Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Zoo War

I research history for a living, and I research history for fun. In the latter category comes The Zoo War, which was published 1 September 2008, and involved 6 months of research into news clippings, photos, land records, from the North Shore of Auckland down to Christchurch. I'm glad I did it, and so far it's had a good response.

Primarily, it is about a Wellington builder who retired and decided to become a zoo supremo on a national level, named John James Boyd (more often known as J. J. Boyd). He started at Aramoho north of Wanganui in 1908. extended to Royal Oak in Auckland in 1911, and eventually came to grief by 1922. Some of his animals went to the new Auckland Zoo at Western Springs.

However ...

The Zoo War is more than just Boyd's story. It covers the following topics (which don't appear to have been listed in library catalogue entries for the book:)
W. H. Foley (and wife) -- their travelling circuses and menageries 1855-1860s
Barlow's Circus (1875)
Cooper and Bailey's Circus (1878)
Wirth's Circus (various tours)
Auckland Acclimatisation Society gardens in the Domain (1867-1882)
Robert Graham's Ellerslie Gardens (1874-early 1880s)
Devonport "Bear Garden" (1881-1898)
Wellington Botanic Gardens menagerie (1881-1882)
Wanganui Museum menagerie (1896-c.1905)
Newtown Zoo, Wellington (from 1906)

A great research tool for all this was Papers Past at the National Library site. Without that site, I doubt I would have been able to get even half of the information which I was able to use, or find out as much as I did. Staff at libraries, museums and archives in Auckland, Wanganui, Christchurch and Cambridge were fantastic.

I should take a break after doing this -- but I doubt it. Once a history addict, almost always a history addict.


  1. Awesome!!! You have started a blog!!!

  2. what was the address of the zoo?

    1. Symonds Street, Royal Oak. Present day Boyd Ave. Not the school, though. Read the book for detail.

  3. Where can this book be purchased?

    1. It can't, it is out of print. At some point, I'll endeavour to get a second version out, updated with info found since 2008.

      In the meantime, links to the updated text are available on the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society website, under Publications.