Bal­ti­more’s love af­fair with Mary Ann the ele­phant

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Christina Tkacik THEN AND NOW ctkacik@balt­sun.com

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.

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