Monday, October 5, 2009

Vintage Cincinnati Zoo--Suzie the Graf Zeppelin Gorilla

Susie was, in her day, the first and only trained Gorilla in the world. Captured when only six months old off the west coast of South Africa in the Belgian Congo. Taken to the Riviera in France, where she remained until the Graf Zeppelin made its first trip to America, on which she was a passenger. Suzie occupied Cabin One, landing at Lakehurst, N. J., August 4, 1929. She was then taken on a tour of the United States and Canada. She was purchased by the Cincinnati Zoo in 1931. The Enquirer called her "the best educated and most highly trained gorilla that has ever lived". Paramount News spent 2 days filming "A Day in Susie's Life" for showing in movie houses throughout the world. Suzie's birthday was celebrated every August 7th with every child attending her party getting ice cream and cake.
Susie was given six weeks to live by animal experts when she first came to this country. She died 21 years later in 1947 of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease. Upon her death her body was donated to The University of Cincinnati. It was cleaned, mounted and displayed in UC's department of biology where it served as a souvenir and a "first class specimen" for teaching introductory biology. When the Brodie Science Complex opened, skeletons of primates were displayed in glass cases in the hallways. They were frequently rotated and when not on display they were stored. One Sunday while being stored, a fire started in the laboratory's storeroom and completely destroyed Susie. Dr. William Dreyer, professor of zoology said the other things destroyed were replaceable, but that Susie was not.

My God. The things that used to be done to these incredible, magnificent gorilla's.


Richard Reynolds said...

Between the time she landed on the dirigible and when she went to the Cincinnati zoo, Susie was shown with a variety of traveling shows including the Johnny J. Jones Carnival, 101 Ranch Wild West, and RBBB.

Her flight here on the Graf Zeppelin marked the first ever trans-Atlantic air shipment of exotic animals to USA

Anonymous said...

I can remember as a child in the 40's visiting the Cincinnati Zoo with my grandparents and watching Suzie eating Jello cubes with her fingers. Whenever we went to Cincinnati I had to see Suzie!