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.
Deuchler, Douglas and Owens, Carla W. Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Zoological Society. Arcadia Publishing, 2009. ISBN 9780738560922