Tag Archives: animals

In the voices of animals

The vast majority of the documents in the WCS Archives are written by people speaking as themselves.  They may be speaking as representatives for a larger collective, such as the Society, or a professional organization, or even–in the cases of some Congressional testimony transcripts–as representatives for the zoo profession as a whole.  Every now and then, however, we come across examples of people speaking not in their own voices, but in those of animals.
Continue reading

NYZS at the Rock

Excerpt from Mark Finston's article, “Towers Over Rockefeller Plaza: Huge tree finds its places in the sun” published in the Newark Star-Ledger on December 2, 1969. Text reads: “When last year's Christmas tree was hoisted, a small owl, which had apparently been living in the tree, and which had not emerged during the long ride from Canada, let out a screech. The owl was donated to the Bronx Zoo. No such animal life was discovered in this year's tree...”  From a clippings file titled "Birds, 1969". Scanned from WCS Archives Collection 2032.

At this time of year one may ask the question: “What do the New York Zoological Society (NYZS) and Rockefeller Center have in common?” As it turns out, the Society and this long-standing New York City gathering place and holiday beacon have a historical relationship–with a festive flavor. Continue reading

Processing update

1991-009-TorrentDucks-ContactSheet-19700106-JoeBellMeasuringDuckFor most of the past year I have been processing historical records from our Ornithology Department, particularly materials from former Curators Joe Bell, Don Bruning, and Christine Sheppard.  These records provide detailed evidence of the Curators’ oversight of bird husbandry and exhibits at the Bronx Zoo, professional leadership in what was then called the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums, and commitment to field conservation worldwide.  For the most part, however, this evidence only becomes truly impressive in aggregate: Rather than individual documents providing ‘A-ha!’ moments, it is the very depth and volume of material that gives the collections their historical weight.

Continue reading

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

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

Collections processing updates

1985-10-01-Peyton-CarrAndPearl-Figure4-page2-detail.jpgOver the past several months the WCS Archives has processed six collections, five of which are wholly or partially open for research.   The finding aids for these collections have joined the descriptions of previously processed archival collections available through the WCS Library’s public website, www.wcs.org/library.  (The direct link to the Archives’ finding aids is: http://ielc.libguides.com/wcs/archives_fas.)  Included below are the abstracts for and links to the collections’ finding aids, plus an image or document from each. Continue reading

‘The most wonderful of all living mammals’

2016-BZ-Events-1947-PlatypusaryExhibitInvitation.jpgIn 1922, the Bronx Zoo displayed the first duck-billed platypus to be shown live in a zoo outside of Australia.  That was the last platypus to be seen in the United States for the next quarter century, until the Bronx Zoo again exhibited platypuses in April 1947.  The Bronx Zoo’s parent organization, the New York Zoological Society, had begun working with the famed Australian naturalist David Fleay to acquire platypuses in the winter of 1945-1946. The original hope was to display the platypuses that summer, but several factors thwarted this plan.  Capture and shipping difficulties, a threatened maritime strike, and a housing shortage that led the US government to ban all non-housing construction ultimately led the Society to call off the acquisition until the following year. Continue reading

Panda-Mania in the Bronx

2016-BZ-Events-1987-PandaPressKit-PandoraPhoto-02-200pxThumbWilliam Bridges, in his history of the early years of the New York Zoological Society, relates that “in 1901, William T. Hornaday, the Bronx Zoo’s founding director, sought to acquire a ‘particolored bear’ for exhibition” (Gathering of Animals, p.222).  In 1938 Hornaday’s successor, W. Reid Blair, acquired the Society’s first giant panda, Pandora.  Pandora–and to a lesser extent her compatriot, Pan–was a smashing success.  Her sojourn at the Society’s pavilion at the 1939-1940 World’s Fair was so popular that her return to the Bronx was celebrated with an enlarged enclosure and increased visitor viewing areas.  Continue reading