A Century of Zoo Support

Dr. Bert & Chuck cut a cake celebrating the Society's 100 years of support

Zoo Director Chuck Wikenhauser (left) and Zoological Society President/CEO Dr. Robert Davis get ready to cut a birthday cake at the Zoological Society of Milwaukee’s centennial birthday bash. The Zoological Society is in a public-private partnership with Milwaukee County, which runs the Zoo. Photo by Richard Brodzeller.

Happy Birthday to us! In 1910, a group of Milwaukee business leaders began a friends’ group to help the city’s zoo acquire animals. Today, this group is the non-profit Zoological Society of Milwaukee. In 2010, we are celebrating our century of conserving animals, educating people and supporting the Milwaukee County Zoo. Join the party! We’ll celebrate our centennial at events throughout the year:

Below, you’ll find links to photos, podcasts and stories about our mission throughout the years. We will add to this page throughout 2010.

Birthday Bash

On January 9, 2010, we kicked off our centennial with a party at the Zoo. The event featured an animal-themed cake-decorating contest with 16 creative cakes. Click here to see photos of the cakes and the winner. More party photos are featured in this slide show. Take a look at historical interpreters in 1910-era costumes, Samson the gorilla memorabilia and other fun event shots.

Centennial Stories

  • How we got those new animals:
    You can’t  just buy an elephant at a pet store. We mined old Zoological Society publications for stories on how we acquired animals in our early years.
  • A century of support - Imagine the Future
  • A conversation with Bess Frank:
    “The first [Zoological Society] board of directors were looking to put Milwaukee on the map, and one of the ways you did that was to build a zoo.”  Bess Frank, the Milwaukee County Zoo’s unofficial historian and retired curator of large mammals, talks with WUWM’s Lake Effect show about the Zoological Society’s century of Zoo support.
  • Building a Better Zoo:
    In our second half-century, our focus shifted from acquiring animals to improving the Zoo and animal habitats.
  • Memories of Samson the Gorilla:
    A conversation with Sam LaMalfa, head keeper for Samson, the Zoo’s late, great gorilla.
  • Early History of the Zoological Society of Milwaukee:
    Our history 1910 to 1947, and a photo gallery of historical photos.
  • A Century of Learning:
    Bringing conservation education to two generations of zoogoers.
  • 20 Years of Animal Ambassadors:
    This Zoological Society education program reaches children who often don’t get to the Zoo.
  • Photo Timeline (1.69 MB)
    You can see this museum-style photo history of the Zoological Society at our events throughout the year.

Do you have old photos and videos of Zoological Society programs to share?  Click here for details.