Vintage Photos of Michigan’s Most Famous Wildlife Menagerie: the Detroit Zoo, 1940s
Even though the current Detroit Zoo has been around since 1928, it was not the original. The first Detroit Zoo opened in 1883 on Michigan Avenue, across from the site of the future Tiger Stadium. It only lasted a year, thanks to a lack of funds...it was eventually turned into a horse market.
Detroit desperately wanted a zoo, so the Detroit Zoological Society was formed in 1911 in hopes of acquiring a new zoo. After 17 years of numerous tries and disappointments, a new Detroit Zoo was finally opened for business on August 1, 1928. This new zoo had a limited supply of animals: bears, birds, elk, lions, raccoons, and wolverines. That first year it paid host over 1.5 million customers.
In 1931 they added a mini railroad that carried visitors throughout the zoo.
By 1934 the zoo had acquired more animals: baboons, beavers, bison, chimps, elephants, giraffes, hippos, prairie dogs, reptiles, and rhinos.
In 1962 Detroit TV personality Sonny Eliot begins a 17-year run of “Sonny Eliot At The Zoo”. Seven years later (1969), the zoo began staying open 12 months a year.
I remember going to the Detroit Zoo as a kid...I need to make another journey there. There are many other adults who went as kids and never returned...and that's a shame. The zoo is NOT just for kids.....if you plan on taking a trip to the zoo, you'll have more fun than you think you'd have.
Some of the photos and videos below are from 1940 home movies and are not the best quality. But it does show a kind of 'time capsule' of what the Detroit Zoo experience was like 80 years ago. Others are old postcards depicting different areas of the zoo.
Take a look!
DETROIT ZOO, 1940s
MORE MICHIGAN ANIMALS!
Michigan Zoos, 1910s-1950s
George, The Orphaned Fawn: 1933-1940
Michigan's Love of Chickens