Baltimore’s love affair with Mary Ann the elephant
The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is celebrating its 140th anniversary with a “Zoobilee” event Friday. To mark the event, here’s the story of perhaps the most famous animal ever to grace Druid Hill Park.
“[T]here will never be another Mary Ann,” Raymond S. Tompkins wrote in The Baltimore Sun in 1942.
One of the city’s most beloved inhabitants had just died. Twenty years earlier, her arrival had inspired local children and even tilted the mayor’s race.
One evening in 1921, a group of children went to the offices of The Baltimore Sun. The zoo, they said, needed more animals.
The city editor put Tompkins on the story with a new title: jungle editor. He began writing columns, directing young readers to donate a penny a week to buy animals for the zoo. Tompkins and The Sun helped persuade United Railways to bring Mary Ann to Baltimore.
The park’s board opposed the idea of an elephant at Druid Hill Park, deeming it too dangerous.
Tompkins published telegrams from other zoos attesting to the peaceful nature of pachyderms and arranged for a herd of elephants to parade down a city street.
In 1923, Howard W. Jackson, then running for mayor, made bringing Mary Ann to the zoo his first campaign goal — and won the race.
Mary Ann did eventually get a permanent home in Druid Hill Park, and nearly 20 years later, Tompkins wrote her obituary for The Sun.