Ostrich in the Park: This Month’s Contest
Here’s your chance to win a free subscription to minneapolisparkhistory.com. Do what the Minneapolis park board said it couldn’t afford to do — put an ostrich in a Minneapolis park. Of course the park board refused an offer to put real ostriches in parks, but all you have to do to be this month’s lucky winner is photoshop an ostrich into your favorite park picture and send it to us at minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com.
An ostrich admiring Minnehaha Falls, canoeing in Lake of the Isles, stealing a golf ball at Gross, or skating at Logan Park. Imagine the possibilities.
The inspiration for this contest was an item in the February 24 issue of the Minneapolis Morning Tribune in 1913. The headline proclaimed:
No Ostriches This Year
Park Board Can’t Buy Birds
Yet Because of Slimness in
Public Pocket Book
“There are to be no ostriches imported this year to add to the attractions of the parks,” the Tribune reported. “Much though Superintendent Wirth would like to see the large birds roaming through the parks, he readily acquiesced when the park board, for reasons of economy, refused the offer of a California ostrich farmer to stock the parks with ostriches at relatively small cost. Mr. Wirth and some of the park commissioners hope, however, that by next year the board’s finances will allow the purchase of at least a limited number of ostriches.”
And John Erwin and Jayne Miller think they’re being squeezed by lack of funds!
If the park board had found the funds to buy ostriches in 1913, the birds would have joined deer, elk and buffalo that roamed the hillside at Minnehaha Park in the park board’s menagerie. The much larger animal collection kept at the Minnehaha Park from the mid-1890s — including bear, mountain lion, sea lions, alligators and exotic birds — were given to Fish Jones for his private zoo at Longfellow Garden in 1907. The park board kept the deer and elk at Minnehaha until 1923.
Wirth’s other notable contribution to the Minneapolis bestiary was the gray squirrel. Wirth imported the gray squirrels from Kansas in 1909 to replace the red squirrels he paid boys to shoot in Loring Park because they were eating songbird eggs. Wirth believed the less aggressive grays would make better neighbors. He noted in 1917 that the gray squirrels had extended their range throughout the city.
I doubt the ostriches would have been quite as adaptable. And I bet they would have made a bigger mess than the geese that many park visitors and neighbors despise.
Do you know what Fish Jones paid for the animals he got from the park board’s Minnehaha Park zoo in 1907? He had to provide free admission to his zoo one day a week — usually Saturday.
David C. Smith minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com