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

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Erie Zoo - Tom Boy

Wayne Jackson recently submitted a photo to ShowMe Elephants looking to identify the animal and facility. With the help of former Erie Zoo elephant keeper Kris Hopkins, the photo was identified as Shani of the Erie Zoo. A multiple part series featuring the elephant history of the Erie Zoo will begin, with many animals needing further information to complete their stories.

>> "Erie Zoo" at ShowMe Elephants

According to Erie Zoo spokesman Scott Mitchell, former Erie radio personality Barry Grossman once made the profound observation, "Erie people often identify their generation by the elephant at the zoo at the time they were growing up."

Tom Boy ( 1920s - 1934? )
The Erie Zoo's first elephant is often identified as Tom Boy, named for Erie Post-Dispatch journalist Tom Sterrett who promoted a fundraiser for the animal. The arrival of Tom Boy took place in the 1920s, but the exact year is contradicted by several sources.

An Easton Free Press news article from 1923 discusses the formation of the new zoo and documenting the potential arrival of a new elephant for Christmas. A gift from the Children of Erie, the animal would be the first occupant of the new zoo located at Glenwood Park. The following year, a Reading Eagle news article confirms an elephant was "presented to the city... about a year ago." It was later joined by a bear, coyote, buffalo and various birds, culminating with two deer by October 1924.

Ganon University Graduate Assistant Michael Wolfe documents the most thorough history of Erie's Glenwood Park Zoo in his monograph "The Glenwood Association: A Historical Look." He confirms the Erie Public Parks Association founded the zoo in 1924 but that Tom Sterrett's nickel-and-dime fundraising campaign did not succeed in acquiring Glenwood Park's first elephant until 1927. It was housed with a goat and several deer in a "sagging old barn." Further, one 1927 issue of the Erie Dispatch featured the elephant's arrival on the front page, dubbed Tomboy by her ( it mentions she was a female from East India ) benefactor. Two years later, following the crash of Wall Street, citizens bypassed improved streets and a new sewage treatment plant for passing a bond issue aimed at building a "first class zoo." It passed four to one, ground was broken in 1930 and Tomboy moved to her new home in 1931.

Courtesy of

An Erie Times-News 2004 article, responsible for the quote above, gives a semi-chonological listing of the zoo's elephants with several omissions and noticeable discrepancies in both information ( species of animals ) and years. With this in mind, it documents Tom-boy as "the only Indian elephant to occupy the honored spot." It lists his arrival in 1924, death in 1934 and the arrival of Eva in 1936. It is commonly accepted by circus historians that Eva, from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, arrived in June 1933.

For Further Information:
>> "Children of Erie Plan to Give City Elephant," Easton Free Press, 12/07/1923
>> "Reading Deer to go to Erie," Reading Eagle, 10/17/1924
>> "Erie People Never Forget Their Elephant," Erie Times-News, 06/26/2004
>> "The Glenwood Association: A Historical Look - Part I" by Michael Wolfe ,
>> "The Glenwood Association: A Historical Look - Part II" by Michael Wolfe ,
>> "The Glenwood Association: A Historical Look - Part III" by Michael Wolfe ,

No comments:

Post a Comment

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.