State of the art zoo for 1909

Michael Bushnell
Publisher


This circa 1914 hand colored postcard published by the Southwest News company of Kansas City, Missouri shows the new zoo building at Swope Park, and another Southwest News postcard shows the interior of the zoo building.


The new Zoo and Animal House was built of native fieldstone and dedicated December 13, 1909. This postcard pictures visitors outside of the building. The outdoor cages can be seen on the far side of the building. Large sliding doors allowed the zookeepers to limit the outdoor hours and keep the lions and tigers in adjoining indoor cages where they could also be viewed by the public. In the middle of the building smaller cages existed where birds and small reptiles were kept. The placards on the interior of the cage read Barnacle Geese and Egyptian Geese. Two birds, that look to be Egyptian Geese can be seen inside their pen on the interior postcard view.


Swope Park was a donation to the city of Kansas City made by Col. Thomas Swope, a prominent area real estate developer who arrived in Kansas City in the late 1850s amid promises of fortunes being made on the edge of the western frontier.


The 1,350-acre park was dedicated on June 25, 1896, with much fanfare. Mayor James Jones declared the day as Swope Park Jubilee Day, and a grand celebration was held near the park’s entrance on what is now Swope Parkway and Meyer Boulevard. Col. Swope, however was not in attendance, choosing to visit the park earlier that morning in his carriage.

Unrecognizable by many due to his reclusive lifestyle, Swope was well pleased with the outcome despite critics of the park decrying its location being roughly three miles outside the present city limits.


Swope’s death in October 1909 made him a household name for the next three years, given the mysterious circumstances under which he died. Swope complained of not feeling well during the evening of his death. His personal physician, Dr. Bennett Clark Hyde, gave him a “digestive pill.” Later that night, Swope went into convulsions and died.


Over the next few months, a number of the members of the Swope household took sick and mysteriously died after being “treated” by Dr. Hyde. Hyde went to trial three times and was convicted once of murdering Col. Swope. He appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, and two more trials followed. One was declared a mistrial, and the other resulted in a hung jury.


After seven years and a fortune being spent in legal fees, the Swope family decided to forego any further litigation. Col. Swope’s death would forever remain a mystery.

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