Category Archives: Past/Present

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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The Captain’s Menageries: Ronald Cheyne-Stout and the Central Park and Prospect Park Zoos

Captain Cheyne-Stout with his favorite zoo animal, Spiny, whom he kept as a pet in his officeDuring the Great Depression, New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses embarked upon a wide-ranging overhaul of the NYC parks system that included the reconstruction of the Central Park Zoo  and the construction of the Prospect Park Zoo.   (Links lead to New York City Parks Department history pages.)  Robert Moses first hired Captain Ronald Cheyne-Stout as an animal consultant for the two zoos, and later took him on as the zoos’ Menagerie Director.  Continue reading

The Aquarium of Our Dreams

New York Aquarium postcardWith the New York Aquarium preparing for a major transformation of its facilities at Coney Island—centering around a new 50,000 square foot Ocean Wonders: Sharks! exhibit—I took special note while flipping through a 1915 issue of the New York Zoological Society Bulletin recently of an article entitled “The Aquarium of Our Dreams.”


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Dear Zoo…

2069-Davall-02a.tifToday, if you want information on an animal, you might turn to the internet, and look it up on Google or Wikipedia. If you want information on the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Bronx Zoo, or one of the other wildlife parks, you might go to their website, read their FAQs, or go to the “contact us” page for email information. In 1965, however, such information was not a just a click away. If you had a school project, or needed animal information for another reason, you might write to the zoo. And if you were Assistant Curator of Birds and Mammals Grace Davall, part of your job would be responding to these inquiries.  Continue reading

Betty and Veronica

BZ Archie CoverBetty and Veronica, the two grizzly bears who have recently moved from the Bronx Zoo to take up residence at the Central Park Zoo, have been local media stars lately, appearing in the New York Times, the Post, and on several news stations.

But these two are no strangers to fame: in fact, in 2004, they were the cover stars of Archie Comic No. 550.  Continue reading

The Zoo Library

Wildlife Conservation Society 5234a Library Administration Building BZ 12 00 10From its inception, the Bronx Zoo has been home to a library as well as to its many wonderful animals.  In fact, in the first annual report, 1896 of the New York Zoological Society (today the Wildlife Conservation Society), gifts of books were solicited, “especially those on mammals, birds and reptiles, books of travel and exploration, and files of scientific journals in which zoological subjects have a place.”  Continue reading

Forty-four years of Earth Day at the Wildlife Conservation Society

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In early 1970, the United States’ new environmentalist movement conceived of the first-ever Earth Day, a day of action and awareness.  New York City celebrated with an all-day rally at Union Square Park.  Exhibitors at Union Square included groups focused on air, water, and noise pollution; urban public health issues such as pest control and lead poisoning; the conservation of wildlife and wild places; nuclear power, peace, and disarmament; population and food issues; and several other environmental and civic causes.  (List of exhibitors , April 1970. William G. Conway records, circa 1900-2004 (bulk 1960-2003). Collection 1028.)  Continue reading