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HersheyArchives@30-9: Hershey Zoo: From Angora Goats to Zebus

Pages from Hershey Improvement Company, Transfer Ledger #1. ca1906-1916

Pages from Hershey Improvement Company, Transfer Ledger #1. ca1906-1916

 

Within five years of Hershey Park’s official opening additional attractions were introduced in the Park to supplement and enhance the guest experience.   An amphitheatre, bandstand, dance hall, photograph gallery, and bowling alley were part of the Park’s expansion; and in 1910, Hershey Zoo.

 

Postcard: Herd of Zebus graze in Hershey Zoo.  ca1915

Postcard: Herd of Zebus graze in Hershey Zoo. ca1915

 

Franz and Louise Zinner, who moved to Lebanon, Pennsylvania from Heisenberg, Germany in 1899, persuaded Milton Hershey to open the Zoo as a community and visitor attraction.  Franz had at one time worked with Carl Hagenbeck, a German collector and trainer of exotic animals, who later founded a privately-owned zoo in Hamburg, Germany.  Aware of Franz’s interest in animals, friends of the Zinners who had moved to the western United States, shipped them twelve prairie dogs.  Unable to keep them in their backyard, Franz Zinner contacted Milton Hershey about keeping the prairie dogs as a park attraction.  The two men eventually decided to open a zoo, and Zinner and his family soon moved to Hershey to oversee the facility.

 

Prairie dogs are entertaining but they are a burrowing rodent and spend part of their lives out of view and underground.   Just as Hershey Park expanded to offer a variety of attractions, Hershey Zoo needed to acquire additional animals.

 

Detail of Hershey Improvement Company Transfer Ledger, #1. ca1906-1916

Detail of Hershey Improvement Company Transfer Ledger, #1. ca1906-1916

 

A ledger in the Archives’ collection details the first menagerie acquired for the Zoo.  Wenz & Mackensen was a firm based in Yardley, Pennsylvania that specialized in selling birds but at times dealt in more exotic animals.  Wenz & Mackensen supplied the Zoo with bears, zebus, angora goats, and pheasants.  Zinner supplied prairie dogs and H.E. Cudney, a New Jersey dealer, supplied deer.  By the 4th of July holiday in 1910, the Zoo was a featured attraction.

 

The weekly newspaper, the Hershey Press, promoted the zoo in its advertisement for the Hershey Park's July 4th celebration. 6/24/1910

The weekly newspaper, the Hershey Press, promoted the zoo in its advertisement for the Hershey Park’s July 4th celebration. 6/24/1910

 

The Zoo continued to expand over the years with animals that ranged from the mundane to the exotic.  By 1940, the Zoo covered forty acres and contained individual houses for primates, carnivores, small mammals, antelopes, tropical birds, pheasants, and fish as well as outdoor cages and enclosures.

 

In the era before television, zoos played an important role educating the public about unfamiliar animals and environments.  Hershey Zoo was the first attraction Milton Hershey introduced to the community that exposed residents and visitors to opportunities and experiences outside of those normally available in a rural Pennsylvania community.  Many more would follow.

 

#HersheyArchives@30

Riding the Rails: Hershey Park’s Miniature Railway

The miniature train carried passengers over Spring Creek to the ball fields located on the far side of the park. ca.1916.  Note the carrousel building in background.

The miniature train carried passengers over Spring Creek to the ball fields located on the far side of the park. ca.1916. Note the carrousel building in background.

 

When Hershey Park first began operating, it was a community park with picnic tables, playgrounds for children, ball fields, a bandstand, a small concession stand and a pavilion that was used for vaudeville style performances, dances and other events.  Visitors came to enjoy a picnic, stroll the paths along Spring Creek, listen to a band concert and perhaps take in a baseball game.

 

Hershey Park’s first amusement ride, a second-hand merry-go-round was installed in 1908.  The following year, the park continued to expand with a new amphitheatre with seating for 2000. Hershey Park was quickly emerging as a summer destination.

 

The starting point for the miniature railway was located near the intersection of Park Avenue and Park Boulevard, not far from Hershey's railroad station and downtown Hershey. ca.1925-1935

The starting point for the miniature railway was located near the intersection of Park Avenue and Park Boulevard, not far from Hershey’s railroad station and downtown Hershey. ca.1925-1935

 

Milton Hershey purchased a miniature electric railway for the 1910 Park season.  Problems with installation delayed its opening until September 5, 1910.  The 22-inch gauge railway was built by the Lancaster Iron Works, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  At the time it was built, the little one-of-a-kind railway was considered a technological achievement.

 

The dark line highlights the route of the Miniature Railroad. 1913

The dark line highlights the route of the Miniature Railroad. 1913

 

The ride connected the ends of the Park.  The train line started at the intersection of Park Avenue and Park Boulevard and traveled around the edge of the park ending by Hershey Park’s ballfield.  The train line had no loop so the line had only one train.  The cars could carry up to thirty passengers and the seats had movable backs so that passengers would always travel facing forward.  The fare was five cents for a one way ride.  People enjoyed the ride because it was more than an amusement ride, it was a fun way of traveling to a variety of Park attractions.

 

By 1913 the ride passed by the carrousel, the Hershey Ballroom, and the boating pond.  In later years, passengers could disembark at the entrance to the Hershey Park swimming pool and sunken gardens.

 

In later years, passengers used the railway to reach the Hershey Museum.  ca.1955-1965

In later years, passengers used the railway to reach the Hershey Museum. ca.1955-1965

 

The miniature railway was dismantled after the 1971 season.  That year, Hershey began a multi-year project to modernize the park as a themed amusement park.  In 1971, a fence went up surrounding park rides and attractions but most of the miniature railway continued to operate outside of the fence.  While Hersheypark initially planned to relocate the railway inside the park grounds, those plans were never realized.

 

For more information about the Miniature Railway, read Technology Meets Entertainment:  Remembering the Hershey Park Miniature Railway, by Ron Rhoads, Jr. 2007.  A copy is available in the Archives’ library.