Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Illusionist's Lion and the great escape

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19110302-16-2

In February 1911, the great illusionist Gustave Fasola, whose real name was Fergus O'Conner Greenwood from England, stepped forward on the Vaudeville stage of the Melbourne Opera House to perform his "The Lady to Lion" Illusion. Waiting in the wings, was the 18 year old African Lion "Wallace" confined in a cage ready to be transferred into the box prepared for him in the course of the illusion. Wallace, however, managed to escape from the cage to bound across the stage in front of a startled audience, before calmly making his way out of the theatre onto the streets of Melbourne. Followed by Fasola's assistant James Pearson, the lion eventually wandered into the Temperance and General Mutual Life Society's building, where Pearson told the lion to "go in there" after touching the big cat's whiskers with a long wire fork.  Melbourne Zoo, the lion's owners were soon contacted and the animal was soon contained an hour later, then returned to the zoo.

A thousand people waited on Saturday afternoon. outside the Temperance and General Building, Little Collins Street, Melbourne, to witness the recapture of a full grown lion. The lion, made his escape from the Opera House, and having walked down Little Collins Street, had been cleverly entrapped in the building in time to avert a panic.
The lion, which assisted Fasola the illusionist, to mystify the Opera House audiences, was engaged from the Zoological Gardens. While waiting in the wing, to be mysteriously transferred to an empty cabinet the door swung open, and springing onto the stage the lion stealthily crept forward to the footlights. The people in the stalls, uncertain whether to be frightened, rose hurriedly from their seats.
Mr. Pearson one of Fasola's attendants, touched the beast's whiskers with a long wire fork. The animal turned his head towards the other wing, and trotted across the stage. After abandoning the boards the lion quietly passed out of the stage door entrance into Rainbow-alley and into Little Collins street. Then a lady saw him and fainted, and other people fled in various directions.. The lion, however, showed no inclination to attack any one.
Pearson was the only person who seemed to have any regard for the lion's welfare.  He followed it from the Opera House, and when the corner of Swanston street was almost reached he noticed the open door of the Temperance and General Mutual Life Society's building. Touching the lion.with his fork the attendant said "Go in there," and to his surprise the order was obeyed.  As soon as the beast had entered the building Pearson closed the door; remaining outside himself. About an hour elapsed before the cage arrived from the Zoo, and into it the lion quietly entered.
Western Star and Roma Advertiser Wednesday 15 February 1911

Fasola, at Melbourne Opera House, has revived an old show pro, the lion used by him in his latest illusion being old Wallace, formerly with Bostock and Wombwell; but lately enjoying a well-earned rest at Melbourne Zoo. As soon as he heard the music, and saw the lights and crowd, the old fellow was so delight ed at being back again in the business that he bowed low in response to the applause, and strutted about his cage full of pride at being on the salary list. But Wallace was not satisfied with the narrow confines of the theatre. He watched his chance, slipped out of the stage door into Little Collins-street. He saw the open door of the Temperance and General Building at the corner of Swanston-street. and stalked in, an attendant who had followed him pulled the gate to, and he was securely caged, except that he had the run of the building. Those in offices barred themselves in till he was caught, and by Mr. Aydon's orders cut out of the programme and sent back to the Zoo.
The Newsletter: an Australian Paper for Australian People Saturday 25 February 1911

..After abandoning the boards the lion quietly passed out of the stage door entrance into Rainbow-alley, and into Little Collins street. Then a lady saw him and fainted, and other people fled in various directions. The lion, however, saw no inclination to attack anyone. Cowed by its unfamiliar surroundings it ambled hesitatingly along. Pearson was the only person who seemed to have any regard for the lion's welfare. He bad followed it from the Opera House, and when the corner of Swanston-street was almost reached he noticed the door open of the Temeprance and General Mutual Life Assurance Society's building. Touching the lion with his fork, the attendant said 'Go in there,' and to his surprise the order was obeyed. As soon as the boast had entered the building Pearson closed the door, remaining outside himself. A telephone message was sent to the Curator of the Zoological Gardens to send a cage down. This involved further delay. People had already waited three-quarters of an hour for the big game hunt, and were impatient to see the capture or the kill. They became so restless that mounted troopers had to be called to preserve a space in front of the door of the building'. The lion was also growing tired and began scratching at the frass. It tore some woodwork away and demonstrated its feelings in a series of roars, which excited the people to an extraordinary degree. They thought that it was going up stairs. Great pieces of meat were brought, and the beast at the sight of them became quiet. The lion was eventually captured quietly.

Freeman's Journal (NSW) Thursday 23 February 1911

The lion in question was an African Lion named Wallace. He had been purchased by the Melbourne Zoo in 1907, from Bostock & Wombwell's Circus stock.

...The break up of a menagerie such as Bostock and Wombwells gives the Zoo its opportunities. For a particuarly fine black maned lion, which the Zoo badly wanted and two lionesses which it did not want..
 THE NEGLECTED "ZOO.". (1907, March 15).
 The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 4.

 Wallace had been used by the Bostock & Wombwell Circus and Zoo for performances in New Zealand and Australia. At the conclusion of their Australasian tour the circus auctioned off the entirety of their stock and plant which included all of the animals. Wallace was also known to be the father of Wellington's first lion King Dick. Bostocks had gifted the one year old male cub to the City of Wellington in June 1906. King Dick was the nucleas that formed the early beginnings of New Zealand's first municipal zoological collections.

Dudley Le Souef, the director of the Melbourne Zoo had raised his concerns about the behaviour of the crowd, rather than that of his prized former circus lion.

"Wallace" was very glad to get home again; he was frightened, and excited, by the screaming and yelling of the crowd in the street."
"Mr. D. Le Souef, C.M.Z.S.. Director of the Zoological Gardens, made the above statement today when a "Melbourne Herald" ' reporter mentioned to him the startling incident of Saturday afternoon.
There would have been litfle difficulty or danger but for the thoughtless behaviour of the public." Mr. Le Souef continued. "The crowd became very excited pressed towards the lions retreat, and made such a great noise that our men, who were sent to cage the lion, couid hardly hear themselves speak. Had the barrier been removed, and the lion walked out, there would have been a stampede, and perhaps some people would have suffered in the crush."
"Was there any danger from the lion? Well, 'Wallace' is quiet enough. He has spent nearly all his life in captivity; but you can never trust a wild animal; it is always uncertain what it will do. Wallace is 18 years of age, but his teeth are still servicable. The danger lay, as I said, in the fact that the people went off their heads, and the police had to deal with it firmly."
"There is one statement I should like to correct' Our men never chloroformed  'Wallace,' or used any drug at all. The animal knew the men," and they knew how to deal with, it, using gentle persuasion. In 20 minutes from the time they set out, Wallace was safely caged. Yes, he was glad to be home again.

(1911, February 15). Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA : 1910 - 1924), p. 6. 

Fasola, used Wallace for his "Lady to Lion" illusion, which according to his biography he had invented. Fasola continued for some time afterwards to use Wallace in his shows. By 1912, Wallace no longer appears in the advertising. I have no death date at the time of writing for Wallace, but I can only assume be lived to around 20-21 years of age, the average life expectancy for a lion in captivity.
The Indian Fakir, Fasola, who has just concluded successful tours to the three Southern cities, will arive in Brisbane with his full compliment of 10 speciality artistes by Thursday's mail train. The advance guard, consisting of the mechanical staff, heavy gear, the scenery, and "Wallace," the lion which made such a sensational escape recently in Melbourne, arrived on Monday by the steamer Cooma, so that everthng will be in order for Saturday evenîng's initial performance at His Majestv's Theatre. Every act of Fasola's is said to be novel and striking.

The Brisbane Courier (QLD) Wednesday 3 May 1911

To say that those present were mystified by the tricks of this Indian fakir on Thursday evening would be putting it extremely mildly, for they were simply astounded that such things could be done under their very eyes, and yet not know the why or the wherefore. Whilst all the tricks were simply marvellous, the one which most impressed us was the illusion whereby the lion was made to appear on tho spot where a few seconds previously stood a young lady.

Cowra Free Press (NSW) Saturday 21 October 1911

About the Illusionist Fasola
Far from being the “Indian Fakir and Illusionist” he became renowned as, Gustave Fasola was actually born: Fergus O’Conner Greenwood on 5 April 1875 in Clayton-Le-Moors, Lancashire.
As a teenager, he toured small halls and schools with a friend James Lee, under the billing of “Professor Greenwood, sleight-of-hand entertainer”. During this time the pair were often in trouble with the police, using their “skills” for other than entertainment purposes. In 1892 in Blackburn with Darwen, they were both sent to prison for a month for larceny.
By 1894 he had representation and received some recognition for his act as in October of that year he was being promoted in The Era as “Professor Greenwood, the boy illusionist, acknowledged to be the youngest prestidigitateur in the World.”
By 1897 he was listed as “Miss Lyles American Mysteries assisted by Gustave Fasola, illusionist and hypnotist, light & dark séances, the Phoenix and original locked and corded box illusions.” And in 1899 “Gustave Fasola, ventriloquist and conjurer, also Miss Lyle in her cabinet séance.”
One wonders if this is where he got his idea for his elaborate “bridal chamber” trick, which he performed at the Tivoli Theatre in Adelaide in 1911. “………. a cabinet composed of little else than a framework with a floor was enveloped by a curtain, which, however, gave full view all round the cabinet to the audience. Immediately the curtain was withdrawn, instead of the skeleton cabinet there appeared a furnished bedroom.”
Gustave Fasola toured Australia and New Zealand between 1911 and 1913 where his son Fergus Greenwood Jnr was born in Auckland on 2 March 1912. Fergus Snr died on 14 January 1929 in London.

Fasola's legacy lived on through out the decades. The most famous performances of the Lady to Lion trick perhaps lie with the duo Siegfried and Roy. The pair used white tigers as part of their trademark act. Roy was later attacked by a tiger named Monticore, and had sustained serious injuries. The final performance of Siegfried and Roy is shown in the video below. Animal acts were a huge part of the earlier Vaudeville scene from which Fasola had gained his fame from.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Wild Child Revisited - Rajah the Auckland Museum elephant

Rajah's mounted bulk at the entrance to the Wild Child Gallery at Auckland Museum

One of the most iconic of exhibits at the Auckland Museum is Rajah the elephant. There are the stories of how Rajah was a bad elephant that spat at visitors, and generally made himself a problem at Auckland Zoo. Back in 2010, my close friend Lisa Truttman who authors the well respected Timespanner heritage blog, had taken a rather haunting image of the iconic elephant. Perhaps it had haunted me enough, to wonder just exactly how Rajah had ended up being a taxidermied specimen in the Auckland War Memorial Museum. So I went looking, and didn't find the story of the bad elephant the stories would have us all believe. What I discovered instead was a tale of misunderstandings, colonial pride and the exploitation of the resources available to the (then) British Empire. Lisa in her own time had gone to Auckland Council Archives, and had taken the trouble to locate the records on Rajah, when he was at Auckland Zoological Gardens. He was destroyed in March of 1936, right in the heart of the depression years. I wrote a guest blog post entitled "The Wild Child" where I covered Rajah's years at the now defunct Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart Tasmania. He was the first, and only, elephant ever held at the Beaumaris Zoo.

Derek Wood in his writings on Rajah in the 1992 publication "A Tiger by the Tail - The History of Auckland Zoo 1922-1992" remarked on how Auckland Zoo had been sold a second hand elephant by the Hobart City Council. He had also made note, that Rajah's bad behaviour was the result of a visitor putting a lighted cigarette in his trunk when he was at Hobart Zoo, based on the notes he had made during his research at the Auckland Council Archives (formerly Auckland City Council Archives). And since 1943, from an old interview with Colonel Sawyer,  a former Curator of the Auckland Zoo, that has been the belief recorded in the history of the Auckland Zoological Gardens. It is also recorded in the history section of the Auckland Zoo website

"Rajah, the Zoo's first male elephant arrived at Auckland Zoo, from Hobart, Australia, in November 1930. Unbeknown to the Zoo at the time, Rajah was a difficult animal to manage. After many years of trying to cope with him, Rajah sadly become too dangerous and unmanageable, and was eventually shot in March 1936. Rajah is currently on display at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.   According to the book, 'Tiger by the Tail', prior to his coming to Auckland Zoo, the brutal action of a visitor at Hobart Zoo placing a lighted cigarette in Rajah's trunk is thought to have been key in triggering his difficult behaviour."

Retrieved 12 August 2013

I'm going to write this brief post with reference to the commentary on the Auckland Zoo website, based on records from both the contemporary newspaper reports of the period (1925-1930), and from the records Lisa had obtained from the Auckland Council Archives.

In the first part of the commentary, Auckland Zoo states:

"Rajah, the Zoo's first male elephant arrived at Auckland Zoo, from Hobart, Australia, in November 1930. Unbeknown to the Zoo at the time, Rajah was a difficult animal to manage." 
However, my previous research into the years spent at Hobart Zoo, shows a completely different elephant from the one portrayed by that statement. Rajah was giving children rides at Hobart Zoo almost right up to the time that he left Hobart in late 1930. His first rides were given to both children adults in October of 1927

Children will hear with pleasure that "Jumbo," the baby elephant at the Beaumaris Zoo, has at last consented to carry them in a howdah on his rolling back on excursions about the gardens. "Jumbo" at first proved a very incorrigible youngster, and it has taken almost a year to train him, but he is now as docile an elephant as is to be found anywhere, and seems greatly to enjoy his role as the zoo's locomotive. He carried his first party of juvenile passengers on Wednesday, and his popularity was instantaneous. He is "open to engagement" between 3 and 4 o'clock each afternoon, and adults are carried as well as children. 

In late 1928, a report again shows Rajah as giving rides at the zoo.

... Rides on the elephant were very popular with the children, and the good natured animal probably carried more youngsters on Saturday than ever he had done before... 

Rajah (then named Jumbo) giving children rides December 1927 (The Mercury 10 December 1927)

The decision to sell Rajah, wasn't because of his behaviour, but rather an economic one. Beaumaris Zoo was already running at a loss. It was also the beginning of the Great Depression years that caused a world wide economic recession. The Reserves Committee opted to write to the Auckland Council in September of 1930, offering the elephant for the Auckland Zoo.

“At our Beaumaris Zoo we have a male elephant (13 years of age) which has been a great source of attraction for children and others, and hitherto has proved a financial success, but the edge of the attraction has, through custom, worn off.”
“The animal is tame and accustomed to taking children for rides, and for many months after its arrival proved remunerative to us, but now the novelty has worn off, and our population being small, it is not much patronised.”
“In common with all other public bodies, we are endeavouring to cut down expenses, and it has been decided to offer the elephant on loan for a term, or failing such arrangements, that it be sold.”

Letter from Hobart City Council to Auckland City Council 15 September 1930
(Auckland Council Archives)

The letter from Hobart City Council is further supported by the reports in the Mercury in 1930
There is a possibility that the days of Jumbo, or whatever the name of the elephant is, at the Beaumaris Zoo, are numbered. Owing to the state of the finances of the Reserves Committee of tho Hobart, City, Council this year, economies have to be made regarding reserves generally, and particularly the Zoo. The elephant being the most laborious item of upkeep, the question of his sale has received, the consideration of the committee, and an offer, has been received from New Zealand.  The matter, will probably be decided at an early meeting.

 His nature was reported as being docile when he was being shipped to Sydney for a brief spell at Taronga Park Zoo, prior to his shipping to Auckland.

Jumbo, the Beaumaris Zoo elephant that left Hobart on Friday for the Auckland Zoo, to which he has been sold, was docile throughout the preparations for his departure, and this permitted of arrangements being made by the Curator of the Zoo (Mr. A. R. Reid) without hindrance. But, as Mr. Reid said, animals are controlled by the voice, and it is not everyone that has this influence.  The large bulk of an elephant in itself is terrorising, and there are some who did not get used to Jumbo. Even on the wharf the labourers called warnings to one another, as an inquiring trunk came wandering in and out of the bars of the crate, but Jumbo did no harm to anyone. Mr. Reid, who was naturally sorry to see the animal go, has hopes of getting another young elephant for Beaumaris Zoo some time in the future. He said he would miss the trumpeting at night at the Zoo. The animal's good growth in Tasmania, Mr. Reid attributed to the climate, but he was modest.

In the second part of the information on Rajah noted on the Auckland Zoo History page it states:

"According to the book, 'Tiger by the Tail', prior to his coming to Auckland Zoo, the brutal action of a visitor at Hobart Zoo placing a lighted cigarette in Rajah's trunk is thought to have been key in triggering his difficult behaviour."

This information was based upon a letter written by Northcote socialite  Miss L. J. Tremain to the head of the Parks & Reserves Committee E. J. Phelan dated 18 March 1936, sent 9 days after Rajah had been shot at Auckland Zoo on 9 March 1936. In the letter she wrote, Tremain made the following claims:

Three years ago while on a tour of N.S.W and Tasmania, I visited the Hobart Zoo. While there I got into a conversation with the head curator whose name I now forget. When he heard that I came from Auckland, he said “Oh you have got ‘Rajah’ there now, whom we once had here, but as he became dangerous, we had to get rid of him.” He told me a story of how a boy had put a lighted cigarette in Rajah’s trunk causing the animal such pain, that no child was safe near him that the curator asked of the headmaster of a school nearby, to send the children over each day and then he lined them up, each with a piece of bread, and with keepers held Rajah by means of ropes and pointed instruments, the children filed past and fed him. But being fearful of further outbreak, he was glad to get the permission of his Council to sell the beast to the Auckland Zoo. After he had disposed of Rajah he received some illustrated papers from London, in one of which he saw a picture “of rogue elephant” chasing the keepers at the London Zoo and identified it as “Rajah”.
Letter from L. J. Tremain to E.J. Phelan 
Chairman Parks & Reserves Committee
18 March 1936
Auckland Council Archives

The claim Tremain makes is completely without any substance. Contemporary reports as illustrated previously, negate any claims that Rajah's behaviour was due to such a ludicrous notion. Not one part of the story makes any logical sense as to 'why' Arthur Reid the curator of the Beaumaris Zoo, would even come up with such a method, to supposedly cure the elephant of his alleged unruly behaviour. The letter from the Hobart City Council in September clearly states :

In common with all other public bodies, we are endeavouring to cut down expenses, and it has been decided to offer the elephant on loan for a term, or failing such arrangements, that it be sold.”

Her claim that Rajah was at London Zoo is another point of contention. Rajah was never at London Zoo. He was the property of London based animal dealer George Bruce Chapman who owned Chapman's London Zoo Circus. Rajah had no name either prior to coming to Beaumaris Zoo, as he was still a calf at the time. Arthur Reid named him "Jumbo" after he had arrived at the Hobart facility. Chapman most likely had obtained the young elephant, from one of the many elephant drives through out Burma and India. The small elephant was exhibited as part of a group of 15 others in the Burma court at the Wembley Exhibition in 1924. Surplus to requirements, Reid and Chapman did a trade, the elephant was swapped for a Bennett's Wallaby and a Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine). Chapman got his curiosities to pass on to another zoo, and Hobart got its first and only ever elephant for the municipal zoo.

My point is this. The myth surrounding the cause of Rajah's alleged bad behaviour had absolutely nothing to do with any cigarette being stubbed on his trunk. The cause is more likely in the fact that Rajah was a male elephant. A male elephant removed far too early from his social group, and that needs to be taken into serious consideration, when coming to any conclusions about 'why' he was destroyed. From Sawyer's initial report after Curator Griffin's death in 1935, Sawyer had considered that Rajah was a liability, and was well aware of the consequences in not having the facilities to deal with an adult bull Asian elephant coming into possible early musth condition.  I covered this issue in the blog post I wrote in 2010 (see link in the first paragraphs). Auckland Zoo needs to remove the cigarette in the trunk reference completely, and the causes of Rajah's unfortunate destruction revisited from a better perspective based on the available research done of elephant behaviour, rather than a story written by a Northcote socialite.


Since the writing of this post, Auckland Zoo have amended the reference to Rajah on their website. They are to be commended for taking the information provided and acting professionally on this issue. Thank you Auckland Zoo.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Alice to the rescue

This photo was taken in New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand by the Auckland Weekly News 25 February 1924. A search of the papers of the time reveals no reports of this incident. However, not all incidents involving overturned train carriages in provincial towns were necessarily reported. Alice, of course was actually named 'Primcess Alice' and in this time period was predominant in the Wirth's Circus elephant herd. Whatever the story behind this image it's a lost reminder of a great Australian family circus long since gone, but not forgotten.

Friday, November 16, 2012

King Dick - The Lion that started New Zealand's first Municipal Zoo

In 1906, visiting UK circus Bostock & Wombell's Circus & Menagerie offered the gift of a young one year old African Lion Panthera leo to the City of Wellington.The Wellington City Council accepted the offer and arrangements were made to collect the cub from Government meteorologist Rev. D.C. Bates one of the man proponents for the beginnings of Wellington's first zoological park accompanied the young animal back by train from New Plymouth to Wellington, where he was housed in a small enclosure (described as a 'pillbox' in one publication) at Newtown Park, Newtown, Wellington. The lion spent 14 years at the Wellington Zoo before he lost control of his hind legs and was subsequently destroyed by the adminstration of poison on 18 December 1920 (Evening Post 23 December 1920). His remains were sent to the Newtown Museum for mounting. King Dick exists today at Te Papa.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The First Elephants in Australasia

Image from Trove of the Sir Joseph Banks Hotel & Zoological Gardens
 Botany Bay, Sydney, NSW, Australia

I've been in recent discussions with the great team at The Dictionary of Sydney regarding the first elephants in Australia. Some time back I researched the missing Alice the Elephant of William Anderson's Wonderland City at Tamarama, Bondi, Sydney and found out what had actually happened to her. We discovered of course that she became the famous "Princess Alice" of Wirth's Circus. Princess Alice died in November of 1941. While I was in the Dictionary of Sydney's website (well worth checking out) I came across the above image depicting a scene with two elephants in it. That sparked my curiosity as where these two animals came from. This is a brief overview of what I've found so far to date.

After initial research I found the first importation of elephants into Australia appears to be in late 1851 when a male and female elephant from Dacca, India were shipped from Calcutta on board the ship Golden Saxon. She came into port at Hobart. The male elephant was sold at auction, and was exhibited around various hotels in Hobart before he was shipped to Melbourne, before ending up in Adelaide where he ended up pulling a plow. The elephant was named "Tommy" It appears he died around 1860, however I still have to confirm a definite death date on this animal.

The next elephant, a 22 month old female was shipped into Sydney and became the first elephant to set foot on the Australian continent. She was imported by William Beaumont a timber merchant in Sydney. Beaumont and Waller's Sir Joseph Banks Hotel was set in expansive grounds on the shores of Botany Bay and it was here where one Australasia's first zoos was established. The Australian Museum did have a menagerie (although their timeline states it was Sydney's first zoo) at Hyde Park,Sydney, that included a female Bengal Tiger (the first imported into Australia), an American Brown Bear, Gibbons and other exotics. According to an 1857 report for the years 1853/54 the collection was sold to Beaumont in 1854. The female elephant Beaumont had imported was advertised as being named "Jenny Lind" when Beaumont held a fete at the Zoological Gardens in December of 1851. She was on display at the Zoological gardens for some years. 

In June of 1855 it was reported that she had died, however, earlier in the year around January, a 4 year old male elephant was put up for auction in Sydney. Beaumont in one of his many advertisements (May 1855) stated he had a male elephant and female elephant. In June, Bell's Sporting Life reported that the female elephant "Sarah" had died and the body had been handed over to the Australian Museum for preparation for display. It turned out however that the elephant the Australian Museum put on display was male. The two animals in the image are Jenny Lind or Sarah as she was also called, and the 4 year old male elephant. I can't find any importations by Beaumont himself,  I can only ascertain that the four year male put up for auction was the male elephant Beaumont later stated he had in his collection. Jenny Lind however continued on beyond 1855. Her journey covers almost 17 years of different owners. It appears she finally ended up in Hobart 1867, and was on display around various hotels for a few months. She was again sold in early 1868, then in February 1868 was shipped on the Swordfish to Dunedin, New Zealand. She was on exhibition for a short time in the city, before being taking North towards Christchurch. She died at the Waitaki River around March 1868 after she was let loose by her owner. The elephant consumed the poisonous plant Tutu and was dead within two hours. What happened to her body - simply we don't know. I have to yet to definitely confirm that the elephant brought into Hobart was this elephant however,  all indications so far it appears that it is her.

The last elephant I've found was another female imported into Hobart in early 1855. She was also auctioned off and used for exhibitions. It's possible she ended up in a theatre at Geelong, Victoria but I have yet to research further into her movements.

Sources to date have come from Trove and Papers Past with one record on the Australian Museum website.

Friday, November 9, 2012

"Stormy Old Casey" - The Sins of the Simians Part 2

"Casey, the chimpanzee, specially posing for the camera at Taronga Park Zoo in the keeper's hat."
Image: Sydney Morning Herald  28 July 1932

Taronga Park has been fortunate in securing two exceptionally interesting and valuable animals. One is a large male chimpanzee from West Africa…

 Sydney Morning Herald 4 June 1920

 In 1920, Taronga Park Zoological Gardens obtained a young male chimpanzee going by the name of Casey. The seller was Ellis Joseph, a New York based animal dealer who had kept Casey as a pet for two years, before eventually selling him to the Taronga Park Trust.

Ellis we have seen in a previous tale of another chimpanzee also named Casey. This particular primate was named for the first which Ellis had later sold to showman Thomas Fox. Casey the first ended his days in the USA at the Sells-Floto Circus as a side show attraction.

Tracing the lives of these two very individual male chimpanzees initially proved difficult. With reports of one in the USA, and then one in Taronga Park Zoo in Sydney, it took some time to finally divide into their individual stories.

Ellis Joseph in an interview with the Sunday Morning Star USA (5 July 1925) explained how he had sold 'Casey the second' to Taronga Park Zoo in 1920, then had visited the ape a year later. The visit almost turned into a fatal encounter when Casey bit into Joesph's face and caused serious injuries.

"You ask me if animals, wild ones have any affection.  They have too much sometimes. That was the trouble with Casey the Second. I had Casey as a pet and sold him to the Sydney Zoological Gardens, in Australia..”

"A year later I visited the zoo. It was on a holiday, April 25, the anniversary of the landing of the Anzacs at Gallipoli. Well, the chimp spotted me two city blocks away. We went plumb crazy.”

“I went up to the cage through the crowds and walked in saying ‘Hello Casey.’ Just like a baby he put his arm around me and hugged me, a terrific hug, and I put my arm around him. He was chattering all the time.”

“Then he tried to kiss me. He was so excited he didn’t know what he was doing. One of his lower teeth went up through my neck; in and out that tooth went, while he was kissing me. I fell to the floor and he fell with me.”

“Did the the chimp know he had hurt me? Of course he did. He went to his corner and sulked. I had 43 stitches taken and as soon as I was able to leave the hospital, the first thing I did was to go and see Casey, just to show there was no hard feeling.

“He was so happy that it was almost pathetic.”

Casey was left at Taronga Park with a small Fox Terrier dog as company. Naturally, the zoo wanted to make as much publicity as possible, to draw attention to the close bond between primate and canine species.



Advertising  Sydney Morning Herald  5 June 1920

At the end of 1921, the unfortunate small dog named "Spot" passed away, from an infection caused by ticks and fleas. From that point on Casey pined for his companion, and remained in a solitary capacity.

Sydney, Dec 1
 Casey, the chimpanzee at the Taronga Park Zoo, Sydney, who came into the limelight some time ago because of the injuries which he inflicted, in the exuberance of his affection, upon Mr. Ellis Joseph, the man who had captured him in the wilds, when they met after a long separation, is again attracting attention because of his grief at the loss of his mate, a smooth-haired terrier, who used to share his cage and play with him. 

To drown his grief Casey has taken to drink, but he drinks nothing stronger than tea. The little dog and Casey had long been chums, just a short while ago the dog was bitten by ticks and died, and Casey is grieving over his loss. One of Casey's few consolations is drinking afternoon tea. About the fashionable, hour of 4 p.m. a keeper brings; a billy can of milky tea and a tin mug, fills the mug, and hands it through the bars to Casey, who empties the mug in one gulp. 

The process is repeated till Casey is satisfied. But ever in the midst of the revelry Casey cannot forget his little friend. He preserves a gloomy and morose aspect, and often has to be coaxed to take his refreshment.  Casey has a good memory. For instance, he recognised Mr. Ellis Joseph after an absence of many months.. Perhaps in time another dog will take the place of Spot, but just at present it is thought better to leave Casey alone.

 Though he looks rough enough, Casey is more lady-like in his ways than Molly, the orang-outang in the Melbourne gardens. Molly is a confirmed smoker, and never takes tea. Probably she would prefer cocktails if she could get them. Casey used to be fond of a walk with Mr. Joseph, and would march solemnly along with great propriety.—Christchurch Press correspondent.

 Hawera & Normanby Star 29 December 1921

 Japanese macaque on Wikimedia commons

 In 1923 Casey following the natural instincts that chimpanzees exhibit in the wild, killed a Japanese macaque that was in the enclosure next to him. More recent research by Dr Jane Goodall later revealed that chimpanzees do hunt and kill other species in the wild.

The chimpanzee at the "Sydney Zoo the other day tore down the bars between his cage and that of the Japanese ape, which he seized and murdered by trampling it and strangling it. He then smashed the body about until every bone in it was broken. Spectators said the rage of the chimpanzee was the worst exhibition of animal rage they had ever seen.
- The Mercury 10 September 1923

 During 1932, serious welfare concerns were raised about the poor conditions the animals in the collection were being kept in at Taronga Park. The chimpanzee and orangutan enclosures were described in the Mercury (4 July 1932) as being "small dark huts and not likely to sweeten the temper of unfortunate animals whose only outlook on life was through iron bars."

In 1934, Casey managed to escape from his captive state by slipping the chain that was around his neck. He was recaptured a short time later and secured by a keeper.


The chimpanzee, one of the most valuable inhabitants of Taronga Park Zoo, found a way out of his temporary enclosure yesterday, and took a walk around the park Alterations were being made to his home and he was temporarily chained nearby. He broke the chain, clambered over a fence and made the most of his liberty He was found by a keeper, and returned to his former custody

 Sydney Morning Herald 15 March 1934

In January of 1936, photographer Cherry Kearton visited Taronga Zoo and paid some attention to the solitary chimpanzee who had a reputation for temperament problems. Kearton mimicked the sounds chimpanzees made and had a response from the large male primate.

..Casey, the chimpanzee, appeared to recognise in Mr. Kearton some association with the jungle. He was sitting placidly near the roof of his cage when Mr. Kearton approached, the visitor then conversed with Casey in his own tongue. Casey immediately climbed down to get a better look at the stranger, and, after studying him for a few moments, stamped round his cage in evident excitement, slowly at first, but getting faster as he progressed, until, when encircling the cage for the last time, his smacks on the concrete floor with hard, padded feet could be heard half-way round the zoo. He followed Mr. Kearton with his eyes when he moved away, and crouched into the nearest corner, as if desiring to get out and be better acquainted with one who knew his language. Casey was excited for the rest of the day....

 Sydney Morning Herald 11 January 1936

 Barely a month later, after Kearton's visit Casey died at the young age of around 26-28 years old. He was at least a year old when he had arrived at Taronga Park Zoo. The Sydney Morning Herald (7 March 1936) lamented his loss:

Casey, beloved, stormy "old chimp," who has attracted and delighted countless thousands of children and grown- ups with his antics, is dead. The zoo will be different without him, and it will seem strange, when making a visit there, not to go immediately to Casey's cage to bid him good-day, for, ever since his arrival, besides being the most famous and popular of all the animals, he had voluntarily assumed the responsibilities of host at Taronga Park, and he expected, in return for his trouble, the privilege of seeing everyone who came to the place.

(From "The Post's" Representative.) SYDNEY, February 5..

Friend of Taronga Park Zoo visitors for nearly 20, years, Casey, the famous chimpanzee, was found dead in his cage, after he had been ailing for only a few days.

The cause of death was old age. Casey was at least 27 years of age, and was said to be the oldest chimpanzee in captivity in the world. Casey amused visitors to the Zoo, young and old alike, by his quaint antics, and was generally rewarded with gifts of peanuts, fruit, and biscuits. His "star" turn was the simulation of a huge rage when the group of spectators round his cage barracked" him. The unwary among them was always likely to be the target of bananas that Casey would pluck from the bunch away  in his cage and fling through the bars.

Another achievement of Casey was to kill sparrows that came to his cage to pick crumbs from the floor; he would first stun them with bananas unerringly thrown and then squeeze and pluck them. His wild jungle-dance, something like an exaggerated Charleston, to the accompaniment of spectators' humming, was another of his turns. Thousands of people went to the Zoo solely to see him, and Zoo officials estimated that he-was worth at least £500 a year to them.


Casey was brought from the United States in the first instance by Mr. E. S. Joseph, a noted animal trainer. Mr. Joseph revisited Sydney many years after he sold Casey to the Zoo, and going to see Casey was recognised affectionately by the latter when Mr. Joseph jibbered to him. This ability to recognise experts in animalogy was more recently demonstrated when Casey, spoken to in the language of the jungle by Mr. Cherry Kearton, famous big game photographer and naturalist, now visiting Sydney, became tremendously excited and answered with his curious , barking noises. Mr. Kearton and the chimpanzee carried on quite a conversation for several minutes, amazing the small group of officials and privileged visitors who witnessed the incident. The chimpanzee was of a different type from most members of this species, and for that reason was a social object of interest to naturalists. "He seemed to have a strain of the gorilla in him." said Mr. W. J. Brown, secretary of the Taronga Park Trust. '"We shall miss Casey, but we hope to 'be able to obtain a young pair male and female and train them.”

        Evening Post 12 February 1936


A cage at the Sydney zoo is empty, a cage that, for the past twenty years, has housed the most popular animal in the whole of Taronga Park. Casey, beloved, stormy "old chimp," who has attracted and delighted countless thousands of children and grown- ups with his antics, is dead.

The zoo will be different without him, and it will seem strange, when making a visit there, not to go immediately to Casey's cage to bid him good-day, for, ever since his arrival, besides being the most famous and popular of all the animals, he had voluntarily assumed the responsibilities of host at Taronga Park, and he expected, in return for his trouble, the privilege of seeing everyone who came to the place.

It was Casey's cage which invariably attracted most of the visitors, and it was Casey's antics which never failed to delight the scores of people who were always gathered around the cage watching him. It was Casey who never failed to show himself to his admirers, and to stamp about for their amusement, and it is for Casey that all who have watched his tricks will mourn.

But, for all his friends, Casey had known no real companion since the death of the little fox terrier whom he loved so much and who lived so long with him in his cage, and, while he was always surrounded by crowds of people, he seemed to be lonely and to long for companionship. Perhaps, it is better that his loneliness is over.

The Sydney Morning Herald 7 March 1936

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Titania -The First Performing African Elephant in Australasia

Illustrated Australian News 21 February 1877

In the years 1877 and 1878, the huge Cooper & Bailey's Circus and Menagerie toured Australasia. Amongst the long list of animals were a group of six elephants. Two were Asiatic elephants named Prince and Queen, with the remainder being three young African elephants with an adult female named Titania. According to one article I came across in the Australian digital newspapers, Titania was named for the fairy queen of the same name a main character in the Shakespeare play A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Titania is one of the main characters in Shakespeare's A Midsummer’s Night Dream.  She is the queen of the fairies, and the wife of the fairy king, Oberon. In folklore, the fairy queen has no name. Shakespeare took the name 'Titania' for his fairy queen from the Roman poet, Ovid (43 BC - AD 18). In his great epic Metamorphoses , Ovid gives this name to the deities Latona, Pyrrha, Diana and Circe, as descendants of the Titans, the powerful gods and goddesses, who, according to Greek myth, ruled the world in the beginning.

The circus toured Australasia for some 18 months with a brief few months break in Sydney while further animals were sought which included what would later be the first rhinoceros to visit the colonies.

The tour of the Cole & Bailey Circus was extensively covered through out its duration. I spent some time going through the multitudes of articles and advertising to ascertain how many elephants were in the group brought over for the tour which is how I came across Titania.

 ....Further on are the elephants. These consist of two fine but not very large specimens of the Indian or Asiatic elephant, named Queen and Prince, and four African or wide-eared variety. One large one, Titania, performs in the circle, and three restless and noisy juveniles, one of which is a mere baby, belong to this class....
.. Mr. Johnston next introduces his trained elephant Titania, which shows great intelligence and dexterity for so ponderous a brute. It dances in the ring, lies down, and balances itself on a pedestal at the word of command…
South Australian Register 12 March 1877

 Throughout their Australian tour the six elephants did attract a lot of attention. The newspapers of the time were keen to describe these great leviathans with as much detail as possible. Being of the African subspecies Titania would have been far larger than her Ceylonese cousins Queen and Prince.

...The largest elephant is the biggest and the best beggar. He opens his mouth when, ordered, lays his trunk over his shoulder, and waits fur whatever the public may be pleased to pitch into it…
The Cornwall Chronicle 8 April 1877

 Titania was a well proven and well trained performer for the travelling circus. She was trained by G. W. Johnston to perform a number of routines under the big top
…After this pageant the great performing elephant  " Titania" was introduced, and excited amusement and surprise at her ungainly appearance,  yet clever performances. She first waltzed round the ring, keeping time to the music of the band; she then walked round on three legs, holding up alternately one fore and one hind leg; she next went round on her knees, and finally mounted with the greatest caution on two pedestals, one about two feet high, and the other rather over three feet high, standing with her hind feet on the lower one, and her fore feet on the other, and at last gathering all her feet together on the high pedestal, where there was just room enough for them; she turned round and round at the bidding of her keeper, and then on one hind and one fore foot holding up the two opposite ones. Before leaving she bowed low to the audience and gently flapped her enormous ears… 

The South Australian Advertiser 12 March 1877

…The trained elephant Titania was then brought forward, and proved itself to be a most sagacious animal At the command of its trainer, Mr. G. W. Johnson, the animal shuffled round the ring, sometimes on four legs, sometimes on throe, and occasionally partly on its knees. It bowed to the spectators in recognition of their applause, and showed other proofs of mental power….

The Argus 19 January 1877

During May 1877 the circus took a recess in Sydney over the winter period, with plans to restart again with the tour in November in the same year. The menagerie was left in the care of keepers while the rest of the circus company headed back to the USA. Bailey one of the owners planned to return from San Francisco with a number of new exhibits for the menagerie including a rhinoceros, polar bears, and bison.

Respecting Messrs. Cooper and Bailey's Circus and menagerie, the Sydney Morning Herald states that the company will visit the provinces, and afterwards the circus will leave the colony for San Francisco. The menagerie will be left behind in Sydney, in charge of competent keepers; and for its accommodation a wooden building is being put up by Hudson Brothers. Mr. Bailey intends to return about November next with large additions to the menagerie, including polar bears, buffaloes, a rhinoceros, and a greatly reinforced circus company. An agent goes in the meantime to India, there to procure further accessions to the present combination.

The South Australian Advertiser 16 May 1877

In November the circus returned with some of the promised animals. The number of elephants advertised remained at six animals

...A HUGE BLACK HAIRY RHINOCEROS, (the only one over captured alive)

 Advertisement Australian Town and Country Journal 17 November 1877

 The menagerie though had suffered some serious losses which included a Quagga, hippopotamus calf, warhogs, walruses, seals and a giraffe amongst the list of animals dying as a result of the effects of long sea voyages. Nevertheless the show continued on despite the loss of some of their star attractions

...Besides the elephants the camels, the lions, the tiger and other animals with which the previous visitors may be familiar, there are also introduced to our notice a double horned hairy rhinoceros a North American bison, and an elk. We miss the graceful long necked giraffe, which has paid the debt of nature and caused a loss not easily replaced. Since its return bore on this occasion the menagerie has suffered an other loss in the death of the hippopotamus this animal, which, including the cost of capture, represented a value of something like £2000 died yesterday morning quite unexpectedly, as when the menagerie was closed on the previous evening it appeared in its usual health. One of the Alaska seals has also died here...
 ... The performances of the trained elephants show in a marked degree the intelligence and docility of the anímals...
The Argus 27 December 1877

In early 1878 the circus headed over to New Zealand to tour the country. This would be the first time African elephants were seen in the country. An Asiatic elephant from Nepal named Prince Tommy, or "Tom" had been brought to Australia and New Zealand in 1870 by Prince Albert but Australasia had yet to see his larger African cousins. Cooper and Bailey obliged seven years later with a total of four in the tour.

....A huge elephant, called Titania, then comes into the ring, and is put through a variety, of feats by the trainer, Professor Johnson. These were loudly applauded....

.. Presently three elephants are brought in, and after some performances over the backs of these, three camels are added and Mr Batchelor turns a grand double somersault over the whole of these....
Otago Daily Times 16 March 1878

The performing elephant Titania was crossing the enclosure with her keeper, and the latter as they passed the fruit stand in the centre, quietly drew after him a case of apples. Titania was not slow to improve the occasion, and commenced stowing away the apples with magic celerity, while her roguish keeper had made himself scarce. The attendant of the stall dared not venture to approach his fast disappearing: stock, and had therefore to hunt up the Keeper, who when he appeared on the scene artistically scolded Titania for having stolen the apples, and then treated her to a bottle of ginger beer, a beverage which she unmistakably enjoyed.

Star 2 April 1878

…The elephant known as Titania was employed running the vans on to the railway trucks….

…The spotted dogs, which have attracted so much attention on account of the strong friendship existing between them and the elephants, were fully conscious of the near departure, and were indulging in all kinds of antics with' their huge companions…
Star 10 April 1878

Elephant Trainer G.W. Johnson gave an interesting interview to the Lyttleton Times (reproduced in the Timaru Herald) during the tour on the training of the elephants in his charge.

The following interesting chat by the Special of that journal with the Lion King of Messrs Cooper and Bailey's Menagerie is published in the Lyttelton Times

 My experience has been considerable, for I have been more than 20 years m the profession. As a trainer? Yes. I trained the performing animals in this collection. Of course you already know what Titania, the female African elephant can do. Prince, one of the Indian elephants, performs at least as well as Titania, and appears in the ring when a change is made in the programme. The other has been accustomed to perform in company, to form pyramids, &c, but the apparatus required for these feats would increase the baggage of a travelling company too largely.

The three small elephants have not yet been educated. Do I ever use any tackling to teach them to lift their feet just as required Oh, dear, no. The only implement I ever employed was a slight stick, with a brad on one end, and by slight touches, and in other ways I made them understand what I wanted them to do. Once shown anything, they never forget it. Well, I think that on the whole the elephants are easy to manage.

 Only the males are at all uncertain. I mean by that, by becoming vicious. Once, in the way one or other of the females there you are now looking at will be subject to fits of irritation, and if anyone goes close to her she will push him away with her trunk. Queen, especially, will do this. The males, as they get older, get more and more uncertain and vicious, until it becomes very dangerous to have to do with them.

Timaru Herald 18 April 1878

Johnston was experienced enough a trainer that he could lay on the ground during a performance and allow Titania to step over him 

 The performance commenced with a grand triumphal cavalcade of the entire company. The trained elephant Titania then executed some very clever tricks, such as waltzing round the ring in excellent time, walking on its knees, and, after ascending to the top of a pedestal, balancing 1 itself on one, two, or three feet, finally stepping carefully over the trainer, Professor Johnson, without touching him, as he lay extended on the ground.
 Evening Post 15 April 1878

 Throughout the New Zealand tour Titania continued to perform flawlessly. The Waikato Times described her performance as "one of the special wonders of the evening"

…This was followed by the performances of Titania, a huge female elephant, under the direction of her trainer, Professor G. W. Johnson. This was one of the special wonders of the evening. The elephant danced, balanced herself on a two foot disc, first by the two off legs, then by the near legs, and then cross-legged, The trainer laid down, and the gigantic animal stepped across him, studious to avoid touching him with her feet. The sagacity manifested m this performance elicited loud applause…

Waikato Times 25 April 1878

In Auckland, however,  tragedy struck. Just before the circus company was due to sail on the Golden Sea for South America, Titania died after eating matches and a quantity of pills from a keeper's pocket. It later transpired in another report that she had also eaten part of the man's coat tail. Her carcass was loaded on board ship for disposal at sea.

The celebrated performing elephant Titania, belonging to Messrs Cooper and Bailey's show, departed this life on board the ship Golden Sea on Saturday night, it is believed from the effects of eating a box of wax vestas, and a quantity or pills, which it obtained from the coat of one of the keepers, that had been hanging near the animal. The loss will be a severe one to the owners. The carcase was taken away by the ship yesterday, and will be thrown overboard when the vessel gets clear away from land.
Auckland Star 6 May 1878

Messrs Cooper and Bailey had the misfortune to lose their big performing elephant, Titania, on board the Golden Sea, just before sailing from Auckland. It is believed that the cause of death was the animal's eating a box of pills and a box of matches. The dead animal was taken out to sea to be cast overboard, at which we have heard surprise expressed. It was suggested in our hearing that, although perhaps a difficult and expensive job, it would have been well to have procured the carcase, boiled it down, and set up the skeleton for the Auckland museum. One enterprising townsman of ours said he wished he had been in Auckland; he would have speculated a ten-pound note on Titania, put her on board a lighter and exhibited her at the Thames as long as she would keep. He said plenty of people have seen live elephants, but few have seen a dead one. It certainly seems a pity that no better use could be made of the dead elephant than to be taken and cast into the sea as food for sharks.

Thames Star 7 May 1878

During June Titania's carcass was spotted floating in the sea off the coast of New Zealand by a passing ship
"It will be remembered that a few hours before Messrs Cooper and Bailey's Menagerie and Circus Troupe sailed in the ship Golden Sea, for Callao, the manager reported the death of the large elephant Titania, caused by devouring a box of matches, a dose of Holloway's pills, and part of the keeper's coat-tail, which it was alleged had proved too much for the digestive organs of the animal.

Many persons have been very skeptical as to the death of the animal, as no one to our knowledge saw it dead.

The following report made to us yesterday by the master of the cutter Diamond, however, appears to set the question at rest:— The Diamond was bound from the Thames to this port on Friday last, and at 4 p.m., when two miles north-east of Orere Point, noticed what appeared to be a boat bottom upwards. Bore down to it and got within a few yards, when they discovered it to be a huge carcase, and from its flappers being prominently out of the water, have no doubt it is the elephant thrown overboard by Messrs Cooper and Bailey. "

Otago Daily Times 3 June 1878