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Fort Worth Flashback: From meager beginnings, zoo grew into nationally ranked attraction

Posted Sept. 16, 2012

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The oldest zoo in Texas, the Fort Worth Zoo was founded in 1909 with one lion, two bear cubs, an alligator, a coyote, a peacock and a few rabbits. From these humble beginnings, the zoo has grown into a nationally ranked facility housing more than 5,000 native and exotic animals.

From 1909 to October 1991, the Fort Worth Zoo was owned and operated by the City of Fort Worth. During the city’s tenure, a longstanding tradition began of collecting money from the community to purchase animals for the zoo. In 1939, the Zoological Society (now the Fort Worth Zoological Association) formed as a nonprofit organization to help raise additional funds to purchase even more animals.

In October 1991, the Zoological Association assumed management of the zoo’s day-to-day operations under a contract with the city.

In 1992, the zoo hosted a grand reopening, unveiling two new exhibits and numerous improvements throughout. Within the first year, zoo attendance soared to approximately 1 million visitors in a fiscal year — almost double the previous year — and has maintained ever since.

This photo shows Patricia Ann Scott with Fort Worth Zoo giraffes Goldie and Topper in 1954.

The Fort Worth Library has approximately 10,000 items pertaining to the history of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. These items include city and county government documents, newspapers, directories, cemetery association records, maps as well as popular and scholarly books written by local authors or about local subjects. To learn more, call 817-392-7740 or email the Genealogy, History and Archives Section.

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