Physical Signage: Panamanian Frogs

These amphibians have bright yellow skin that is toxic to protect them from predators, but this defense mechanism will save them from extinction. They haven’t been in their natural habitat for nearly 10 years. These frogs used to found in central Panama and along the mountain ranges. They became critically endangered in the 1990’s and by 2006 there were not any frogs left in their natural habitat.

The frogs are protected under Panamanian law, but have still had to face many threats including deforestation, water pollution, and the pet trade. But it was the arrival of the amphibian-killing disease chytridiomycosis in 2004 which quickly decimated this species population. The infection is caused by an invasive fungal pathogen that reached El Valle, the home of the Panamanian golden frog.

But fear, not there is hope! The Maryland Zoo volunteered to spearhead the North American colony, and with the help of several institutions, have had amazing success maintaining genetic diversity since importing the frogs.  In 2001 they received their first group of frogs. Many people probably won’t even know where they are located in the zoo or how much the Maryland zoo has put into saving this frog but the zoo is a leader in their breeding programs of the Panamanian golden frog.  The exhibit houses about 30 individuals, but there are as many as 1000 frogs at a time in bio-secure rooms in the Zoo’s vet hospital.  These rooms out of the public view are the real story of the Zoo’s efforts.

Outside of The Maryland Zoo there are other programs that also have a great impact on the survival of these frogs like The San Diego and Huston Zoo. Another ongoing mission to aid the frogs is Project Golden Frog. It is a conservation project involving educational, scientific, and zoological institutions in the Republic of Panama and the United States. Their only mission is the survival of the frogs.

The Maryland zoo has for the most part kept quiet about their great efforts in maintaining the lives of the golden frog but their results speak for themselves.

Source:  Anita Brown

Explore Baltimore Heritage App: Maryland House

A historical hidden gem within Druid Hill Park and the Maryland Zoo is The Maryland House, which sits by itself atop a hill near the Mansion House. Originally on display at the nation’s centennial celebration in Philadelphia in 1876, the building was dismantled and reconstructed in Druid Hill Park the following year.
After the relocation, the Maryland House became a natural history and archeology museum that specifically catered to young boys as an educational and recreation center. This was done under the supervision of Otto Lugger whose work enable children to visit the house and learn about geology and natural sciences which lasted until the 1880s when it was closed.
The Natural History of Society of Maryland reopened the Maryland House as a museum in 1936 after becoming a storage facility for nearly half a century.  For the next three decades, children were able to learn about geology and topography along with Native American artifacts and fossil models.  This complimented the over-all theme of the zoo since its citizens viewed it as a place where members of Baltimore’s community could come to learn about the living world around them.
In 1967, the authority of the house passed to the Baltimore Zoological Association who were able to renovate it before becoming offices for the zoo administration.

Sources:  “Druid Hill To Have Museum”  The Sun, May 3, 1936. pp. SC2

Becky Mangus. Druid Hill Park Revistited: A Pictoral Essay.  (Friends of Druid Hill Park. 1985) pp.35 & Druid Hill To Have Museum pp SC2

Source:  Content for History 705 Research Project by Jason Aglietti

Explore Baltimore Heritage App: The Main Valley

For over a century, the Main Valley starred as the focal point of the Maryland Zoo’s prized attractions. Featuring a diverse population of animals including elephants, bears, and an incredible number of species of birds, the Main Valley attracted visitors from all over the area.
Known in the 1870s as the “Baltimore Zoo,” early visionaries saw it as an opportunity to help children and their parents learn about the living world. Entrepreneur and Baltimore citizen, Henry “Birdman” Bishop helped get the zoo off the ground by securing woolly monkeys, elk, and species of birds for the zoo in the 1870s.   Within the next three decades, he helped expand the Main Valley and bring larger species of animals into the zoo, such as bears and elephants.
Yet the success of the Main Valley should be attributed to more than just one person.  Throughout its early history, Baltimore’s citizens fought to expand the zoo so it could be used as an educational tool for the city.  By 1925, the city’s Park Board approved plans to expand the zoo, but they never were fully realized due to the depression which hindered the zoo’s funding.  Things became worse for the Main Valley when, during the late 1930s, the zoo nearly closed when funding almost ran out.  Still, the zoo managed to rebound, and by the 1950s, safaris to Africa brought completely new additions to the Main Valley for the first time in decades.
The Main Valley continued to be a focal point for the zoo through the next several decades as members of Baltimore and its surrounding communities continued to visit the park.  However, in 2004 due to budget restraints over the need to completely rehabilitate the Main Valley, it was decided to close the Main Valley down and let the park around it flourish in its stead.

Sources: “Plans for Free Zoo — Mr. Henry Bishop’s work of 30 Years Promises Results.” The Sun. June 16th 1902. pp7

“CITY IS CALLED IDEAL LOCATION FOR LARGE ZOO: Hagenbeck Expert Says.”  The Sun. Mar 25, 1925 pp 28

“City Zoo Advancing Rapidly, Cleveland Bark Official Says.” The Sun. Oct 13, 1948pp15

Source:  Content for 705 Research Projet by Jason Aglietti

Physical Signage: Old Main Valley

On the Left Panel

quote from Henry Bishop:

“A good zoo in a city is an education to the people,and a wholesome, attractive feature of any city… A zoo is interesting and instructive to children, as well as grown persons and will mean much to this city.”

-Henry Bishop
Baltimore Zoo Leader &Visionary, 1902

In the Center Panel, three pictures

1) Being the 1902 Sun article of the bear cage which is the oldest picture of the Main Valley in existence.  Caption reading, “This photograph of the Bear Cage is the oldest photo of any part of the Main Valley. 2) Should show the Map of the expansion in 1925. Caption reading, “From nearly the start, expansions were always being proposed for the Main Valley.  This 1925 map shows an early design of the Zoo before the Great Depression halted expansion.  3) Photograph of 1954 safari capturing animals from the Maryland Zoo Archives.  Caption reading “Even up until the 1950s, safari’s in Africa sought to bring new additions to the Main Valley.”

Right Panel:

From its creation, the zoo’s goal was to educate its visitors. Starting with birds, monkeys, and elks in the 1870s, the Main Valley became a way for citizens of Baltimore to enjoy a peaceful afternoon while learning about the world at large.
Many citizens in Baltimore, like Henry Bishop fought to expand the zoo and add more animals so more people could benefit from them.  The Main Valley became the foundation of the zoo and its enduring legacy can be seen with all the new exhibits that surround the area today


Sources: “Plans for Free Zoo — Mr. Henry Bishop’s work of 30 Years Promises Results.” The Sun. June 16th 1902. pp7

“CITY IS CALLED IDEAL LOCATION FOR LARGE ZOO: Hagenbeck Expert Says.”  The Sun. Mar 25, 1925 pp 28

Source:  Content for 705 Research Project by Jason Aglietti

Explore Baltimore Heritage App Content: Maryland Zoo Polar Bear Exhibit

The polar bear has been one of the most important symbols of the Maryland Zoo for nearly a century. Although the manner in which the Maryland Zoo has displayed its Polar Bears has changed considerably over that time, the people of Baltimore’s love for this majestic animal has not diminished.

The Maryland Zoo’s collection of polar bears dates back to the 1920s.The Zoo wanted to acquire an exotic animal that would increase public awareness of its collection. “They’ll have ice-cream cones in each paw, suitcases full of ice, icicles on their snow-white fur, and they’ll be riding on 40-horsepower icebergs,” a whimsical Baltimore Sun article of the time claimed. The Zoo allowed local school children to enter a contest to name the new polar bears. It was an exciting time for animal-lovers throughout the city.

However, the Zoo’s initial display area for the polar bears was less hospitable than the welcome they received from Baltimoreans. The early habitats consisted only of a small cage and a tiny pool of water, a pale imitation of the bears natural Arctic habitat. The next few decades saw a series of steady improvements to the display areas of the Polar Bears. A 1942 renovation gave the Polar Bears access to a forty-foot pool which surrounded a stony island. The public got a better view of the bears thanks to the installation of a seventeen-foot high glass guard railing. Later renovations to the polar bear display created a space that closely mirrored the bears’ Arctic habitat. The decade-old Polar Bear Watch display is the most recent attempt to position the Maryland Zoo as primarily a conservation center, and not simply a place to gawk at exotic animals. Polar Bear Watch attempts to place the visitor in Churchill, Manitoba, “the polar bear capital of the world.” The bears now have access to grassy areas, two different pools, and much more open space. A replica of an Arctic tundra buggy helps the visitors to imagine themselves in the Canadian Arctic.

The people of Baltimore and beyond formed close relationships with the polar bears..Visitors in the 1940s threw coins into the pools occupied by the polar bears Fluffy and Snuffy for good luck. Baltimoreans and visitors from around the country have been riveted by news that its polar bears might be pregnant, and saddened when news appears that a bear has passed away. “Alaska, the polar bear who died recently at the Maryland Zoo, is a touching example of how animals can recover from years of deprived living conditions in circuses if given the opportunity,” a visitor wrote in a letter. The polar bears at the Maryland Zoo have become a recognized symbol not only of the zoo, but of Baltimore itself.


Source: Maryland Zoo Polar Bear Exhibit App Content by Andrew Young

Explore Baltimore Heritage App: The Path to the Children’s Zoo, The Dedicated Arthur Watson

The appointment of Arthur Watson, a known animal lover, as Zoo Director in 1948 dramatically altered the course of Maryland Zoo history. The number of zoo visitors declined since the turn of the century and it desperately needed support. At the same time, post-World War II peace and economic stability had recently created a new kind of consumer. Many families had enough money to support their burgeoning numbers and extra to spend on entertainment. Watson skillfully advertised the Maryland Zoo to these new promising consumers.

When the public would not come to the Zoo, Watson brought the zoo to the public. First, he took advantage of the newly commercialized television broadcasting. From 1949 to 1959, the “golden years” of television, Watson performed alongside select exotic animals in the television series This Is Your Zoo. The weekly show cleverly twisted advertisement, humor and awe together with real animals from the zoo like Betsy the chimpanzee and Jack the Mexican burro, both of whom painted “abstract art.” Further, Watson invented a traveling zoo to bring to classrooms and playgrounds. He also involved his family in outlandish photo opportunities (see photo below).

Watson’s outreach worked. By the mid 1950s, zoo attendance had increased. The Zoo was constantly advertised on TV and in The Baltimore Sun. Within this spotlight, Watson began his efforts to establish a specific place for young families at the zoo. He wanted to create a children’s zoo.

Probably influenced by the large crowds at popular children’s theme parks, such as Disneyland or The Enchanted Forest in Ellicott City, MD, Watson planned to combine a “storybook land,” including a petting zoo and a 19th-century replica “Zoo-Choo” train, with a barnyard with domesticated animals. The area would be enclosed to contain both free-roaming children and animals.

Watson mandated an admission charge for the Children’s Zoo. Some Baltimoreans voiced concerns over its exclusion of the poor. It was a time of great social upheaval. The Civil Rights Movement had already washed over the city in 1960 when Morgan State College students staged a successful sit-in to desegregate a department store restaurant. Still, on May 29th, 1963, the Children’s Zoo opened. Despite the entrance fee, it was incredibly popular for over two decades. Watson himself remained Zoo Director for 32 years.


Photo 1: Arthur Watson, his wife and daughter are each paired with a young primate at the dinner table. Note his daughter spoon-feeding one.

Photo 2: When asked if the Zoo would continue his famed public relations efforts, such as the animal painting, the former director replied, “The new team is opposed to that sort of thing. They believe that animals should be seen in their natural habitat…”

Photo 3 (no weblink): A long line of visitors wait to enter the Children’s Zoo.

Source: “Photo 1499” Photo File 4 of the Maryland Zoo Archives.

Source: The Path to the Children’s Zoo: The Dedicated Arthur Watson (App Content) by Molly Ricks

Explore Baltimore Heritage App: The Innovative Brian Rutledge and the New Children’s Zoo

The Giant Tree and Slide you see before you opened to the public in 1990. Inside, children can climb up a narrow staircase past small exhibits of local plants and animals (See Photo 1). Chipmunks, flying squirrels, screech owls, white-footed mice, and black rat snakes have all found a home in the tree at one point or another. At the top, kids can take the stairs back to the ground level or slide down a 26 ft. slide that goes through a hollow branch! While kids play in the trunk they learn about local Maryland wildlife that they can find in their own backyards! The goal is that this kind of contact with nature will inspire kids to work to conserve plant and animal life around the world and closer to home.

Brian Rutledge was appointed Zoo Director in 1983. He immediately began working on plans to update the children’s zoo (See Photo 2). What you see today is the result of his drive and innovative mind. Rutledge and the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore were at the forefront of cutting edge developments in zoological parks when the project began. There was a new focus on educating the public about ecology, evolution, and wild animals. Habitat-based exhibits like the Giant Tree and Slide immerse visitors in an environment to help them learn.

Many changes in zoos focused on educational practices targeted at children specifically. Participating in human-sized animal environments aids in the learning process. Seeing animals that would live in a hollow tree and travelling through the trunk teaches them about animal behavior and habitats. Because they are having fun and being active they learn more! All of these ideas originated in the zoo movements of the 1970s and 1980s that the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore was a part of.

In the 1960s and 1970s the Children’s Zoo had elements like the rocket ship slide that were fun, but lacked educational purpose (See Photo 3). The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore was one of the first to effectively apply new philosophies to an actual zoo. Thanks to exhibits like this one, the Children’s Zoo can call itself award-winning!

Photo 1 Caption: Kids begin their exciting exploration of the tree by entering at its roots!


Photo 2 Caption: Rutledge brought a live alligator to the House Appropriations committee to ask for $2.5 million dollars to finish the African Plains exhibit and the Children’s Zoo.


Photo 3: Before its renovation in the 1980s, the Children’s Zoo had whimsical playground equipment without much educational value, like this Rocket Ship Slide. Thanks to Rutledge, they upgraded to a zoo that combines education and play! Compare the two slides yourself!


*See the rest of the signage material on the websites of Jennifer Montooth and Molly Ricks.

Source: The Innovative Brian Rutledge and the New Children’s Zoo (App Content) by Katherine Fusick

Physical Signage: The Children’s Zoo, “Before” Section

*Creators’ note: We plan to break up the text across different areas of the sign and not to present it in one paragraph.

On May 29th, 1963, the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore opened its doors to the original Children’s Zoo. This new site was the dedicated mission of Zoo Director Arthur Watson. Watson loved animals and he wanted kids to love them too. The Children’s Zoo introduced children to an array of animals in a safe and fun manner. Unlike the regular Zoo, the children’s section was an enclosed space. This enabled children and animals, like deer, to roam and play freely. Kids could be kids here! Children could climb aboard the whimsical Noah’s Ark, a real 50-foot Chesapeake Bay fishing boat. Or they could meet the chicks and ducklings at Bo Peep’s Hat. The authentic Pennsylvania Dutch barn hosted daily cow milkings.

Also not like the rest of the Zoo, the Children’s Zoo charged admission: 15-cents for children and 25-cents for adults. This led many to criticize this section of the zoo for being exclusive to privileged families. (Now, of course, there is an entrance fee for the entire zoo, which includes admission to the Children’s Zoo). In its first ten days, more than 25,000 people visited the site. The fantastical themes and open access to animals made the original Children’s Zoo wildly popular for over two decades.


*See the rest of the signage material on the websites of Jennifer Montooth and Katherine Fusick.



Source: The Children’s Zoo Signage: The “Before” Section by Molly Ricks

Physical Signage: Children’s Zoo Photos and Quotes

Before Photos:

Caption of Photo 1: Watson participated in all aspects of the Children’s Zoo. Here he (left) is on opening day introducing Mayor Theodore McKeldin (right) and young visitors to a baby animal.

Source: No Name Photo by Jim Ewing, #2236, Photo File #4, in folder “Old Children’s Zoo”  in Maryland Zoo Archives.

Caption of Pic 2: Jack the Burro and his mate stand in a corral beside the colorful sombrero filled with hay. Zoo planners wanted a “Mexican touch.”


Caption of Pic 3: Children enter the Mouse House to observe mice in pens. Note the sign: Cats Invited.

Source: In article by Edward G. Pickett. “Animal Fairyland: The Children’s Zoo.” The Baltimore Sun. July 14, 1963.

Before Quotes:

Watson Quote Watson Quote 2

After Photos:

Caption of Pic 4: Little visitors can hop around on kid-sized lily pads like frogs! Make sure to find the lily pads on your visit today!


Caption of Pic 5: See if you can squeeze inside the nest of the Maryland State Bird, the Oriole!


Caption of Pic 6: Make sure to explore the world of small Maryland mammals in the Giant Tree and make your grand exit sliding down a branch like these fun-loving kids!

Source: No #–Photo File #4 Folder “New Children’s Zoo”

After Quotes:

Birkel Quote Rutledge Quote

*See the rest of the signage material on the websites of Jennifer Montooth and Molly Ricks.

Source: The Children’s Zoo Signage: Photos and Quotes by Katherine Fusick

Physical Signage: The History of Polar Bear Exhibits at the Maryland Zoo

From the 1900s to Today: A Transition from the Exotic to the Natural

Did You Know? This is the Third Polar Bear Exhibit at the Maryland Zoo!

Early Talks of Exotic Animals:

In the early 1900s, the Maryland Zoo began efforts to acquire polar bears. During this time polar bears were rare findings in any zoo. The Maryland Zoo hoped that by bringing in new and exotic “curiosities,” like the polar bear, it would help to increase zoo interest and attendance.

A Small Beginning:

By the 1920s, an official exhibit was created for polar bears at the Maryland Zoo. The early habitat for these bears was simplistic, with a small cage and tiny swimming pool filled with ice water.  This habitat was a pale shadow of the larger more naturalistic exhibit that would later be created for the polar bears.

(Photograph of 1920 cage. Caption: Many of these first polar bears were acquired by the Maryland Zoo through donors or Alaskan trappers. Later polar bears would be received through zoo exchange programs.)

Bigger but Not Always Better:

Renovations to the polar bear exhibit began once again in the 1940s. The polar bears were strategically moved into a new enclosure opposite the elephant house to take advantage of the popular foot traffic there. Changes to the exhibit included a larger and flashier forty foot wide lake with an island in the center and a waterfall which fell down a cliff and into the center of the lake.

(Photograph of 1940s polar bear exhibit. Caption: Previously, visitors would look down into the Maryland Zoo’s polar bear pit, separated behind a 17-inch glass guard railing, and watch the polar bears as they ate, swam, and lounged around.)

A Move towards the Naturalistic:

In the early 2000s, the Maryland Zoo upgraded its polar bear exhibit once again into what can be seen today.  In a move towards more naturalistic and conservation based exhibits, the zoo worked to replicate the Arctic habitat of the polar bear.  The zoo completely replaced the outdated water and rock enclosure of the 40s with a new underwater viewing area, new pools, and a Tundra Buggy, from which the public could view the bears in their “natural” habitat.

(Photograph of polar bear. Caption: Polar bears live a much longer life in captivity than in the wild. Most polar bears in the wild live on average between 15 and 18 years old but in captivity polar bears can live up to 40 years old!)

Source: Polar Bear Signage: The History of Polar Bear Exhibits at the Maryland Zoo by Sarah Huston