his family’s tradition to join the clergy.
Prior to coming to NYA, Townsend worked for the United States Fish Commission and was part of two scientific expeditions. In 1885 Townsend went on his first expedition aboard the U.S.S. Corwin to the Arctic. The following year in 1886 he joined as the naturalist for an expedition on the U.S.S. Albatross, which spent ten years traveling to the Bahamas and the Canadian Maritime Provinces before voyaging to the Pacific, making stops around the Galapagos Islands, islands off the California coast, up the Pacific Northwest, and Alaska. Townsend’s records feature photos taken during these expeditions, including images of the locations they visited and the wildlife they saw there. Continue reading →
Today is the anniversary of the Bronx Zoo opening in 1899! Here is what crowds looked like ten years later on a Sunday by the Sea Lion Pool and Old Bird House in what was then referred to as Baird Court (now Astor Court).
Happy National Bison Day! In 1905, leaders of WCS helped to form the American Bison Society. Their work prevented the extinction of this iconic species by establishing several small herds — sometimes with animals from the Bronx Zoo — in widely separated preserves across the country. Shown here are bison sent from the Bronx Zoo to Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in 1907. National Bison Day, which is celebrated on the first Saturday in November, commemorates the ecological, cultural, historical, and economic contribution of the American bison to the US.
Happy Halloween! Here are some spooky creatures of the deep illustrated by Else Bostelmann from the Department of Tropical Research in 1934. She appropriately titled this “Big Bad Wolves of an Abyssal Chamber of Horrors.”
Wildlife Conservation Society Archives. Collection 2016.
The elephant keys unlocked “Talking Storybooks,” which were installed in zoos, including the Bronx Zoo, in the 1950s and 1960s. Once unlocked with elephant keys, the Talking Storybooks played recorded stories about animals found around the zoo. Does anyone still have theirs?
Opening Day Ceremony program. WCS Archives Collection 2016
On October 5, 1993, Prospect Park Zoo reopened under the management of WCS. The renovation of the Prospect Park Zoo was the final component in WCS’s City Zoos Project, following the revitalization and reopening of the Central Park and Queens Zoos in 1988 and 1992.
Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden and Howard Phipps Jr reopening the Prospect Park Zoo, October 5, 1993. WCS Photo Collection
The Prospect Park Zoo was officially opened by then Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden throwing the inaugural fish to the sea lions while Society Chairman Howard Phipps Jr., Parks Commissioner Betsy Gotbaum, and the crowd looked on.
The original Prospect Park Zoo started in the late 1800s as a menagerie and formally opened as Prospect Park Zoo, under New York City management, in 1935. After management transferred to WCS in the 1980s, renovation of the park began in August 1989. Architectural elements and the original layout were preserved while the exhibits were replaced with natural habitats for the animals. Larger animals were moved to the bigger zoos while small animals remained.
Howard Phipps Jr., Howard Golden, and children at Prospect Park reopening, October 5, 1993. WCS Photo Collection
The new zoo’s design placed an emphasis on educating children about wildlife conservation, with the WCS 1994 annual report referring to it as a “conservation-oriented children’s wildlife center in Brooklyn.”
“Old male. Proboscis drawn up. Neck sore from fighting.”
Townsend’s writing on inside front cover
Charles Haskins Townsend was born on this date in 1859. Townsend served as the Director of the New York Aquarium at Battery Park from 1902 to 1937, and he was a leading voice for the protection of fur seals. This album features photos Townsend took of elephant seals on Guadalupe Island in March 1911 during an expedition on the U.S.S. Albatross. Fur seals later found by researchers on Guadalupe Island in the 1920s were aptly named Guadalupe Fur Seals, but their scientific name was made in honor of Townsend, Arctocephalus townsendi.
On #WorldGorillaDay, we’re remembering the pioneering mountain gorilla studies conducted by George Schaller in 1959 and 1960. Sponsored by WCS, Schaller and John Emlen surveyed gorilla populations in Uganda and what was then the Belgian Congo. Their studies helped to establish population data that continues to guide conservationists today. Schaller also conducted further field research into the behavior and ecology of mountain gorillas. Approaching them with “empathy and respect,” as he has written, he spent several months making unprecedented observations of gorillas. His groundbreaking work dispelled then-popular notions of gorillas as ferocious beasts, and helped to promote an understanding of the gorilla as shy, gentle, and vulnerable.