Narrating the correlation of elephants as related to their import, groupings, breeding and transfers,
along with other elephant related topics.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Studbook Mysteries - Seabury

From Wade Burck's "Circus No-Spin Zone:"

Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Vintage Brookfield Zoo Elephants
The photo above is from 1953, elephant unknown, at the Brookfield Childrens Zoo. It is incredible today to think that they used to keep and raise the young elephants in the Children's Zoo. Does anyone know if they actually kept the elephants at the Childrens Zoo, or did the bring them back and forth from the elephant house each morning and night. The sand/dirt walkway around the pen was most likely a path as the animals probably paced along the fence and it prevented the grass from tearing up, and becoming unsightly.
Posted by Wade G. Burck

Susan said...
Based on records I'm guessing this is Melinda, wild born in 1951 and came to Brookfield from Seabury in 1952. She died in October of '53.
Apparently from spring till fall we would keep young elephants at the Children's Zoo - they would return to the Pachyderm House during the winter months. Over the years we had several calves at the Children's Zoo - Winkie, Mame, Babe/Baby Brookfield, Cora/Noel (who lives at the CEC)... There are probably others but record keeping was practically nonexistent back then.
If you look on eBay there are usually postcards of elephants at the Children's Zoo. To the best of my knowledge we did this up until the '70s.

The elephant 'Melinda' mentioned by Susan was one of five calves acquired from an location known only as 'Seabury.' The North American Regional Studbook for the Asian Elephant gives no further information regarding this person or place. It would be very beneficial for both elephant record keepers and the Brookfield Zoo if this 'Seabury' could be identified with more information.

Regarding the five Seabury elephants, four of the calves are listed as originating from Thailand. Two died at the Brookfield Zoo (one after only two days), two were sold to circuses and the last animal was relocated to another unknown location. This place is listed only has 'Hoist Shopping Center' in the North American Regional Studbook for the Asian Elephant and is another location needing further information.

Numerous other elephants were acquired by the Brookfield Zoo of both species for both the Children's Zoo and the traditional exhibit, though they are all listed arriving from differing elephant dealers, zoos and private owners.

The fourth elephant acquired from Seabury, named Dolly, is perhaps one of three duplicate elephants listed in the studbook. This mystery will be addressed in a later article.

Melinda, Asian Female, SB 451
1951 - Birth, Thailand
Unk - Seabury
10 May 1952 - Brookfield Zoo, Chicago, Illinois
30 Oct 1953 - Death, Brookfield Zoo, Chicago, Illinois

Winkie, Asian Female, SB 452
1958 - Birth, Thailand
Unk - Seabury
13 May 1959 - Brookfield Zoo, Chicago, Illinois
10 Oct 1959 - Hoist Shopping Center
- Lost to Follow-up

Lucky, Asian Female, SB 226
1960 - Birth, Thailand
Unk - Seabury
10 May 1960 - Brookfield Zoo, Chicago, Illinois
25 Oct 1961 - Steele and Tata Ranch, Seagoville, Texas
05 Apr 1962 - San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio, Texas

Dolly, Asian Female, SB 456
1964 - Birth, Asia
Unk - Seabury
12 May 1964 - Brookfield Zoo, Chicago, Illinois
06 Nov 1965 - Great American Circus
- Lost to Follow-up

Unknown, Asian Female, SB 457
1964 - Birth, Thailand
Unk - Seabury
28 Sep 1965 - Brookfield Zoo, Chicago, Illinois
30 Sep 1965 - Death, Brookfield Zoo, Chicago, Illinois


  1. I'll check more records. I have some photos of some of these guys too, at least of the mysterious Winkie. - Susan

  2. Jambo,

    I checked in the Brookfield Zoo history book "Let the lions roar" about Seabury. Charles Ward Seabury was a successful (wealthy) insurance man who donated $35,000 to build the Children's Zoo at Brookfield. My guess is he would donate the funds to buy the baby elephants. Maybe some bookkeeping thing said they came from him. I don't think he had a private zoo.


  3. "The Seabury Foundation was established in Chicago, Illinois, in 1947 by Charles Ward and Louise Lovett Seabury. Early interests of the Foundation included the major cultural and civic institutions in Chicago, educational opportunities for those who could not afford them, conservation of animals and their habitats, ground-breaking medical techniques, health care for the poor, and recreational and character-building opportunities for city children."


  4. Huh. I'll be damned. I have that book, guess I shoulda actually looked at it... I wonder if we can squeeze some cash out of them for a new Pachyderm building...

  5. Susan,
    "New Pachyderm building" You are kidding me right? Replace the current monstrosity with the small viewing pens down each side? LOL They even tried to hid it under a pile of rubble upon completion. I read someplace where the architect suggested the high arched ceiling was to give folks the "impression of an elephant rib cage" which was as lame of an alibi as Hugh Casson's patch for the London Zoo elephant house of "giving the impression of a herd of elephants standing in an open forest clearing, and the texture of the walls of the building, giving the illusion of elephants skin." You gotta watch those architects. LOL

    The gorgeous Art Deco entrance to the Pachyderm house indicates that they had good intentions, that somehow went south as construction progressed. What are Brookfields plans for the Pachyderm building? I sure hope not destruction, as that would be a shame, although I would like to have the entrance if they are getting rid of it. LOL The loss of Ibex Island to the Polar Bear Wonderland was a shame, consolation being there are still many examples of that type of rockwork/exhibit still at the zoo.
    There are good qualified elephant folks at Brookfield, and facilities are not the staff's fault, although they usually end up taking the heat for them. The Veterinarians and other staff members made themselves available to me for phone consultation a few years ago, when I was involved in a situation with a downed elephant due to capture myopathy. Although Brookfields/Ringlings former Veterinarian Dan Laughlin was a real piece of work.

  6. I have some pictures from the late 1980s to early 1990s of the Brookfield Zoo elephant facility (indoors and outdoors) taken by my father during his visit there. I will post them soon. Let us hope Susan can help identify some of the elephants.

    Perhaps the Brookfield Zoo will renovate their Pachyderm Building in a similar method to the National Zoo. They constructed a new, much larger off-exhibit elephant barn, while renovating the former Pachyderm Building. Modified to become the "Elephant Community Center," visitors can observe the animals year round indoors. Does anyone know where the other animals will be moved to, such as the hippos, pygmy hippos, rhinos and tapirs?

    Having seen both barns, I can not say that either was better or worse than the other. Classic pieces of architecture and history that deserve appreciation, but not desirable places for animals to live.

  7. My interest is in Dolly (SB456), listed as 'lost-to-followup' in the studbook, and the subject of your proposed 'later article'. Denver Zoo's Dolly (SB150) was recently determined to probably be the same elephant as SB630 based upon an examination of distinguishing trunk deformities by a curator at the Denver Zoo (SEE: article in the Muscatine (IA) Journal @ This conclusion filled in the transfers of this animal from 1966 to present. Still missing is the location of this Dolly from birth in ~1963 to arrival at the Weed Park Zoo in Muscatine, IA in 1966 after purchase from an "animal dealer in Burlington, WI". The 'Seabury' Dolly shows birth in ~1963 to transfer in 11/1965. Could this also be the same 'Dolly'? Would appreciate your thoughts and the benefit of your current research.

  8. Bob,
    Thank you for joining us and I appreciate your inquiry. I believe these three Dolly elephants are the same. I am working out the specifics of research right now and contacting those involved with her at different locations in her life. Until then, have a great Easter and keep commenting!

  9. Hi,
    I was researching an elephant named Melinda born in 1953 in the USA. My mother heard on the radio of this elephant in 1953. At the time my Mother was pregnant with me and heard this broadcast of a baby elephant named Melinda, liked the name and hence named me...Melinda. Do you have any info on this? The only Melinda I have seen in research in the one born 1951 and died in 1953. Having recently spoken with my Mom on this again, she says that this elephant was born in 1953, not died. Any info would be appreciated.
    Melinda Belvin


I eagerly anticipate associating with new individuals with an interest or history in elephants, elephant history and elephant record keeping. If you have further information regarding the animals or locations questioned in the article, please leave a comment or message me in an effort to complete their records for elephant historians.