Title: Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Zoological Society by Douglas Deuchler and Carla W. Owens
The Brookfield Zoo is one of my favorite places. When my daughter was little and we lived in Brookfield, Illinois, we were there at least once a week year round. It's like my backyard, and I have come to know a lot about the place since my first visit in 1982. So I was eager to see Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Zoological Society by Douglas Deuchler and Carla W. Owens.
Like all Image of America series books from Arcadia Publishing, Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Zoological Society is a 128-page paperback filled with annotated black-and-white photographs. These photographs drawn from the zoo archives and other sources are sequenced chronologically to tell about the building of the zoo, its maturation, and its rise as a leader in world conservation. Particular emphasis is given to its buildings, notable animals, special events, and zoo-goers experiences.
I both enjoyed seeing the familiar and unfamiliar in the photos. I remember the old dolphinarium, Olga the Walrus, the narrow-gauge railroad, the old Giraffe House where the okapis lived, the old Motor Safari vehicles with their animal-skin paint jobs, and Mold-A-Rama figurines. Most of these are gone and some have been replaced with something better, but the memories are still fond.
I also learned many things about the zoos past:
In the 1930s, you could rent a wheeled chair (a chair on a sort of dolly) for 50 cents an hour and an attendant to push it for an additional 25 cents.
The zoo encouraged feeding bears marshmallows until the late 1950s.
The Aquatic Bird House originally had a bright Art Deco interior.
The mote around Baboon Island was drained in 1948 after a ten-year old boy climbed over the guard rail and fell in.
It took eleven zoo employees to carry a giant anaconda, the world's heaviest snake.
Roosevelt Fountain was not constructed until 1954, decades after it was planned.
As with all Image of America books, I am left with unanswered questions, such as where were the pandas kept. 128 pages is not enough for 75 years of zoo history. I am glad that we also have Let the Lions Roar: The Evolution of the Brookfield Zoo by Andrea Ross, which goes into more detail. Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Zoological Society by Douglas Deuchler and Carla W. Owens is a good supplement and update to the longer book. Both make me want to go back to the zoo tomorrow.
Title: Zoo rings in 75 years with book, party
Author: Doug Deuchler
Publisher: Riverside/Brookfield Landmark
On Wednesday, July 1, Brookfield Zoo will be 75 years old. Construction began in the mid-1920s but once the Great Depression hit, all building halted. The zoo was not finished until1934.
That was a big summer for Chicago. Dillinger was shot outside the Biograph Theater and the "Century of Progress" World's Fair had been so well-attended, despite the hard times, it was reopened for a successful second year.
Since 1934 Brookfield Zoo has been a world-class leader in animal care, conservation, and education, inspiring generations of guests to gain a greater appreciation of nature and wildlife.
When the Arcadia Publishing Company heard I was working part time as a motor safari tram guide at the zoo, an editor approached me about doing a new book for their "Images of America" series.
They were especially intent on adding a Brookfield Zoo title to their list of publications in time to celebrate the zoo's 75th anniversary. A zoo book sounded like a wonderful project, and I'd be working with a co-author, Carla W. Owens, zoo archivist and manager of library services.
The book "tells the story" of the zoo from the beginning, using about 230 vintage and recent photographs, with captions explaining the progression of images. Carla and I found lots of incredible stuff.
We had access to many thousands of pictures, ranging from postcard views to professional photos that ran in publications like Look magazine, Life magazine and the Chicago Tribune. We had a number of charming amateur photos taken by guests themselves over the decades. We also located displays and publicity materials that had not been seen in nearly eight decades.
In the attic level of a big commissary barn on the south side of the zoo we discovered souvenirs and guide books dating back to the 1930s. We even found a number of posters and images from the WPA, the Works Progress Administration. A number of WPA artisans during the Roosevelt years actually had a studio at the zoo and created many murals, lots of signage and sculpture.
The cover photo, a majestic shot of a polar bear at dawn, was featured on a penny picture postcard in 1934. There were many views of the bear grottos in the early years. The innovative "bar-less" exhibits with moats safely separating the guests from the animals were enormously popular. Most zoos still exhibited animals in cages at that time.
Readers can see some of the most popular "stars" of the zoo over the years, from Cookie the cockatoo (still alive and well) to Ziggy the bull elephant who attained cult status to the trio of pandas who came to Brookfield Zoo in the 1930s, creating a national "panda-monium."
The book Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Zoological Society is on sale in bookstores as well as at the zoo. Owens and I will be signing copies of the book on the East Mall from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on July 1.
There will be lots of other special activities all day on July 1. The band Tributosaurus will play music from the different decades since the 1930s. Dr. Stuart Strahl, president and chief executive officer of Brookfield Zoo, will speak, highlighting some of the zoo's significant moments over the years.
There will be performances by the Chicago Cultural Alliance, Native American dancers and drummers, Scottish bagpipers and Highland Dancers and Brazilian "Planta Azul" performances. There will lots of "zoo chats" in front of various habitats and exhibits, as well as other surprises and treats, such as 75-cent Vienna hotdogs.
There will also be free admission for all children 11 years old and under on June 29, June 30 and July 1.