Lions, Tigers and Bears, Oh, My! The Modern Zoo and the working class Progressive Family: 1890-1920

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In June of 1904, as reported in the New York Times: Come on out here, Hattie, and give us a tune, It was “Billy” Snyder, keeper of the elephants in the Zoological Gardens, Central Park, New York, who spoke nonchalantly and in his most ordinary tone of voice, while twenty children craned their necks wondrously across the railing. It was “Hattie” the champion trick elephant of the world and the great pet of the children of New York City. Youngsters surprisingly viewed these otherwise threatening, menacing creatures as friends. It would seem that children developed such a close relationship with the animals that each beast was given their own individual personality and characteristics. In an era where industrialization was king, working class families surrendered to child labor. Such children were forced to mature and in some instances, regress. Children were not able to enjoy the same carefree childhood as children from other social classes. Industrialization in America deprived the urban family of its traditional economic, educational and religious functions among others. Eventually the introduction of leisure time in America presented the opportunity to create atmospheres of relaxation and enjoyment. Modern zoos quickly noticed this distinguished pattern and subsequently began marketing to the working class family. The Progressive Era saw a shift from a straight-laced Victorian sophistication to a more dynamic mass culture, reacting to both fatiguing tendencies of modern life and an earlier emphasis on moralizing self-control and refinement. A pivotal point in American history, the Progressive Era lead to the development and in many cases the unmasking of many aspects of the American famil... ... middle of paper ... ... analysis of the period will be vital it framing my essay and providing a background. The author uses many monographs about various topics such as important figures of the period. Primary sources used include Progressive political platforms and public papers. Stotts, Jeff. "The Historical Origins of the Zoological Park in American Thought." Environmental Review 5, no. 2 (1981): 52. Stotts uses scholarly articles, newspaper articles and historical monographs to show the changing ideologies and perception of zoological parks in America. He addresses the reasons adults and children alike were attracted to these parks. Stotts addresses the appeal of the zoo to American families, which extends upon the social history of the United States. Furthermore he addresses how zoos came to become sanctuaries, preservers and protectors of America’s wildlife for future generations.

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