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Milwaukee is home to one of the most historic zoos in the country. It was a Frederick Law Olmstead park constructed in 1892, and by the 1930’s it was the largest zoo in the U.S, containing over 800 animals.  

Some of the successful animal introductions to the zoo included a baby elephant in 1907, named Countless Heine, and a rhino in 1913. By the 1930’s it also contained a collection of 37 bears in captivity, the largest in the country. This eventually grew to 44 bears including the first polar bear born in captivity, Zero.

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The free admission zoo grew rapidly popularity, and was open year-round by the 1930’s. Some sources say that the concessions and hot dog stands were still there in the middle of winter.

The popularity for the zoo, was amongst the Great Depression, and this was a cheap source of entertainment. As you can see in the video posted below, the sidewalks are packed with people. This website, also has numerous other pictures from the original Washington Park Zoo before it was moved to its new location west of Milwaukee, in Wauwatosa.

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In 1910 the Zoological Society was developed in Milwaukee in order to conduct operations for the zoo. Their mission statement includes preserving wildlife and endangered species. This Zoological Society is still in operations today with over 50 employees who help raise money to support the zoo. In 2010, they raised over $4.6 million.


 The Washington Park Zoo became the Milwaukee County Zoo in 1961, and has continued adding great exhibits to the grounds. By the 1970s the zoo added the Children’s Zoo, Train Shed, Zoo Hospital, and the gift shop.  

On websites such as ZooChat, the Milwaukee County Zoo is still a highly regarded and popular zoo. This was clearly the goal of the founders, as well as the Zoological Society of Milwaukee. 

Dustin Hochmuth,
Museum Intern, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Business Major
 


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