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

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

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

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

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


Changing attitudes in zoo education caused calls for redevelopment of the Children’s Zoo. In 1986, Zoo Director Brian Rutledge announced a $5.7 million renovation plan that made the Children’s Zoo into what you will see today. He wanted young visitors to develop more sympathetic and understanding views towards wildlife. Rutledge had a passion for creating a safe connection between children and animals through interactive education. The new design maintained the recreational spirit of the original Children’s Zoo, but combined it with more natural, play-based learning exhibits. Like the original Children’s Zoo, kids could still play freely. New exhibits look like natural environments and encourage children to imitate animal behavior. They can jump from lilypad to lilypad like a frog. Or snuggle up in a human-sized Orioles’ nest. Rutledge established the new program Creature Encounters to give kids behind-the-scenes access to animals. It also highlights animals’ roles within their natural habitats. The improved area became both a fun and educational learning environment. It broadened children’s knowledge of new and exciting animals in their own backyards. To this day the Children’s Zoo is dedicated to educating children on wildlife through what children do best–play!

*See the rest of the signage material on the websites of Molly Ricks and Katherine Fusick.

Source: The Children’s Zoo Signage- The “After” Section by Jenn Montooth

Physical Signage: Fence and Admissions

Did you know that for nearly a century the Maryland Zoo had no fence and was free? There was no barrier between park and zoo; one could simply stroll through on any old day! In 1970 the zoo constructed a 3-mile perimeter fence enclosing it’s animals and structures and began to charge a 50 cents admission. What lead to this decision? How did residents feel about it? 


“Hoodlums and warped individuals can be prevented from entering the park to perpetuate their senseless and savage attacks on unprotected animals”

-Editorial, The Baltimore Sun, 1968 

“First the animals were fenced in; now the public is fenced out, providing yet another unpleasant reminder of the relentless security measures in urban life… A zoo visit becomes an organized expedition, money in hand, while penniless urchins are left outside to peer in at their financial betters.”

-Editorial, The Baltimore Sun, 1970

“It was not a question of a fenced zoo but a question of a zoo at all. The wanton killing and injury of animals unfortunately has made it necessary for the Baltimore zoo to join the 86 other zoos in the nation which have been forced to resort to fencing to curb vandalism.”

-Ray Thomson, Baltimore Zoological Society President, 1970

“There are a lot of people now who say they won’t go to the zoo because they hear reports of rowdies and vandals.”

-Douglas S. Tawney, Director of Parks and Recreation, 1969

“The idea of fees for the park sounds good to people with money. Some of them may even look at this as a means of getting rid of some of the lower-income people.”

-The Afro-American, 1968

Source: Maryland Zoo Sign: Fence and Admissions by Tucker Foltz

Physical Signage: The Mansion House: Warm Beginnings

Completed in 1801 under the eye of its owner and architect Nicholas Rogers, the Mansion House is one of a very few buildings of its time still standing in Baltimore — and we’re lucky to have it. Fires destroyed the first two houses built on this spot along with the temporary house in downtown Baltimore where the Rogers family waited for this one to be finished.

The need to keep fires burning all day for heating and cooking made house fires far more common in the 18th and 19th centuries than they are today. With no fire hydrants, fire trucks, or smoke detectors, even fires that started small often devastated large buildings like this one. In fact, if the Baltimore City Fire Department had been founded just one year earlier than it was, in 1797, there might be a different house standing here altogether.

Small fires have broken out inside the Mansion House on a few occasions over the past 215 years, but with modern fire safety features inside the house and a fire station only minutes away on West Lafayette Avenue, odds are good that the Mansion House will remain a landmark of Baltimore City for centuries to come.


There are two pictures I’d like to use for this sign. The first is a photograph (which we have here at Special Collections, actually) that ran in the November 12, 1954 edition of the Sun that shows fire crews putting out one of the small fires that I mention above. The second is a portrait of Nicholas Rogers that’s reproduced in Edith Rossiter Bevan’s article on the Rogers family in the September 1949 edition of Maryland Historical Magazine. Colonel Rogers appears with a little terrier sitting on his lap, and I think the public might get a kick out it.


Source: Sign content: The Mansion House: Warm Beginnings by Andrew Holter