The Zoological Society of Philadelphia incorporated March 21, 1859, but the property known as the Philadelphia Zoo did not open until July 1, 1874.
What was the primary reason for the delay?
Answer: The Civil War
The primary reason for the delay in opening the Philadelphia Zoo was the Civil War. Based on the date of incorporation, the Philadelphia Zoo is recognized as America’s first zoo. Dr. William Camac was the driving force behind the zoo, both with the initial incorporation and the resumption of interest in the 1870s.
In addition, to the Civil War, the zoo needed land and animals. Land on the east side of the Schuylkill River was designated for the zoo at first. In 1872, a larger area on the west side (the current location) surrounding John Penn’s residence Solitude was established for the zoo. The proximity of this location to the grounds for the Centennial Exposition in 1876 brought many visitors to the zoo. Attendance in 1876 was more than 677,000, a record that stood until 1951. Current attendance at the zoo exceeds one million visitors each year.