Current and Coming features detailed information about current and forthcoming programs, events, exhibits and activities of historical and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania. Originated as “Currents.” Retitled “Current and Coming,” Winter 2003, and then retitled “Out and About,” Fall 2005. Revived as “Current and Coming,” Winter 2013. Ran regularly, Spring 1984 to Spring 2008, and then occasionally, Winter 2013 to Spring 2015.

It’s a Zoo!

When the Zoological Society of Philadelphia was organized at the home of Dr. William Camac (its first presi­dent) on March 21, 1859, it was the first of its kind in North America. In spite of its auspicious beginnings, the early years of the Philadelphia Zoo – now touted as “America’s First Zoo”­ – were dampened by the Civil War, which not only made funding diffi­cult to obtain but also hampered the transport of exotic animals. Opening day at the zoo was postponed for two decades.

Society members reassembled in 1872 to continue their planning. Herman J. Schwanzmann, an engineer employed by the Fairmount Park Commission, was asked to prepare a design. In the mean­time, a collector was dispatched to far­-off lands to acquire species and, by early 1874, shipments of animals began arriving in Philadelphia. Among the two hundred and eighty-two animals exhibited on opening day, Wednesday, July 1, 1874, were five female American black bears sent by Brigham Young (1801-1877), Mormon leader, territorial governor of Utah, and founder of Salt Lake City, Utah’s capital and largest city. The following year a male Indian rhinoceros named Pete joined the col­lection and was the first of this species to be exhibited in an American zoologi­cal institution. Purchased from P. T. Barnum’s Circus, Pete quickly became Philadelphia’s leading living landmark. One of the first gifts to the Zoo included Gen. William T. Sherman’s cow Atlanta, which had accompanied him on his march through Georgia. On Christmas Day in 1888, Bolivar, the first adult bull elephant in an American zoo, arrived. And the pace of acquisitions did not falter during the twentieth century.

A male gorilla, Bamboo, the only living specimen of a gorilla in an American zoo at the time, arrived at the Philadelphia Zoo in 1927. Julius, the first chimpanzee born and reared in the United States, was born the following year at the Zoo. Lucky, the first Bornean orangutan in the world born in captivity, was also born in 1928.

The list of “firsts” for the Philadelphia Zoo appears endless. It was the first zoo in the nation to suc­cessfully breed naked mole-rats. Described by a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer as “frisky, rare and seriously ugly,” these unique mam­mals have an insect-like social structure with a single breeding queen. The Philadelphia Zoo is the first zoo in North America to exhibit rare white lions, Jezebel and Vinkel, which arrived this year. Along with these “firsts” came longevity records for numerous species, such as trumpeter swans, chimpanzees, and birds of par­adise. The most famous longevity record is held by Massa, believed to have been the oldest gorilla in the world when he died in 1985 at the age of fifty-four. Billy, the world’s oldest breeding Indian rhinoceros at the age of forty, resides at the Zoo.

In 1901, the Penrose Research Laboratory, the first institution of its kind in the world, was established for the nutrition, longevity, and life span studies of animals. Under the direction of Charles B. Penrose, who served as Zoo president for fifteen years, a group began research on tuberculosis. This team was the first to discover that tuberculosis was the major cause of death among primates and, in 1911, developed a tuberculin test.

In 1930, the first formulated food for captive wild animals was devel­oped and introduced at the Philadelphia Zoo. Dubbed “zoocake,” the preparation has been used in zoos throughout the world.

For nearly a century and a half, the Philadelphia Zoo has brought the won­ders of nature to millions of visitors. Through the years, the role of zoos has changed dramatically, and today a pri­mary responsibility adopted by modern zoos is not only to provide a recreational opportunity, but to educate the public and join forces with others to safeguard the future of both endangered and pro­tected species. The Philadelphia Zoo conducts an aggressive and comprehensive conservation program through a number of departments.

The Zoo plays an important role in the breeding of endangered and threat­ened species by participating in the Species Survival Plans (SSP), a world­-renowned organization dedicated to the survival of endangered species. Cooperating zoos use computerized data to track the genetic relationships of their animals, thereby decreasing the problem of inbreeding and maximizing the greatest genetic diversity. The Philadelphia Zoo is currently partici­pating in more than twenty Species Survival Plans, which include the Siberian tiger, Indian rhino, African and Asian elephants, Western Lowland gorilla, and orangutan. During the past decade, the Zoo has witnessed a num­ber of births among its primates, including lowland gorillas, ring-tailed and mongoose lemurs, and white­-handed gibbons. Other notable births among endangered species include the Malayan tapir, Siberian tiger, and Indian rhinoceros.

A special project abroad involves the Micronesian kingfisher, and the Philadelphia Zoo is a leader in success­fully breeding this severely endangered Pacific island bird. The Zoo has also participated in the Guam Bird Rescue Project, for which it received the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums’ highest award. In addition, the Zoo’s staff works close­ly with state and federal wildlife authorities to study local populations and assist in the care and rescue of injured and stranded animals.

The Philadelphia Zoo recently launched a new conservation program entitled One With Nature. The purpose of this innovative program is to save threatened species in the wild as well as in captivity. One With Nature also explores new ways of recycling natural resources and saving energy at the Zoo. Projects are conducted in associa­tion with Conservation International, headquartered in Washington, D. C., whose mission is to preserve the earth’s amazing biological diversity.

In addition to housing more than seventeen hundred animals, the forty­-two acre zoological garden, which retains its Victorian era character, fea­tures a number of historic buildings and structures, including several designed by the leading architects of the day, Frank Furness (whose com­missions included the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in center­-city Philadelphia) and George W. Hewitt. Sculpture, which also graces the grounds of the Philadelphia Zoo, includes Wilhelm Wolff’s prize-win­ning Dying Lioness.

Solitude, the oldest structure in the Zoo, was built by William Penn’s grandson John Penn in 1785. The small manor house was named after the Duke of Wurtemburg’s residence. John Penn’s political differences with George Washington did not deter their friendly visits at Solitude. The two story Federal style house was described by one of its owner’s friends as “an exquisite box,” while architects and historians have praised Solitude’s rich interior decoration and details.

After four years, John Penn returned to England at which time he transferred Solitude to his brother Granville. Upon Granville’s death, his son Granville inherited the house, which was rented briefly to Joseph Bonaparte (1768-1844), ex-king of Spain. The estate, the last property in America owned by the Penn family, was acquired by the Fairmount Park Commission in 1867 (see “Pennsbury Manor: The Philosopher’s Garden” by Patricia L. Hudson and “Explaining William Penn on the 350th Anniversary of His Birth: An Interview with Richard S. Dunn” by William C. Kashatus III, both of which appear in the fall 1994 edition). During the Zoo’s early years, Solitude served as an exhibition center, and a reptile collection was installed in the residence’s former library on the first floor. Solitude now houses administrative offices.

The Philadelphia Zoo, located at Thirty-Fourth Street and Girard Avenue, is still operated by the Zoological Society of Philadelphia, a nonprofit organization. It is financed by memberships, contributions, gate receipts, and revenue from the sale of souvenirs and refreshments.

For more information, write: Philadelphia Zoo, 3400 West Girard Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19104-1196; or telephone (215) 243-1100. There is an admission charge.

 

Fill ‘er Up!

Edwin L. Drake’s place in the annals of history was assured when he successfully demonstrated that he had discovered a reliable source of petrole­um in northwestern Pennsylvania’s oil region. Drilling for oil provided plen­tiful supplies of kerosene for extended working and leisure hours, energy to fuel America’s burgeoning industrial development, and lubricants to keep the machinery that propelled this nation well oiled. The nation – and the world, for that matter – would irrevo­cably change when “Colonel” Drake drilled the world’s first oil well in Venango County’s Oil Creek Valley on August 27, 1859.

Within seven years of the opening of the oil boom, David Dick of Meadville, Crawford County, was busy attempting to patent an “atmos­pheric engine,” a precursor of the internal combustion engine. Dick died before he could complete his engine, but others were in the process of per­fecting their versions. By the opening of the twentieth century, visionary automakers – among them Henry Ford (1863-1947), Charles E. Duryea (1862-1938), Ransom E. Olds (1864-1950), and Elwood Haynes (1857-1925) – had already manufactured eight thousand automobiles which sputtered along America’s muddy lanes and bumpy roads. In 1905, the first Glidden Road Tour was organized and six years later Pennsylvania’s Ray Harroun raced to victory in the inaugural Indianapolis 500.

Today, the automobile is the most common vehicle of transportation and a household necessity. It is also one of the primary users of products refined and manufactured by the oil industry.

“Fill ‘er Up: The Evolution of the Filling Station, 1900-1950,” on view at the Drake Well Museum in Titusville, chronicles the history of the retail gasoline industry. Opening with the story of casing-head gasoline, an early, generic well by-product sold at general stores and bicycle repair shops, the exhibition addresses equipment, mer­chandising, and advertising. “Fill ‘er Up” showcases artifacts, objects, and photographs drawn from the extensive collection of the Drake Well Museum, as well as items selected from numer­ous private collections.

The exhibit includes examples of the earliest glass-globe gasoline pumps, specifically designed to con­vince consumers that the fuel had been specially filtered so as not to foul the automobile’s engine, and discusses their evolution to today’s familiar elec­tronic digital display dispensers. The pumps are the focal point for a history of merchandising and marketing. As early as 1906 brand names began appearing in filling stations, when the Atlantic Refining Company opened a station near Oil City. (The structure, resembling a Chinese pagoda, has since been moved to downtown Oil City where it serves as the office of the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad, a popular local attraction.) In 1912, the Gulf Oil Company opened its first sta­tion on Baum Boulevard in Pittsburgh. In subsequent decades, garages became service stations and then even­tually streamlined to today’s popular self-service stations and ubiquitous mini-marts.

It was not long after the debut of the retail gasoline business that com­pany trademarks emerged, among them Tydol’s flying red horse, the Texaco star, the golden scallop of Shell, and Sinclair’s dinosaur. The advertis­ing of “Good” Gulf and “Blue” Sunoco established distinctive brand name identities. “Pennsylvania Crude” was protected as a trade name, applicable only to the Keystone State’s superior green crude motor oils.

In 1914, construction began on the Lincoln Highway, the first coast-to­-coast highway. As gasoline stations opened along this important route, their architectural styles changed greatly – for example, the elaborate building types favored for city stations gave way to simpler, more streamlined structures such as the popular bunga­low with a front facade portico. To encourage more travel, a barrage of promotions and gimmicks was used to entice the seemingly endless stream of insatiable motorists. Nearly all stations offered free travel maps, and a few provided free trip planning for their customers. Major companies soon began to offer credit cards – now a highly collectible form of ephemera­ – to loyal customers.

Illustrating and interpreting the evolution of a bona fide American institution, “Fill ‘er Up” offers a fasci­nating glimpse at America’s love affair with the automobile and the gasoline stations that kept it running.

“Fill ‘er Up: The Evolution of the Filling Station, 1900-1950,” continues through Thursday, November 24 [1994].

For more information, write: Drake Well Museum, R. D. 3, Titusville, PA 16354; or telephone (814) 827-2797. There is a charge for admission.

The Drake Well Museum is admin­istered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), the Commonwealth’s official history agency.

 

Marquee Madness

Between 1700 and 1945, the City of Philadelphia was home to more than eight hundred legitimate, vaudeville, and motion picture theaters. Today, fewer than thirty survive.

Opening Monday, September 26 [1994], at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia is an exhibition celebrating the richness and variety of the city’s theater buildings during the golden age of movie palaces, “Behind the Marquee: Phila­delphia Theater Buildings, 1900-1932.” In his article entitled “Chin Up! Smile! Keep ‘Em Happy!,” which appeared in the winter 1991 edition of Pennsyl­vania Heritage, John L. Marsh charac­terized the opulence of such theaters.

The strength of movie houses in the decades following the heyday of the nick­elodeon lay in their ability to attract not only one segment of the population, as opposed to another, but all segments. Ultimate showmen, much like those some­times-Pennsylvanians, the brothers Warner, found the means to do so as they vied with Marcus Loew and William Fox, among others, in the construction of opu­lent movie palaces, the most splendid structures patrons had ever seen. Built to last forever, such houses were the quintes­sential home of the usher, lauded as the golden youth of America ….

A movie palace represented a seductive escape from the petty annoyances and frustrations of everyday life and, in fact, the theater structure itself provided that escape no less than the fare offered on the screen. Within the gilded interiors of the Mastbaum in Philadelphia, the Stanley in Pittsburgh, of the Warner in Erie, the patron savored a magical world far from the stale realities of daily existence. Here the patron was treated as a monarch for whom the palace was ostensibly built or, at the very least, welcomed as an honored guest.

“Behind the Marquee: Philadelphia Theater Buildings, 1900-1932,” will fea­ture more than one hundred vintage photographs of both movie houses and legitimate theaters, as well as architectural drawings and renderings depicting this unique building type. The exhibition will showcase interior and exterior images of some of Philadelphia’s most famous theaters, including the Fox, the Stanley, the Boyd, the Earle, and the grandest of them all, the Mastbaum. Also featured will be many of the smaller – but no less loved – neighborhood theaters fre­quented by thousands of Philadelphians throughout the years. Much of the material in this exhibition has been drawn from the Athenaeum’s Irvin R. Glazer Theater Collection.

On Saturday, December 3 [1994], the Athenaeum of Philadelphia will con­duct a symposium focusing on the lost architectural heritage of vanished the­ater buildings. The one day event will also discuss three of the city’s major theaters, addressing the historic preservation issues that each has pre­sented. Speakers and topics include: Irvin R. Glazer, former president of the Theatre Historical Society of America, “Reflections on a Lifetime of Collecting Theater History”; Hyman Myers, architect and senior vice presi­dent, Vitetta Group, “The Restoration of the Academy of Music”; James Kise, president, Kise, Franks, and Straw, “The Metropolitan Opera House”; Richard Tyler, historic preservation officer, Philadelphia Historical Commission, “The Boyd Theater Case and Its Impact on Preservation Law”; and Bruce Laverty, the Athenaeum’s curator of architecture, “A New Hall for the Philadelphia Orchestra: An Old Idea.” The symposium will be held at the Franklin Hall of the American continue on exhibit through February 3, 1995.

The Athenaeum is located on Washington Square, one block south of Independence Hall. Visiting hours are Monday through Friday, 9 A. M. to 5 P. M. Admission is free.

To obtain additional information, including symposium registration details, write: Athenaeum of Philadelphia, 219 South Sixth St., Philadelphia, PA 19106; or telephone (215) 925-2688.