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

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Postcard Press - St. Louis Zoo

The following postcards were sold in pamphlet form by the St. Louis Zoo. They are provided courtesy of Susan Hoss of the Brookfield Zoo. The date of origin is unknown but the elephant trainer is identified as Floyd Smith. Perhaps Jim Alexander can provide more information regarding the elephants pictured and the time frame in which these were taken.

Postcard 1, St Louis Zoo
Postcard Courtesy of S Hoss

Postcard 2, St Louis Zoo
Postcard Courtesy of S Hoss

Postcard 3, St Louis Zoo
Postcard Courtesy of S Hoss

Postcard 4, St Louis Zoo
Postcard Courtesy of S Hoss

Update 05/18/2011
Wade Burck has shared another photo of the front leg stand as discussed by Jim Alexander in comments below. The elephant (perhaps Clara, as estimated by Jim) wears a different headpiece without a costume.

Postcard 5, St Louis Zoo
Courtesy of W Burck


  1. The elephant postcards would have been in 1955 or more likely 1956 when the elephants appeared at the now Sea Lion Arena. They would be kept at the Camel Barn, where the original show elephants stayed, and walked to the Arena daily. As to which elephants did which behaviors, got me. I'd bet it's Clara doing a front leg stand, she also did a quick one-foot stand.

  2. With a little thought and research (often a good idea) these post cards are from 1956. The cat act was George Fraser's who followed Jules Jacot for one season. The Elephant House was finished in 1957 and that's where the show was presented. The background would have been a Mike Kostial painting. A look at the front leg stand photo describes the act. Cute costume but not much substance - Mac MacDonald it's not. Floyd's first act was quite good by all reports. By the time these babies were forced on him he was older and not ready for a big job. A psychologist could write an interesting book about him and his career. Not to say he was a bad guy, in fact in some aspects he was ahead of the time at the Zoo. He sure had his ups and downs.

  3. Thank you very much for your help, Jim. I always appreciate your knowledge and insight. I found the following citation on St. Louis Zoo elephant records:
    OpLink - History review (original record card / ks)
    0/8 purchased from Louis Goebel Wild Animal Farm ($3,500 ea. price plus insurance, $28,000 total) with funds donated by Anheuser-Busch Charitable Trust. 0/4 arrived at Goebel in May 1954 and another 0/4 in October 1954, where they remained for training by Zoo elephant trainer, Floyd Smith, until being trucked to the Zoo by Anheuser-Busch.

    To celebrate their arrival, a contest was held for naming them for a $500.00 prize. The winning entry was "Story Book Animals," submitted by Lynn Huffsto, 9 year old daughter of Mr. and MR.s Robert S. Huffstot, 9349 White Avenue, Brentwood, MO. The names given were Alice (Zoo name, Alice), Wendy (Zoo name, Pumie), Gretel (Zoo name, Trudy or Trudie), Dorothy (Zoo name, Clara), Snow White (Zoo name, Marie), Tinkerbell, (Zoo name, Helen), Cinderella (Zoo name, Eleanor, also "bad eye," and Sleeping Beauty (Zoo name, Susie).

    Five of the 8 (Alice, Pumie, Trudy/Trudie, Clara and Marie) appeared in the Zoo's first Elephant Show, 1959.
    It seems these would be the eight elephants pictured in the last postcard with your date of 1956. I wonder why the zoo states only five appeared in the show and why the first show said to be in 1959? Both of these statements are untrue, confirmed by zoo history, your recollections and photographic evidence.

  4. When the elephants went to the Elephant House two Africans, Herman and Clarabelle, also had a part in the show starting in 1958. Eight would have been a crowd on stage and in the building. Eleanor was sold to the Muscatine,IA Zoo in Oct. 1959. (She might have been the one who was blind in one eye.) Helen and Susie were sold to the Cristiani Bros. Circus in August of 1960. Don't know if they were even in the 1960 show. Changes in the season caused quite a problem for the staff. The names that stuck were names of the women of the Busch family.

  5. Radar,
    Often times a date on a post card is the year it was published, and not the date it was taken or referencing.

    Brilliant, brilliant use of the word "quick" to describe this one-foot stand. The animal jumped into the behavior "quick", ie crossed t's and dotted i's ala Mack MacDonald? Or the behavior was over "quick" ie half-assed ala some numb nuts? Casey want's to know if he can quote you when he describes some of the behavior's he has taught his tiger's to do.
    Are you sure that was the year Mike Kostial did the background graphic's? I've heard, given St. Louis' close proximity to Chicago that they often brought in Larry Harmon to paint backdrops. This looks like one of his? LOL Also, what psychologist would want to put his degree on the line, by thinking he could understand/analyze an elephant trainer, let alone publish it?


  6. Wade,

    My "quick" description goes with your second thought. Mack MacDonald would have Opal hold the one-foot while he counted to seventeen, according to Buckles. Floyd counted to one. Clara would put one foot on a low stool and lean into to it - no comparsion. As to the background artist, I'd put money on Kostial. Geo. Vierheller liked Mike and painting backgrounds was one way to give Kostial more money.

  7. Jim,
    When was the 'Elephant House' as you mention opened (1950s)? Was this the barn I grew up in that included the rhinos, hippos and tapirs as well, with the arena attached at the back with the large dry moat?

    What was the association with the Busch family and the Zoo? I believe Grant's Farm acquired their first elephant in the late-1950s.

    I have updated the original post with another photo of the front leg stand, provided by Wade.

  8. The Elephant House you knew was opened in 1957. Prior to that elephants were kept in two locations. The original Elephant House opened 1917, attached to the Bird House housed Miss Jim, a hippo, and Harry the Indian rhino at one time. The show elephants where kept in the middle stalls of the Camel Barn. Visitors could view the show elephants from some small windows on Wells Drive.

    The Gussie Busch, August Jr., was a good friend of George Vierheller. I've seen photos of Gussie and Vierheller playing baseball with the Cardinals at Spring Training. Vierheller was helpful to Busch with Grant's Farm and the development of Busch Gardens. The Busch family has long been helpful to the Zoo but George and Gussie kicked it up a notch.

    Still not the one-foot photo. Don't know if Clara originally did it on a tub. It was half-assed to be generous. I'm sure I gave Floyd some discomfort because I was quite familar with the Polack act that they tried to copy. Most STL people probably thought the one-foot stand lasted two seconds at best. When I announced the show I'd build it up like Ross Paul did on Polack. "Now a feat so amazing it is surpassed only by the skill and ability of her trainer. Clara, weighing 6,000 lbs., will balance her entire weight on just one..front..foot. Watch her!" Then she'd walk up, put her foot on a little stool, and lean into a brief one foot. Donn Gibson took the trick out shortly after he took over.

    Wade's photo does show the backwall of the Sea Lion Arena. Note one door is larger than the other. If you get there before the Arena is demolished you can see where they filled in the area a replaced the original, smaller door. This will be the last year for the building as an arena - if it doesn't fall over first.


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.