Joe Tropea

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Let’s hear from O’s manager Paul Richards: “A keen baseball mind”

PP79-1208 President Eisenhower at Griffith Stadium, Washington D

Paul Richards (in Orioles jacket) with Washington Senator’s manager, Chuck Dressen, and President Eisenhower at the home opener at Griffith Stadium, Wash., D.C. “President Eisenhower at Griffith Stadium,” Robert Kniesch, MdHS, PP79-1208.

Who cares what the so-called experts predict for the Orioles this season? The Ravens did okay last season, the O’s looked pretty great in spring training, William Nathaniel “Buck” Showalter III has our confidence, and spring is sprung. No so-called sports expert  or weatherman or even Mark Reynolds is going to rain on our enjoyment of tomorrow’s home opener.

Speaking of experts and O’s Managers… this week we thought we’d take a look back at Paul Richards who managed the Orioles from 1955 to 1960. Richards played for years as an infielder in the minor leagues, until making his pro debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He finished out his playing days as a catcher with the New York Giants and Detroit Tigers. Richards came to manage in Baltimore after a short stint piloting the Chicago White Sox.

Richards is perhaps best remembered for his small ball style of play. At a time when the home run was the strategy for many a team’s success, he instead stressed pitching, defensive skills, and base stealing. His list of accomplishments includes: being the first manager since John McGraw to hold the position of field manager and general manager simultaneously, orchestrating a 17-player trade with the Yankees (the largest trade in baseball history)*, being named Manager of the Year in 1960, and most notably—in Baltimore—he’s known as the man who drafted Brooks Robinson. As if that weren’t enough to earn this city’s eternal gratitude, he was also known to wax poetic about the Oriole Way. Here’s some film from our vault of Paul Richards telling it like only Paul Richards could. (Joe Tropea)

missed-high-five-buck-showalter

Sources:

“Play Ball with the Orioles” (1957), produced by Gunther Beer, 16mm transfer, MdHS. Edited by Joe Tropea.

* http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1065155/index.htm

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Your Baltimore Canaries: a very brief history of Baltimore’s second professional base ball team

Look up, Baltimore baseball fans! You’ve come a long way.

The origin of baseball in Baltimore is a ridiculously complicated affair. Scant photographic evidence remains and accounts in newspapers, which used nicknames for teams and players as often as they did proper names, leave behind a murky, hard-to-follow record.

By the 1870s there were already a handful of defunct Maryland base ball* clubs with names like the Excelsiors, the Marylands, the Pastimes, the Monumentals, etc. Keeping track of who they were, where they played, where they packed up and left town to play before coming back under another team name is a chore difficult for the most earnest of sporting historians. Add to this mess a game so loosely organized that it was impossible to even agree on a national champion until 1894. A little research on the subject yields a solid argument for keeping things simple, so here goes…

"Members of the Lord Baltimore Base Ball Club of Baltimore, Maryland,"

“Members of the Lord Baltimore Base Ball Club of Baltimore, Maryland” in the first year of their existence with Lip Pike at bottom left. The Dramatic News and Sporting News couldn’t even get Pike’s name right. He’s listed as Lyman Pike. Medium Prints, Sports, Baseball 1872, MdHS.

Meet your Lord Baltimores a.k.a. the Yellow Stockings a.k.a the Baltimore Canaries, so called for their bright yellow uniforms. These dandies wore thick silk shirts—instead of the usual flannel—emblazoned with the Calvert arms, wide white belts, and snazzy yellow and black argyle socks.

The 1872 Lord Baltimores, detail from James Bready's Baseball in Baltimore. Uncredited photo.

The 1872 Lord Baltimores, detail from James Bready’s Baseball in Baltimore. Uncredited photo.

The year was 1872. Out of the ashes of Waverly’s Pastime Base Ball Club, which started fielding amateur players as early as 1861, came the Lord Baltimores. When the team played well, fans called them Lords. When they didn’t win, fans were more inclined to call them Canaries. They were the city’s first professional team under the auspices of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, but they were its second professional team overall.

The honor of being Baltimore’s first professional base ball club went to the Marylands who in the late 1860s defected to Fort Wayne, Indiana when wealthy businessmen there flashed some cash and convinced them to stay while the team was in town for a game. After a brief dalliance as the Fort Wayne Kekiongas, half the team returned home to Charm City to form the Lords. Not surprisingly the team was plagued from the start with rumors that they threw games.

v32_a2_e sachse cos_birds eye view_1869

Newington Park probably sat below Cumberland Road to the left of Pennsylvania Avenue in this depiction by the Sachse Company. Bird’s Eye View of the City of Baltimore, 1869, V32-a2, MdHS.

In their three seasons of existence (1872-1874), the Lord Baltimores played their home games at Baltimore’s Newington Park, which was located between Baker and Gold Streets. There are no known photographs of the venue, though with the help of G.M. Hopkins’ Atlas and the Sachse Company’s “Bird’s Eye View…” we’re able to get some idea of when and where the park stood. Newington Park was located on Pennsylvania Avenue “extended” in West Baltimore.

The site of Newington Park which by 1876 was known as the Peabody Base Ball Grounds  found in G.M. Hopkins' Atlas of Baltimore and Its Environs. Vol. 1 (1876) available at MdHS.

The site of Newington Park which by 1876 was known as the Peabody Base Ball Grounds found in G.M. Hopkins’ Atlas of Baltimore and Its Environs. Vol. 1 (1876) available at MdHS.

The club’s most popular player, Lipman Emanuel “Lip” Pike (1845–1893),** was also the first Jewish major leaguer. Known as the “Iron Batter,” the left-handed batsman was a homerun king at a time when dingers were only an occasional treat. A noted speedster, Pike was no stranger to the inside-the-park homerun and had a reputation for racing any challenger for a cash prize. On August 16, 1873, he reportedly raced a horse named “Clarence” in a 100-yard sprint at Newington Park, and won by four yards with a time of 10 seconds flat, earning him a cash prize that would amount to about $5,000 today).*** While in Baltimore Lip Pike ran a cigar store on Holliday Street near Fayette. His financial prospects outlived his team’s.****

Finishing their first and second seasons in second and third place respectively, the future of the Lords club was looking bright. But the Panic of 1873 caught up with the team’s financiers. Funding dried up and the team they fielded in 1874 was a disgrace. They ended their final season 9-38, 31.5 games behind the first place Boston Red Stockings. (Joe Tropea)

Sources

* Prior to 1890, baseball was written “base ball.”

**Baseball Almanac, United Press International. October 9, 1986.

*** Joseph Siegman, Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Sports Hall Of Fame, 2005.

**** Lip Pike played and managed teams up and down the East Coast after the Canaries went kaput. When his baseball days were over he ran a haberdashery that became a well-known hangout for baseball enthusiasts. In 1893, he died of a heart attack at age 48 and was buried in his native Brooklyn, N.Y.

James H. Bready, Baseball in Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins Press, 1998.

Paul Batesel, Players and Teams of the National Association, 1871-1875, McFarland, 2012.

Glimpses Into Baseball History blog, “Early Baltimore Baseball, Part 16,” http://baseballhistoryblog.com/2055/early-baltimore-baseball-part-16/

“Facing the Masks”: Masked Mystery Solved

"The White Masks Inspecting a Prisoner at Detective Headquarters,"

“The White Masks Inspecting a Prisoner at Detective Headquarters,” Hughes Company Photograph Collection, unknown photographer (possibly James W. Scott), ca.1909, MdHS, PP8-585 / Z9.584.PP8.

Last week we reached out for help understanding a photograph, and wow, did we get it. Our photo from the Hughes Company collection traveled far and wide. The image, known then as “Detective room, Police Department,” was not only a headscratcher, but also a Rorschach Test of sorts. Different eyes saw different things happening. Speculations, observations, and facts, sent via e-mail and comments, ranged from thinking it was initiation ritual to a theatrical production still. The majority who weighed in felt that what’s depictied is a police line-up. Within less than two day’s time enough evidence mounted to reasonably argue that it is a police line-up.  Whether or not it was staged or the real thing is one of the few questions left unanswered.

We now know to call this photo “‘The White Masks’ Inspecting a Prisoner at Detectives Headquarters.” The first info to arrive came from Bill Zorzi, a former Baltimore Sun editor and writer/producer/actor of The Wire. In an early afternoon e-mail to this writer he wrote:

“At first I thought it looked as if it might be a courtroom—which they used to have in the old police station houses—given the paneling and the brass bar. Then I counted the masked men, which totaled 15—too big for a jury (even with alternates) and too small for a grand jury. Then I thought, hmmm, I bet this is the forerunner of the ol’ police lineup… before 2-way mirrors…”

Zorzi followed his e-mail with another containing ten articles from The Sun. But before his second transmission arrived, commenter Bill Lefurgy, archivist/digital preservationist at the Library of Congress, quoted a Sun entry titled “Sleuths Have Mask System: First Prisoner Subject to Ordeal Turns Pale,” from July 29, 1908:

“…the Baltimore Detective Department initiated a ‘mask system’ that ‘enables detectives to examine crooks without being recognized.’ The description is of masks ‘of the ordinary white dominoes with white muslin covering the lower part of the face,’ worn by 20 detectives; the detective captain is described as unmasked….”

The article details how a young pickpocket, Hymen Movitz (18 years old) faced 20 masked detectives, turned pale, and clutched at the brass rail in our photo. Now we know when the practice was first implemented in Baltimore. Our photograph was taken after July 1908.

Several articles in the historic Baltimore Sun (accessible for free via ProQuest if you have a Pratt Library account) detail the story behind our photo. The paper has since posted some images of these articles on their DarkRoom blog. Sherlock Swann, whose collected papers are available at the MdHS Special Collections Department, was appointed president of the Police Board in 1908. Well known and highly regarded for his tenure as the Burnt District Commissioner after the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904, Swann is apparently the first head of police to actually put serious effort into the job.

bertillon_bureau

“Operations and Photographing Department—Bertillon Bureau,” History of the Baltimore Police Department, 1774-1909 by Clinton McCabe, Pratt Library, Md. XHV8148.B21M2.

In March 1908, Swann traveled to New York City to school himself on the operations of a big city police department. One of the many practices he brought back with him was a ritual known as the “facing of the masks.” This practice was developed by Inspector Byrnes of New York in the mid-1880s. It was presumably a preventative measure. Masks were employed on the speculation that some career-minded criminals might have themselves arrested simply to learn the faces of detectives, thus adding to their skills and value.

In what seems a rather intimidating practice, police would parade detainees about to be released due to lack of evidence before detectives wearing the white masks seen above. It was all part of the daily morning routine. In New York the practice was done on a much larger scale involving up to 100 detectives. Officially, the line-up was held so that detectives could learn the features and mannerisms of individuals who would surely be passing through their doors again and again. However, one can’t help but speculate this was as much as a shaming/intimidating ritual as a useful law enforcement practice, especially considering that a photography department existed even at Baltimore’s small Bertillon Bureau. Each arrestee had already had his picture taken for the “Rogue’s Gallery.”

By 1911, the NYPD had abandoned the masked line-up for being time consuming and wasteful of the detectives’ time.* These factors didn’t stop the Baltimore police from using it for many years.

HIstory of the Baltimore Police Department, 1774-1909 by Clinton McCabe, Pratt Library, Md. XHV8148.B21M2 (below), an earlier edition held at MdHS above.

History of the Baltimore Police Department, 1774-1909 by Clinton McCabe, Pratt Library, Md. XHV8148.B21M2 (below), an earlier edition held at MdHS (above).

The most definitive piece of evidence we received was sent in by Jeff Korman of the Maryland Department at the Enoch Pratt Library. He identified the photo from a book in the Pratt’s collection, History of the Baltimore Police Department, 1774-1909 by Clinton McCabe. The photo, Korman said, appeared on page xvii. This came as quite a surprise to me, as the MdHS library has an earlier edition of the book without the photo. (HBPD 1774-1907)

The following day I went to the Pratt and met with Korman. He showed me the five different editions from their holdings, earlier ones like ours without the photo and later editions with the detectives faces obscured by a gilt stamp to protect their identities. We are now able to identify two of the three unmasked men. The moustached man on the far left is Detective Joseph E. Coughlan. Two spaces down and slightly turned to his left is Sergeant, Detective Harry P. Schanberger. They’re probably not wearing masks because they were the brass of the department and did not have to do undercover work.

Whoops, redaction!

Whoops, redaction! History of the Baltimore Police Department, 1774-1909 by Clinton McCabe, Pratt Library, Md. XHV8148.B21M2 (below), an earlier edition held at MdHS (above).

All the information above dates our picture between 1908-09. It’s the only photo of its kind in our Hughes Collection. We may never know the identity of the African-American man on the riser. We may never know if he was arrested or if this was a staged demonstration for a photographer. But we have heard from enough voices who agree that this image is at once disturbing, perplexing, and stunning. It speaks volumes about our recent past.

MdHS would like to thank everyone who shared the photo, sent comments, clues, and criticisms, and enjoyed helping. (Joe Tropea)

*A New York Times piece from Feb. 9, 1914, “Police Line-up Is Resumed Today” details the discontinuation of the practice before it was reinstated in a modified form—less detectives—some three years later.

Sources and further reading:

The Baltimore Sun

“Colonel Swann ‘At School,'” Mar. 14, 1908: 14; “Col. Swann Returns,” Mar. 16, 1908: 7; “Must ‘Face the Masks,'” May 6, 1908: 12; “Sleuths Have Mask System,” July 29, 1908: 12; “Police Use Spotlight,” July 31, 1908: 12; “His Record on Police Board,” Apr. 21, 1910: 14; “Line-up of Crooks Stopped,” Aug. 13, 1911: 2; “Alleged Thief Silent,” Dec. 7, 1913: 7.

McCabe, Clinton, History of the Baltimore Police Department, 1774-1909 available at MdHS and the Enoch Pratt libraries.

Masked Mystery

What do you think is going on in this photograph? Hughes Company Photograph Collection, unknown photographer (possibly Gaither Scott), MdHS, PP8-585 / Z9.584.PP8

What do you think is going on in this photograph? “Detective room, Police Department,” Hughes Company Photograph Collection, unknown photographer (possibly James W. Scott), ca.1910, MdHS, PP8-585 / Z9.584.PP8

Last month we solved a longstanding photograph mystery that we never expected to solve, that is until we rolled up our sleeves and actually tried. Modern digitization technology, more precisely the ability to zoom deep into a photo or negative to see details previously unavailable to the naked eye, coupled with searchable newspaper databases make solving these puzzles much easier today. But this time out, we have a longstanding photo mystery that we can’t solve on our own. Having exhausted every resource we could muster, from searching historic newspaper databases to asking historians and journalists (we even tried asking federal archival investigators who visited us during the Landau theft case), we still can’t say with any degree of certainty what’s going on in the disturbing photo above. Yet its imagery evokes such strong feelings, conjuring up images of Jim Crow, the Klan, and lynching, we can’t give up trying to understand it—so we turn to crowd sourcing.

Why are two of these men not wearing masks?

Why are some of these men not wearing masks? Is that a telephone between the shoulders of the two men in the middle? Would there have been a telephone in a court room?

Immediately several questions come to mind: What is happening to this man? Why are the men wearing masks? Are they police officers? Are they a jury? Stare a little longer and other questions arise: What year would this be? Why are two of the men seen above not wearing masks? Why does the African-American man seem so calm?

Why so calm, or is it diginified?

Not a drop of sweat. Despite what’s going on behind him, this man does not appear worried. How do you interpret his expression?

Here’s what we do know

This photo is labeled “Detective room, Police Department.” However, in the archival world, you quickly learn not to take random descriptions as gospel. It’s part of the Hughes Collection*, one of our largest collections of photographs. James F. Hughes, whose first appearance as a commercial photographer in the City Directory was in 1877, founded the company. He owned the company until his widow sold it to an employee, James W. Scott, in 1903. The Hughes Company primarily did work for Baltimore area businesses, corporations, governmental agencies, and occasionally private individuals.

MdHS’s records indicate that this photo was taken sometime around 1910. Several pieces of evidence corroborate this date. From the lighting fixtures to the suits and hats the men are wearing, this appears to be the early twentieth century, pre-WWI. Additionally, the original medium for the image is an 8 x 10 inch glass plate negative. Glass negatives preceded film negatives. They first appeared in the mid-nineteenth century, but went the way of the dinosaur in the early twentieth century as less fragile celluloid film was introduced. The one item that could answer the “when” question is just a bit too out of focus to help: a newspaper left on a table and opened to an advertisement page:

detail4_pp8.585

The date is not visible on this newspaper in the foreground, but we can see that Joel Gutman & Co., which operated from 1852 to 1929, offered mens shoes from $2.79 – $4. These seem to be pre-1920s prices.

Given the approximate date of the photograph, we can safely assume that James Scott, or someone who worked for him after he took over the Hughes Company, took the picture. We know that the company commonly did work for the City of Baltimore. What we don’t know is why a Hughes photographer was at this location on this particular day. There’s also the matter that this room looks far more like a courtroom than a police detective room. Was the photographer there to take promotional pictures for the police department or court system? The shot seems somewhat staged, as if the men were assembled quickly for the shot. Note that three of them are not wearing masks, two on the left and one on the right in a doorway. Anonymity was not crucial for all of the men in the picture. There are fifteen men wearing the very distinctive masks. Could this be a jury with three alternates? Are they witnesses? A staged demonstration might also explain the calm look of the man on the riser. It’s also worth noting that he’s a fairly handsome man and zooming in closeup reveals no sweat on his brow. Additionally he appears to be wearing a wedding ring. What does any of this mean?

One final clue to point out: If this is a detective room or a court room, how do we explain the object behind the head of the man to the right of the man on the riser? What little we can read of it says, WM. J. C. DULANY CO. PUBLISHERS. Is it a calendar or broadside? The photo vexes us at every turn.

Why would this poster hang in a police department or court room? Detail

Another clue? This is an interesting place to hang a calendar or broadside in a police department or court room. And aren’t these masks peculiar?

Educated guesses

One prominent local historian** suggested that this image represents an initiation ritual for the first black detective of the Baltimore City police force. This seemed a reasonable guess, except that the date range of the collection is 1910-1926. Considering that glass negatives were not used much after the nineteen-teens and that we had never heard of an African-American detective in segregated Baltimore this early, we were left wondering.

The theory was quickly taken down by a veteran journalist who visits the library frequently. “There were no black officers on the force until 1937. Violet Hill Whyte was the first one,” said our source. “African-Americans weren’t even put into uniform until 1943,” he added. The first African-American men hired by the Baltimore Police arrived in 1938. They were Walter T. Eubanks Jr., Harry S. Scott, Milton Gardner, and J. Hiram Butler Jr. These men were not allowed to wear police uniforms for another five years. Even if this were a photo from as late as 1926, which is highly unlikely, it predates the arrival of African-Americans on the force by twelve years.

Left with more questions than answers, we turn to you, our readers. What do you think?

Please share this, leave comments, or send us an e-mail. (Joe Tropea)

This story has been updated.
* There are two sections of the Hughes Collection. The first section, known as PP8, covers dates ca. 1910-1926. This section of the collection consists mainly of vintage glass plate negatives with some vintage prints and film negatives. The second section of the Hughes Collection, called the Hughes Studio Photograph Collection, is known as PP30, and covers dates ca. 1940-1956.
** The names of those who took guesses on the photo prior to this writing have been kept anonymous.

The Death of Sport

Among the many mysterious photographs in MdHS’s collections, two of an elephant stand out as particularly unsettling. Buried in the Subject Vertical File, an artificial collection that was compiled throughout the years, in the Photographs and Prints room is a folder labeled “Animals–Elephant–1898–Hanging.” In this folder rests two tattered and faded turn-of-the-century prints of an elephant being hanged. (They’re pretty disturbing, so we’ve saved the more disturbing of the two for the end of this post. Scroll to the bottom at your own discretion.) We’ve long wondered what the two photographs could possibly represent. Who would hang an elephant? Why hang an elephant as a public spectacle? And what would the Humane Society, which had been operating in the United States since 1866, have to say about this?

Mysterious photo no. 1. Scroll to the end of the story to see no. 2. Animals Elephant 1900 (Hanging), SVF.

Mysterious photo no. 1. Scroll to the end of the story to see no. 2. Animals Elephant 1900 (Hanging), SVF.

One persistent rumor floating around the library goes that the elephant was hanged to death as punishment for killing or harming a handler. Noted skeptic H.L. Mencken, then a rookie journalist writing for The Baltimore Herald, covered the event, which as it turns out actually took place on June 7, 1900.* Mencken unfortunately adds to our confusion in his memoir, Newspaper Days 1899-1906, where he wrote offhandedly about the episode in a passage on the tenacity of press agents:

“The [incident] I remember best was the hanging of a rogue elephant, for I was assigned to cover it. This elephant, we were informed, had become so ornery that he could be endured no longer, and it was necessary to put him to death. Ordinarily he would be shot, but Bostock [the elephant’s owner and well-known animal showman], as a patriotic and law-abiding Englishman, preferred hanging, and would serve as the executioner himself.” (Newspaper Days 1899-1906 [1941] 33-34.)

Frank C. Bostock

Frank C. Bostock, the “Animal King.” Image taken from eBay. This tag sold for nearly $400!

In part Mencken’s memories were accurate. Frank Bostock, the owner of Bostock’s Zoo or Wild Animal Show as it was alternately known, was an Englishman and he did in fact oversee Sport’s hanging. The rest of Mencken’s memories, undoubtedly jumbled over time, do not align with the facts.

Part of the confusion can be explained by the fact that, as disturbing as it sounds, there were actual punitive elephant executions in the early twentieth century. Topsy the elephant was electrocuted to death in 1903 for allegedly killing three men—one of them a severely abusive trainer who reportedly fed him a lit cigarette. Thomas Edison even filmed Topsy’s gruesome execution for posterity. The fact that electricity and moving pictures were relatively new and novel inventions can only partially explain why Edison would have filmed this horror. In 1916 Mary the elephant was hanged for allegedly killing her trainer. The heavily doctored photo evidence of this murder pales in comparison to the photos of poor Sport.

After searching through microfilm of Baltimore’s major newspapers at both the H. Furlong Baldwin and Enoch Pratt libraries, the mystery of the photos is now solved and it’s unlike anything I could have expected. The truth of Sport’s sad tale is as follows.

In 1900 when crowds still got excited about world fairs and expositions, Frank Bostock, internationally known as a top animal trainer in Paris, London, New York, and Chicago, was transporting his Wild Animal Show from New York to Baltimore. Bostock, known as “the Animal King,” had recently started a zoo at the old Cyclorama building at Maryland and West Mount Royal Avenues, now the site of University of Baltimore’s Gordon Plaza. (Baltimoreans today also know this as the plaza where the Edgar Allan Poe statue sits.) The Cyclorama building once housed a giant painting of the Battle of Gettysburg, but by the 1880s visitation slowed and the art was removed. Before Bostock took over, the building served as a roller rink, a bike riding school, and as a venue for evangelical revivals.

The only known photo of the Cyclorama which housed Bostock's Zoo until it burned to the ground in Jan. 1901. Unknown photographer.

The only known photo of the Cyclorama which housed among other things Bostock’s Zoo until it burned down in January 1901. Unknown photographer, Sunday Sun Magazine, April 18, 1965.

“Bostock’s Zoo would not have been anything like what we think of today as a public zoological garden,” says Dr. Nigel Rothfels, author of Savages and Beasts: The Birth of the Modern Zoo. Though many of his animals were trained, most were simply stored in cages as they would have been in circus menageries at the time. Bostock was also involved in the Elks’ Exposition located at North and Greenmount Avenues. The Elks planned to open their attraction in June. It was to include a veritable greatest hits of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition: Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, Barnum’s Circus, an exact reproduction of the Chicago World Fair Midway, and Bostock’s Wild Animal Show which replaced Hagenbeck’s Zoo in the Baltmore midway.

In mid-May 1900, on a train bound for Baltimore, somewhere in New Jersey, two of Bostock’s elephants, Jolly and Sport, began to roughhouse. By all accounts this wasn’t unusual for the two pachyderm friends, but on this day and on this train there were grave consequences. Sport backed into the door of his boxcar, which gave way to his considerable weight, and was ejected from the moving train. According to The Sun, “He emitted a terrible scream that drowned the locomotive whistle and the clatter of the train and startled the brakemen into instant activity.” His spine irreparably damaged and unable to get up on his own, Sport was lifted by a derrick back onto the train to continue his trip to Baltimore.

Once at his destination, veterinarian Dr. Robert Ward examined Sport and advised ending the animal’s life as the most humane option. The recommendation opened a debate on methods. A precision rifle shot to the brain was ruled out as too risky in the case of a miss. Poison was deemed too dangerous as some believed elephants could go violently out of control, harming or even killing those nearby. The final choice came down to hanging by rope or electrocution, the latter ruled out at the last minute for unspecified reasons. Most accounts portray Bostock and his staff as highly distraught over the loss of Sport and firmly in favor of hanging as the least horrific form of execution. He even took care to consult with the local Humane Society who agreed that hanging was the most merciful way to end Sport’s suffering.

The Hanging of Sport by Tom Barg

“The Hanging of Sport” by Tom Barg, The Baltimore News, June 8, 1900, page 12.

In a strange twist of fate, further misfortune beset Bostock’s enterprise when Jolly mysteriously dropped dead the day before the hanging. According to his handlers, Jolly, a seventeen-year-old Indian elephant had been very depressed since his friend Sport’s accident. On Tuesday evening Jolly was given half a gallon of rye whiskey, on Bostock’s orders, in an effort to lift his spirits and the following morning died within minutes of his daily exercise routine. Heart failure was the diagnosis.

When the day arrived to end Sport’s suffering, Baltimore newsmen flexed their typewriters. “Misfortune of elephantine proportions” began the account in The Baltimore American. The Baltimore News led the morning with the least accurate headline on the matter, “To Be Electrocuted.” The Herald‘s cub reporter Henry Mencken went on in true tabloid style, “Like a common murderer, James W. Sport, the Asiatic elephant of the Bostock Midway Carnival Company, was hanged… at the Bolton freight yards of the Northern Central Railway, where he had been incarcerated since his condemnation.”

Accounts differ on the extent to which Sport suffered. The Baltimore American reports that he went quietly, “…if [Sport] felt any pain after the first tightening of the fatal noose, it was not discernible.” But The Sun and Herald told of how he “trumpeted wildly” and “struck dismay to the hearts of those about him.” Most agree that he was gone within nine minutes, hanged from a freight yard derrick able to support his two tons of girth. An estimated two thousand spectators gathered for the hanging, some on rooftops. At first authorities attempted to hold the crowds back, but the Bolton Street yards proved too porous. Despite Mencken’s retelling in his memoir, there seems no proof that Bostock or any promoter touted the hanging beforehand. No tickets were or could have been sold given the freight yard venue and it seems unlikely that it was a stunt to promote Bostock’s business, already operating in the confines of the wildly popular Elk’s Exhibition.

Jolly and Sport were taken to the Elk’s grounds where their remains were sold to local furriers Messrs. Dumont & Co. of 318 Light Street. An autopsy revealed that Sport’s spine was broken, confirming that a mercy killing was in fact the kindest thing to do for him. Nothing revealed why Jolly met his end. Although young for an elephant, zoo-kept elephants during this time period often only lived just seventeen to nineteen years.**

Bostock's Zoo After the Fire

The only known photo of the remains of the Cyclorama building a.k.a. Bostock’s Zoo. Unknown photographer, Sunday Sun  Magazine, August 2, 1953.

Business resumed as usual for Bostock who still had two elephants left, Big Liz and Little Roger. But it didn’t go on in Baltimore for much longer. On a freezing cold night at the end of January of the following year, Bostock’s Zoo caught fire due to faulty electrical wiring located in the ceiling and burned to the ground. Some 300 animals including lions, polar bears, pumas, jaguars, monkeys, and others perished in the flames. Bostock refused to open the pens to free the animals at the expense of the public, but that did not stop rumors of wild animals running amok from flying around the city. It was a gruesome thing that the picture at right cannot even begin to capture. Despite the carnage, many old enough to remember have fond memories of Bostock’s as evidenced in the old “I Remember…” series the Sunday Sun Magazine used to run in the inner cover. Bostock left Baltimore for New York City and in 1904 the animal king opened Bostock’s Arena at Dreamland in Coney Island. It too burned down, along with the rest of Dreamland, in 1911—the day after he reportedly sold his interest in the business.

Bostock’s  short-lived Baltimore enterprise operated concurrently with the Baltimore Zoo, though the latter  got its start at Druid Hill Park in 1876 by an act of the Maryland state legislature. Newspaper men and advertisements of the day used the term zoo to refer to both, but we should not mistake them as similar entities. Bostock was a showman who trained and worked his animals for entertainment purposes. He regularly moved exotic stock around the country, not unlike a traveling circus. Although news accounts portrayed him as a man who cared deeply about his livestock, this should be weighed against the fact that some of his animals, like Jolly, were valued at $10,000. But neither should Bostock be remembered as a man who sold tickets to an elephant lynching.

Two bears and a camel. Residents of the Baltimore Zoo at Druid Hill Park. Reference imagess, photographer unknown, ca. 1927, MC7785-1 and MC7785.

Two bears and a camel. Residents of the Baltimore Zoo at Druid Hill Park. Reference imagess, photographer unknown, ca. 1927, MC7785-1 and MC7785.

Similarly we should not put the Baltimore Zoo on too high a pedestal.  By the 1890s, the public zoological garden boasted a modest collection including sheep, deer, camels, monkeys, an alligator, and some birds.*** The Baltimore Zoo, which did not become the Maryland Zoo in name until 2004, grew its collection at a much slower pace. It didn’t get its first resident elephant until 1924. Her name was Mary Ann and she is reportedly buried somewhere on the Druid Hill grounds. While the public zoo provided somewhat more stable environments for its animals than Bostock, zoological practices in the 1900s were still lacking by today’s standards.

The tale of Sport’s untimely demise was reduced to the words “elephant 1898 hanging” on a mislabeled photograph folder. Inaccurately remembered by a famous newspaper reporter, the elephant that apparently never hurt anyone could have been remembered as a rogue or killer of man as rumors and mistakes innocently become facts—such is history. Mencken, writing his memoir some forty years later, would certainly have more clearly remembered Sport’s hanging had he reviewed his own coverage in the pages of The Herald. Today thanks to microfilm and historic newspaper scanning, we are able to piece together what really happened to Sport. (Joe Tropea)

SVF Animals Elephant 1900 (Hanging)

Formerly mysterious photo no. 2. Sport the elephant was euthanized on June 7, 1900.  Animals Elephant 1900 (Hanging), SVF.

* Accounts in the following major newspapers confirm that these photos are from 1900, not 1898: Baltimore American, Baltimore Morning Herald, The Baltimore News, The Baltimore Sun, and The New York Times. Unequivocal proof is found in the Baltimore American of June 8, page 12, where a nearly identical photo to the one above can be seen. This article is based on accounts in the above mentioned publications from June 6-8, 1900.

** Mott, Maryann, “Wild Elephants Live Longer Than Their Zoo Counterparts,” National Geographic News, December 11, 2008. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/12/081211-zoo-elephants.html

*** Hoage, R.J. and William Diess editors, New Worlds, New Animals: From Menagerie to Zoological Park in the Nineteenth Century.

Special thanks to Dr. Nigel Rothfels and The Maryland Zoo for invaluable help and guidance with this article.

Sources and further reading:

Jensen, Brennen. “Beastly Night,” City Paper, July 2, 2003.

Hoare, Ruth Mohl. “I Remember … The Enchanting Old Bostock Zoo,” Sunday Sun Magazine, October 2, 1960.

Mencken, Henry Louis. Newspaper Days 1899-1906 (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1941.)

Rothfels, Nigel. Savages and Beasts: The Birth of the Modern Zoo (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP, 2002.)

Shaffer, F. Ward. “I Remember … When Fire Swept Bostock’s Zoo,” Sunday Sun Magazine, August 2, 1953.

“Rare & Vintage: Souvenir of Frank Bostock’s Coney Island

Vannorsdall Schroeder, Joan. “The Day They Hanged Mary the Elephant in East Tennessee,” May 1, 1997.