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Wroclaw. At the zoo, they found an album of old postcards. And on them animals and shows of exotic peoples

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About 200 postcards glued to the album were found in the zoo in Wrocław. It has not been previously cataloged. On its first page there is a stamp and a note stating that the cards have been collected there since 1902. – It shows us how the garden functioned over a hundred years ago – say representatives of the Wrocław Zoo. At that time in the garden there were, among others, shows of exotic peoples, and the guardians posed for photos with animals.

– The library collection of the Wrocław Zoo has recently been enriched by a previously uncatalogued copy. This is an album with archival postcards that show how the garden functioned over a hundred years ago, informs Weronika Skupin from the marketing department of the Wrocław Zoo.

There are about 200 postcards, and some of them are repeated. – They were not addressed and sent. They are clean on the back. The collection was probably collected by the director for archiving purposes – describes Skupin.

The first page of the found album reads: Postcard Album aus dem Breslauer Zoologischen Garten (Postcard album from the Wrocław Zoological Garden). Underneath there is a stamp and a note: Gessamelt von Diretor Grabowsky seit April 1902 (Collected by director Grabowski from April 1902).

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The first page of the found albumWroclaw Zoo

On the following pages you can see, among other things, what the old enclosures and pavilions looked like, as well as the work of the caretakers. You can also see the former inhabitants of the garden, including the chimpanzee Moritz, who came to the garden in Breslau in 1931. He survived the war here, and after it – in 1945 – he was transported to Łódź. – The presence of Moritz on the postcard may indicate that the album was owned by successive directors and was supplemented – reports the representative of the Wrocław zoo. How did you come to that? Director Grabowski died in 1929, two years before Moritz appeared in Breslau.

Read also: 150 years ago, the Wrocław zoo was opened. The history of this garden was very turbulent

Chimpanzee Moritz – photo from an unknown album found in the Wrocław zooWroclaw Zoo

A specially constructed station for animal models

On the postcards from the album you can also see the Turridu lion, who stayed at the zoo from May 1909 to 1921. And many other animals too. As Skupin says, the photos of many inhabitants of the garden were taken at a specially constructed photographic stand.

– Under the supervision of Ottomar Anschütz, coming from Leszno, a stand was erected in the zoo, next to today’s Terrarium. Animals were brought there and positioned for a photograph. You can see that they were made in series, in the same conditions and show different species of animals – describes Skupin.

Read also: The bloodthirsty bears and the elephant Theodor. Learn about the history of the Wrocław Zoo

Formerly bravado, today not to be seen in zoos

The found postcards also allow us to look at the changes that have taken place in zoos over the decades. Some of the photos show keepers with wild animals, including one of the employees in the hippo enclosure, or another among brown bear cubs. – Today, taking such photos would be impossible in any of the world’s largest zoos. Keepers never come into direct contact with predatory or dangerous animals. This is due to greater knowledge, concern for the safety of animals and humans, and awareness of the threats and nature of wild specimens. 150 years ago, exotic animals were treated recklessly – emphasizes the representative of the Wrocław Zoo.

Keeper with cubs of brown bearsWroclaw Zoo

People’s shows. At the zoo in Breslau as many as 23 times

In zoos, there is no room for bravado anymore. Also, what was normal more than 100 years ago is unthinkable today. The inhabitants of the former Breslau could watch ethnographic shows here. People’s shows were held in the zoo – in the years 1876-1930 – as many as 23 times. Most often, as Skupin points out, they opened the summer season and lasted several weeks. The discovered album documents the shows from 1904-1914.

Read also: History of human zoos. A black page of European history >>>

– People’s shows in European gardens were associated with overseas expeditions at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Exotic animals, unknown to the European audience, and over the years also to the local inhabitants of these regions, were brought from distant continents. At first, they were families, and gradually larger groups (up to several hundred people) along with all their belongings and inventory – describes the representative of the Wrocław garden.

Samoans during the show of peoples at the zoo in BreslauWroclaw Zoo

Residents flocked to the zoo to see members of communities that were exotic to them. The events were advertised in the press and immortalized on postcards, which were sent, among others, to to the album you just found. The organizers of the shows emphasized that these were to spread knowledge about the inhabitants of remote regions of the world. And Indians from Patagonia, Samoans, Tunisians, Sudanese and Bedouins lived in the villages they recreated in the zoo. Here they tried to cultivate their customs and prepared artistic shows. The daily “Breslauer Zeitung” from June 1889 reported as follows: “They sit quietly in their huts and are busy with commercial work. First, we pass by the weaver. With great artistry, he weaves colorful clothes out of cotton yarn, in which (they) wrap themselves picturesquely. She weaves beautiful strips, which she then sews together. In one of the next huts we see carpenters at work, partly due to their mastery of the missionaries. They make simple carvings and wonderful sticks of ebony…”

– Groups from distant countries came to Europe voluntarily and were paid for their services. The representatives of the tribes spoke German, as groups often came from German colonies, including German Samoa, reports Skupin.

As the turnout indicates, the townspeople loved the people’s show. They flocked to the next ones. According to the zoo, on the first day of the performances of the Nubians in 1876, more than 30,000 people watched, and on July 3, 1904, the Tunisians were watched by 41,509 people. The Sudanese village in 1909 was visited by more than 97 thousand people on all days, and the Samoans in 1910 by more than 105 thousand people.

Tunisian during the show of peoples at the zoo in BreslauWroclaw Zoo

The Wrocław zoological garden was opened as Zoologischer Garten Breslau on July 10, 1865. On about 10 hectares, Friedrich Thiemann from the local Botanical Garden and Julius Lösener, the city gardener of Wrocław, designed a park and garden complex. The designs of pavilions and stables for animals are the work of the architect Carl Lüdecke. The new park was a tourist attraction and served the inhabitants of Wrocław as a place for walks, where they could admire exotic species of animals that were inaccessible to them. In those days, few people could afford to travel far.

Today, 157 years later, on 33 hectares, the Wrocław Zoo exhibits about 10,000 animals. almost 1,200 species of animals.

Main photo source: Wroclaw Zoo



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