Friday, April 29, 2011

The Fate of Shackleton's Ross Sea Party Dogs

History portrays the early days of Antarctic exploration as being something heroic. It took brave men indeed to face the great expanse of the great white southern continent those of the early days of the 20th Century knew little or nothing about. Expeditions of such magnitude were to be held in awe and with that there came a high cost both financially and in the loss of life. A high price to pay to set foot on that great vastness at the bottom of the globe. Yet men did and still do today.

On the 9th of February 1917, the Aurora berthed at Wellington Harbour to a warm welcome by the people of New Zealand. The Aurora had been on a rescue mission with Ernest Shackleton on board to retrieve the men of the Ross Sea Party. Many are aware of the Shackleton Expedition to the Weddell Sea and the harrowing experience Shackleton and his men went through with the loss of the endurance. Eventually Shackleton and the survivors ended up on Elephant Island.

On the other side of the story the men Shackleton had tasked to lay supply depots at the Ross Sea for the planned trans-Antarctic crossing were having trials and tribulations of their own.

The ten men of the Ross Sea Party had with them 18 dogs. Ten of the dogs were dead within two months of the expedition's landing at the Ross Sea. By the time rescue came at Cape Royds only seven men and five dogs (possibly 6?) had survived. In his diary Ernest Joyce had noted the heroism of the four dogs that had survived the march across the inhospitable Antarctic terrain.

"Without the aid of four faithful friends, Oscar, Con, Gunner, and Towser, the party could never have arrived back. These dogs from November 5 accompanied the sledging parties, and, although the pace was often very slow, they adapted themselves well to it. Their endurance was fine. For three whole days at one time they had not a scrap of food, and this after a period on short rations. Though they were feeble towards the end of the trip, their condition usually was good, and those who returned with them will ever remember the remarkable service they rendered." - Ernest E. Joyce

The dog Con (Conrad) did not return alive. Towser, Gunner and Oscar had in fact killed him during a fight during August of 1916. Shackleton had noted in his book South! that the dogs were poorly trained, and in poor condition at the beginning of the expedition. The dogs treatment had not been any better. They had suffered ill treatment and starvation. That any returned at all was a small miracle.

When the Aurora returned, Shackleton opened the ship to the admiring Wellington public. The Evening Post of 17 February 1917 reported

Today the people of Wellington were able to make the personal aquaintance of "Gunner," "Funny Face," "Teddy," and the rest of the dogs that have become famous owing to their association with the Ross Sea Party of the Shackleton Expedition. The occasion was the throwing open of the vessel for inspection by the public, and the visitors were numerous. On board all the dogs were displayed, including the mother dog with a family of eight puppies, who did not seem to like having her domestic affairs so unceremoniously intruded upon, and looked suspiciously at all who went near her. Chalked above her was the sign "Dangerous."

On the 27th of February 1917 an advertisement appeared in the Evening Post advising that six of the puppies were to put up for auction on behalf of the Shackleton Expedition



This sale presents to one and all an opportunity for securing a souvenir of the remarkable South Polar Expedition just returned, as the various lines will be sold in lots to suit buyers... George Thomas & Co (Auctioneers)

What happened to the missing two puppies is unknown.

One would have thought the older dogs might have ended up living quiet lives somewhere. Sadly it wasn't to be. Fascination with exploration and anything associated with it created a want by the adoring public to see the surviving dogs.Thus they, like Captain Robert Falcon Scott's famous dog Osman, became attractions at the Wellington Zoo.

The Evening Post reported on 19 May 1917 of the dogs in the care of the Wellington Zoo, with perhaps, a hint of adventurous curiosity.

From the blizzard-swept trails of the Antarctic wastes to an uneventful existence in the Wellington Zoo is the lot of the dogs that helped to make history with Shackleton’s expedition.

Towser, Gunner, Oscar and the animal whose physiognomy has earned him the appellation of Funny Face, the last named still healthy if not good-looking, are all there.The lady-dog, who in the wilds of the Ross Sea added to the family party eight little bundles of fur, of which any canine father might feel proud, is also at the Zoo.

She is now childless, her pups having reached the age when they leave their mother’s apron strings. Apparently, however, she is taking her return to single blessedness very philosophically, and does not wear a “Where are my children?” look.

A Post reporter who made the acquaintance of the dogs when the Aurora was coming up the harbour on her return from the Far South renewed his friendship with them yesterday afternoon, and received a cordial welcome.

The visit was made with a view to seeing the environment of the dogs, certain criticisms of their treatment having been published in the newspapers. The animals have a strong strain of wolf in their composition, and, in view of the fact that they still at intervals feel the call of the wild, are kept on the chain in the day time.

An enclosure with a strand of wire round it has been set aside for them, and in this compound they are at home every fine day to visitors. In the wet they are kept under cover, Gunner and Towser each having a spare cage alongside a bear.

The other dogs are quartered elsewhere, Funny Face being in a separate enclosure and quartered at night in a large barrel. The dogs are all in the pink of condition, and when spoken to wag their tails with canine happiness. They appear to be contended with their lot.

It has been suggested that the dogs should be placed in the large wire-netting cages where pretty birds display their gorgeous plumage, but it is pointed out that the netting would not be strong enough for the purpose.

As compared with the privations of their terrible sledge-journeys – on one dash in a blizzard with three sick men on sledges they were five days without food – they are living almost luxuriously. A plan to give them proper exercise by means of sledges is at present under contemplation.
Some of the histories that mention the Ross Sea Party dogs have stated that only three dogs returned on the Aurora. However, my investigations have revealed at least 5 adult dogs with a possible sixth dog being named as well as 8 puppies that were born on the Aurora on the voyage back to Wellington.

So far the names of the dogs I have found are as follows

Oscar (dog)

Towser (dog)

Gunner (dog)

Funny Face (dog)

Teddy (possibly female )

Bitchie (possibly female)

‘Bitchie’ was referred to in a report of a meeting of the Wellington Zoological Society in the Evening Post 16 July 1917
Mr Joyce, who had charge of the dogs in Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition, wrote expressing a desire to receive a report on the condition of the two dogs Oscar and Bitchie, presented to the Society as a donation to the Zoo. The meeting decided to meet Mr Joyce’s wishes, and also to ask the City Council to provide more worthy accommodation for the dogs.

A report on 8 December 1917 in the Evening Post mentions that four of Shackleton's dogs as being resident at the Wellington Zoo, plus Osman, Scott's dog, were being exercised daily and appeared to be 'quite contented'.

A brief check of a Wikipedia article on the Ross Sea Party mentions the following:

This time, Mackintosh favoured man-hauling while Joyce wanted to use the four fit dogs—of the six dogs that had survived the winter, two were pregnant and could not work.

The Footnote on this references to Kelly Tyler-Lewis' 2007 Book The Lost Men: The Harrowing Saga of Shackleton's Ross Sea Party.

It is a remote possibility that six adult dogs 4 males and two females, plus the 8 puppies came back to Wellington on the Aurora.

Death of Oscar

Sometime near the 17th Of June 1918 Oscar the most noted of the Shackleton dogs abruptly dropped dead. The Ashburton Guardian of the same date noted

One of Sir Ernest Shackleton's dogs the big fellow called "Oscar" dropped dead at the Wellington Zoo the other day whilst being exercised. Apparently the strenuous months on the Antarctic ice had broken the animal's constitution, for a post-mortem showed that much of his liver was diseased, and his heart was enlarged. The skin is to be handed over to the museum to be stuffed and exhibited.

Of what happened exactly to the taxidermied remains of the dog is still being looked into. Despite the writings of many Antarctic histories that Oscar had lived to a great age the truth is otherwise.


A report in the Evening Post 6 November 1919 brought news of a new Expedition to the Antarctic under Dr J. L. Cope on the Terra Nova had been planned to commence in November of 1920. Ernest Joyce a survivor of the Ross Sea Party decided to take Gunner with him.

Mr Joyce, who is accompanied by Mrs E. M Joyce (a daughter of Mrs E. M Courlett of Hastings), will on arrival in England, organise the expedition. He is also accompanied by "Gunner," a dog who has won fame in previous expeditions. "Gunner" has to his credit a long sledge journey of 2000 miles. The animal weights 125 pounds.

However Cope's expedition was a failure due to lack of funding. No mention of Joyce being amongst the personnel.

In a report Cape Evans - Dogs at Cape Evans prepared for the Antarctic Heritage Trust by David L. Harrowfield the skin of Gunner after his death was preserved and used as a door mat. No sourcing however has been stated for this.

The fate of the other remaining dogs at the Wellington Zoo is at this stage still unclear.

Shackleton's Dogs at J. J. Boyd's Royal Oak Zoo then Auckland Zoo

On the 25 May 1917 the following Advertisement from J. J. Boyd’s Royal Oak Zoo appeared :-


Just arrived from SOUTH POLE, via Wellington.
Come and See Them.”

(Advertisement, Auckland Star, 25 May 1917)
- Sourced ‘The Zoo WarJ.J. Boyd’s Royal Oak Zoo (2008) Author Lisa Truttman

This is only speculation and slightly off the timeline, but it is possible that J.J. Boyd may have obtained the two unaccounted for puppies (I'm most likely way off the beaten track on this) for his Royal Oak Zoo. Or Boyd may have obtained the female dog, plus one other not long after the Evening Post report of 19 May 1917 (see below). From a letter written by Boyd to the Mayor Auckland City Council dated 15 August 1922, two dogs were listed amongst the animals he was transferring to the new Auckland Zoo. They were described as
1 “Esquimaux dog” (male) and 1 Wolf Dog (female)"

According to Lisa Truttman, Boyd's letter had stated that the dogs were the property of the New Zealand Government and were on loan.
(Sourced 'The Zoo War" J.J. Boyd's Royal Oak Zoo (2008) Author Lisa Truttman)

Further on after the establishment of Auckland concerns were raised about the conditions the male dog had been kept in. No mention was made of the female 'wolf dog' I can only assume that it had died sometime between 1922 and 1923.

The welfare of the male dog became a concern after reports that the animal was by itself and inadequately housed as would be expected for a dog used to the open expanses of the Antarctic. The dog was taken in by the Zoo caretaker and former Boyd Zoo employee Mr Hurley, who took the dog the home in late September 1923. How long the animal lived after its removal from the Auckland is unknown.

In writing this blog post I have found there are stories within the story. Most of my research has been from contemporary newspaper reports of the time. The tragedy in all of this is the fact that most of the dogs if not all ended their days cramped in a small zoo enclosure instead of being treated as they deserved. As icons of the great days of Antarctic exploration they deserved to end their days in quiet retirement not on display at a municipal zoo.

*Note this is not to be taken as a complete and total history. I have tried to be as accurate as possible however there may be errors or omissions.

'Princess Alice' The Lady of Wonderland City

'Princess' Alice (1876 -1941)
at 'Wonderland City' Tamarara,Bondi,Sydney NSW Australia

Image sourced from The Elephant Database website

Lately I've been researching the African Lion King Dick which was the reason behind Wellington's first zoo in Newtown Park. So the far the research has revealed a number of footnotes in the history of long since dead zoo and circus animals. Menageries and Circuses were part of the Australasian landscape and society during the 19th and 20th centuries. All manner of wierd and wonderful beasts were brought from across the globe by great circuses, such as the famous Bostock & Wombwell's Circus and Menagerie. King Dick himself had come from this very organisation, that, for over a century entertained families all over the world.

In the course of my research I discovered an Asian Female Elephant named Alice. Previously I had researched the background of the Auckland War Memorial Museum's elephant Rajah which appeared as a guest blog post on the wonderful Timespanner blog last year. Since then I've been researching other lost animal stories, of which there seem to be many.

Alice began her life around the year 1876. She was in the possession of Bostock & Wombwell's Circus and Menagerie, as far as I can ascertain, until she was sold at auction in December of 1906. The Otago Witness reported the proceedings of the auction in an article reprinted from The Argus

The sale did not begin until shortly after noon, and in the meantime the elephant Alice, oblivious of the fact that within two hours she would have a new master, good naturedly helped to remove the heavy tent poles and philosophically ate grass between engagements.

The highest sum paid was £337 10s, which was realised by the elephant Alice, who was purchased by Mr William Anderson, the proprietor of the pleasure resort 'Wonderland City', at Bondi, Sydney, is 30 years of age. She is described as a splendid worker, perfectly docile and trained to ride. Her equipment consists of a howdah, seating six adults or eight children, elaborate gold-worked trappings, and a set of working harness. It is further announced that an experienced keeper is at liberty to accept a situation at a moderate salary

The Bondi Aquarium later Wonderland City
at Tamarama, Bondi, Sydney NSW Australia where
Alice gave children rides on the beach

Image sourced from The Elephant Database

After the auction Alice went off to spend her days, it seemed, giving rides at Wonderland City for children on the beach. Below is a brief history of Tamarama where Wonderland City was located.

In 1887 Sydney's first coastal amusement park, and one of the earliest in Australia, opened at Tamarama. Named The Bondi Aquarium its greatest attraction was a plunging roller coaster that dived and twisted over the beach. People flocked to the attraction, not only for the rides, but for vaudeville acts and aquarium creatures, including seals and a tiger shark. On the evening of July 11, 1891, fire destroyed the aquarium and pavilion, but it rose from the ashes in September the same year, and continued to entertain Sydney's populace. The last identified concert at the Aquarium was a fund raiser for the Waverley Benevolent Society in July 1906.

Ownership and management changed several times throughout its existence, until the site was finally sold by Mrs Margaret J. Lachaume in 1906 to William Anderson who transformed the amusement park, renaming it Wonderland City. In 1906 Wonderland City opened and replaced the Bondi Aquarium as the latest attraction at Tamarama. Powered by its own steam plant, the amusement park featured an airship suspended over the bay and an elephant named Alice available for rides on the beach. There was also a miniature railway operating on a two-mile track over the cliff tops. Frequent battles with local residents over beach access, charges of animal cruelty and an incident with the airship saw a decline in numbers. After a few years of low crowds and poor revenue Wonderland City closed in 1911. In 1920, the NSW Government bought the area and proclaimed it Tamarama Park. There is still a Wonderland Avenue at Tamarama.

In February 1907 Alice was used as part of a wedding ceremony



Sydney, February 17.

Mr. Anderson's Wonderland ,City at Bondi was the scene of a unique wedding on Saturday evening. A young couple, Mr. A. V. Donehue and Miss Derbridge, both of North Sydney, attired in Oriental costume, were married in the King's Theatre, the service being conducted by the Rev. F. B. Cowling. After the service the couple, mounted on the elephant Alice, and preceded by a number of young ladies in Oriental costume, travelled through the paths of Wonderland City amid cheers and showers of confetti. Over thirty thousand people witnessed this remarkable wedding.

- The Advertiser 18 February 1907

In June 1907 Alice arrived by boat in Cairns as part of Wonderland City's travelling entertainment in the state of Queensland. The arrival at Cairns of the Innamincka , a crowd had gathered there, had hoped for some entertainment, when Alice's trunk came in close proximity to a passenger's hat.


The news of the arrival of the show, kept a number of people, and especially the juveniles, on the qui vive all yesterday morning, and when tho vessel drew up alongside the wharf, despite the rain, there was a large crowd to meet it. The sight of Alice, the elephant, standing out in a prominent position on the vessel, swinging from side to side in the restless manner peculiar to her kind, caused great interest and as she playfully raised her trunk, and held it quivering in dangerous proximity to a passenger's hat, great hopes were raised that a free show was to begin. However, Alice remembered her manners in time, and the owner of the hat was left in industrial possession.

The vessel presented a very peculiar appearance, her decks, crowded with menagerie vans and conveyances of various hinds with all the paraphernalia of a giant circus, whilst along one side, in improvised stalls, stood tho horses of all sizes and colors. The work' of "shipping the show ' occupied all day out Saturday at Townsville, and delayed the Innamincka several hours in her departure.

The interest was first of all centered on Alice, but the way that bulksome female stepped off the gangway prepared for her showed her to be an experienced traveller. Thc beasts in the cages were next lifted over thc side and safely housed in one of the big Adelaide Co.'s sheds, where Alice was also located. Just here may bc stated that 'Alice is still in her teens, being in fact "sweet fifteen,'' but as to the truth of the rest of the adage, the keeper declined to be pumped.

- Morning Post 10 June 1907

Whilst it was reported that Alice was supposedly a 'sweet fifteen', she had been given the age of 30 at the dispersal sale in 1906 by Bostock & Wombwell's Circus and Menagerie.

In December 1907 Alice was part of a weight guessing competition which led to an interesting event

This afternoon and evening the many open air attractions, with recitals of music by De Groen's band, will be available at Wonderland city, where the free circus, entertainments at the vaudeville theatre, and numerous side-shows will be patronised by visitors. For this evening Mr William Anderson announces a military spectacle; showing Dargai Heights and the storming thereof with rifle-fire, artillery bands of music and many picturesque and dramatic effects.

Today at noon Alice the elephant will be publicly weighed on the Sussex-street machine, in connection with the weight-guessing competition.

- Sydney Morning Herald 19 December 1907

The Cairns Post reported Alice being on the street in the company of her keeper without a permit due to the weight guessing competition


Many people in Cairns will remember Alice, the elephant, that formed part of Anderson's Wonderland show. Here is a story of Alice from Sydney :-In order to decide the weight guessing competition in connection with Wonderland, Alice the elephant strolled into the city behind her keeper, much to the delight of an army of small boys collected on the way. lt transpired, however, that no permit had been given by the council for Alice to traverse the streets, and a constable drew the keeper's attention to the fact.. The latter waggishly replied : " I am not leading her arrest the elephant." Apparently no arrest was affected for shortly afterwards from a Sussex-street weighbridge ' Alice’s weight was announced as 2 ton, 15cwt 2gr 3plb, a figure which, by the way, a Wollahra young lady had exceeded in her guess by' only half a pound. . She got upset," explained tho keeper, 'but she would have struck the exact weight if I had not pedicured Alice this morning'.

- Cairns Morning Post 28 December 1907

Alice is mentioned again in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1908 as still being at Wonderland City


Wonderland City will reopen for the Empire Day holiday from 11 till 5.30 p.m., when the beauties of the Bondi seaside gardens and a score of attractions, including Alice the elephant, will attract both juvenile and adult visitors.

-Sydney Morning Herald 25 May 1908

In the reading the history of the Wonderland City venture, there was a notation, that by March of 1908 William Anderson, the owner, was running into financial trouble. By 1911 Wonderland City and all its attractions were shut down for good.

Alice, however, by November of 1908 was back to her previous life as a circus elephant, when she was purchased by George and Philip Wirth of Melbourne based Wirth's Circus, and was later renamed 'Princess' Alice .

"......the performing elephant 'Alice' who goes through a number of remarkable tricks. She ends by abruptly by apparently lying and standing on her trainer, but so carefully her great bulk is disposed that his clothes are not even rumpled' .........'The children are specially catered for by the elephant Alice, who carries laughing loads about the grounds under the guidance of her trainer."

- Excerpt from a report on Wirth's Circus from the Argus 24 November 1908

One of the stars of Wirth’s circus is the huge elephant ‘Princess Alice’ The Princess is getting on in years, for Messrs George and Philip Wirth aquired her from Mr William Anderson, a well know theatrical manager about thirty years ago, and he purchased her from Bostock and Wombwell Circus and Menagerie….

-The Advertiser 30 June 1927

Between the years 1908 and 1941 Alice travelled extensively with Wirth's Circus. In 1916, while on tour at New Plymouth in New Zealand Alice had a close call when she went down to a creek to drink, then slipped and fell. Finding herself stuck, Alice attempted to free herself but was unable to do so. Keepers using the other elephants extracted her several hours later as reported in the Poverty Bay Herald below.

- Article from the Poverty Bay Herald 3 March 1916
Sourced: Papers Past National Library of NZ Website

At the grand age of around 57 years old Alice rendered assistance when a train derailed at the Wagin Railway yards in Western Australia


Elephant Renders Assistance.

WAGIN, Aug. 23.— The engine of an important stock train from Katanning en route to sales at Midland Junction was derailed in the Wagin railway yards about 5 p.m. yesterday during shunting operations. A relief engine was immediately requisitioned from Narrogin to take the stock to its destination. The relief train left Wagin about two hours behind the scheduled time, but arrived at Midland Junction in time for the sales, as a fast engine was utilised. No damage resulted to the live stock. A special break-down train was sent from Narrogin to Wagin last night, and the original engine of 'the stock train was re-railed about 9 o'clock. It was then hauled to Narrogin. The cause of the derailment is not known, nor the extent of the damage to the engine.

As Wirth's circus was showing here last night, the services of Alice, the elephant, were requisitioned to remove the trucks from the derailed engine. There was no engine under steam in the Wagin railway yards, and the elephant's timely help was fully appreciated. A crowd of sightseers was interested and amazed in watching the work of the elephant, which appeared to remove the trucks without effort and revel in the task. Other valuable assistance was rendered by the electrical staff of the Wagin Municipal Council, its members erecting a lead from the street lighting poles to the scene of the derailment thus enabling the break down gang to work at ease during the evening.

- The West Australian 24 August 1933

Later in 1933, Alice also got up to mischief while aboard the steamer Lutana when she loosened a winch.



(Reprinted from Yesterday's Latest Edition.)

ADELAIDE, Tuesday.

Music may soothe the savage breast of many jungle denizens, but the clatter of a ship's steam winch is more to the liking of Alice, Wirth Bros. 140 year-old circus elephant.

How this elephant enjoyed herself immensely by setting a steam winch in motion was told by officer of the Tasmanian steamer Lutana, which transported Wirths' Circus from Melbourne to Burnie. The vessel is now at Port Adelaide discharging timber from Tasmania.

The Lutana was a veritable Noah's Ark on the trip, the animals including bears, lions, tigers, seven elephants, monkeys, zebras, a hippopotamus, and 38 horses.

Bored with standing tied by the legs to a stanchion, Alice, the elephant, foraged around with her trunk until she came to a tap controlling the supply of steam to one of the winches. She persevered until a terrific clamor brought alarmed deck hands rushing to the scene, to find the winch drum spinning merrily.

They turned the tap off, but as soon as they went away Alice turned it on again, and the wicked gleam in her eyes suggested that she was enjoying the commotion.

After this had happened several times an engineer spoiled the fun by turning the steam off down below. Later the chief engineer (Mr. Robertson) was dozing in his cabin, when a snake-like object floated through the door and passed within a ,few inches of him.

Mr. Robertson leaped out of his bunk and discovered that another elephant had been sending its trunk out on a foraging expedition.

To add to the variety of the trip a savage honey-bear got loose below and led his hunters a merry dance before he was recaptured. Snarling angrily, the animal was about to leap at Captain Bull, master of the Lutana, but luckily its dragging chain got caught in an obstruction and pulled the bear up abruptly.

- Barrier Miner 13 December 1933

1936, Alice was again in the news. At the grand age of 60 years old she was aging gracefully as well as showing her flamboyant and rather colourful character as reported in the articles below:

- Evening Post 11 April 1936
Sourced:Papers Past National Library of NZ Website


Stories About the Famous Circus Animal

Alice, the old elephant In Wirth's Circus, is a favourite with children all over the world. During a recent tour of Australasia, while she was being carried with two other elephants on trucks along the railway between Taronga and Wain(?) in New Zealand, she came to a spot which she remembered well. Two years before she had grabbed with her trunk a tree growing near the line. Alice hung on, but the tree could not be budged, and the truck ran off the rails. This year the same thing happened, but this time Alice got her two companions to help her, and this time two trucks were pulled off the line.

Mr. C. W. L. Bride, of Mareeba, North Queensland, tells how he first made the
acquaintance of Alice 23 years ago. Twenty-three years is nothing in the life of Alice, who is one of the longest lived animals in the world. When he met Alice, she was shunting wagons at Port Pirie. He decided to buy her five dozen ripe bananas. Alice watched him keenly while he asked her keeper if he could do so, and when consent had been obtained, Alice made joyful little squealing noises and all but said "Thank you" in words. She pushed the keeper out of the way and made for the bananas, which disappeared in less than two gulps. Back she came for more, but her friend 'showed her that the fruit was all gone, and Alice sadly went back to work.

Alice in More Trouble.

Later in the day he saw her in, a less praiseworthy moment. She and a companion were being led along a side street to the empty, show ground to take a last load. On their way they passed a pair of fragrant fig trees planted on tile side walk in front of a shop. Alice sniffed the fragrance on the breeze, and in a flash broke away from her keeper and charged across to the trees. Her mate followed, and the two stripped both trees of their leaves before any one could stop them. Alice's tail twisted. with Joy as she was at her luscious meal.

The owner of the trees was in despair, but Mr. Bride tells us that six months later they were flourishing as well as ever.

- Western Mail 6 August 1936

The Great Wirth's Circus Hoax of Princess Alice's 'great age'

Across Australasia throughout the 1920's onwards, a new myth emerged that Alice was the oldest elephant in captivity. Wirth's claimed Alice was over 100 years old. Doris Wirth in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald in 1937 claimed the elephant was 150 years old.

"For a number of years now, Alice, our old elephant, has been employed in carting our trappings to trains and elsewhere. Molly has been in the habit of assisting her. One day Alice set off with a load and a little later, was dismayed to see that not Molly, but another elephant was assisting her. Alice did not pause to think. She broke her harness and almost galloped to Molly's quarters

"Molly was sick and Alice comforted her in elephant fashion. It was the most amazing display of affection I have seen among animals. “

Princess 150Years Old.

"Do you see old Princess over there? Well, she is 150 years old, and at one time was in the London Zoo. She is tired and wrinkled, and is allowed to do much as she pleases. Some years ago Molly was a terror. She was always fighting and breaking away, and we used to chase her on a pony we called Maori. Molly could never get completely away, because Maori could jump fences while Molly had to push them over."

-Interview of Doris Wirth Sydney Morning Herald 6 April 1937

Through out the papers of the times, Alice's age varied from 97 years old to 150 years old. The story so carefully tended by the Wirth Brothers blossomed into claims, in some newspaper reports, that Alice was actually the former companion of P.T. Barnum's African Elephant Jumbo. However, I can't find any record of her being alive in the time frame that this Alice's story covers according to the Elephant Data Base the Alice in the possession of Barnum & Bailey's Circus was an African Bush Elephant, not an Asian elephant so it is not her- there was another Elephant at Barnums also named Alice who was an Asiatic elephant but she was killed in a fire during the 1880's.

In 1941 Alive made one of her last public appearances.....


Tomorrow, in aid of the Lord Mayor's Comforts Fund, Wirth Bros' Circus will parade in the city streets for the first time for nearly half a century.

Alice, the elephant, who is said to be more than 147 years old, will lead the parade, which will begin at 12.30 p.m. The route will Include -Oxford, Elizabeth, Hunter,George, Liverpool, and Riley Streets.

The Wirth family has given the proceeds of the last 11 days or the circus's Sydney season to the Lord Mayor's Fund.

- Sydney Morning Herald 30 April 1941

The Death of 'Princess Alice' 24 November 1941

On November 25th 1941 Alice finally ended her days as being one of the oldest known elephants in captivity. She passed away at the grand age of 65 years old at Wirth's Circus in Melbourne.

Death Of Oldest Elephant In Captivity
MELBOURNE. November 24.

"Princess Alice." claimed to be the oldest elephant in captivity in the world, died at Wirth's Circus early tonight. She was 157.

Princess Alice was a popular at traction at Regents Park Zoo. London, for many event's, and was a contemporary of Jumbo She was 'brought to Australia more than 35 years ago.

- Advertiser 24 November 1941

For the last nearly 100 years speculation over what happened to Alice of Wonderland City came up with two theories. The first that she had been shot and buried on the beach the other was that she had ended up at Moore Park in Sydney. The entire time Alice had been under everyone's noses right there in the papers, performing in the Wirth's Brother Circus under the show name of 'Princess Alice'.

In 2008 Alice was celebrated in contemporary sculpture in an exhibition by Artist and Sculptor Rod McRae.
Images of the collection Sculpture by the Sea' can be viewed on the Sydney Daily Photo Blog



During my many hours of searches I found reports of an 'Alice' belonging to Wirth's Circus after 1941. There is a record of an 'Alice' being transferred to Melbourne Zoo in 1952 with her death recorded at an unknown location in 1956. Who this elephant Wirth's Circus had after 1941 really is, at this stage, still a complete mystery - what we do know is that it was not the Alice of Wonderland City.



Wirth's Circus Film Circa 1925 on Australian Screen

Wirth's Circus on Youtube

The Life and Death of Dumbo - Australia's First African Elephant

Dumbo Australia's First African Elephant at Taronga Park Zoo 12 January 1947
- Image Sydney Morning Herald 13 January 1947

DUMBO 1940 - 1947


The first African elephant ever to be shown in Australia was on view at Taronga Park Zoological Gardens yesterday. It is a six-year-old, and is not yet five feet high. The elephant arrived last week. Most of the animals and birds which arrived in the same ship arc still in quarantine.

-Sydney Morning Herald 13 January 1947

In 1946, several members of the Taronga Park Trust, from Sydney, Australia, spent several months travelling around the African Continent in search of new animals to stock their growing collection.

Four Sydney men, the secretary of the Taronga Park Zoo, Mr. H. B. Brown, Mr. Hargreaves, Mr. E. J. Hallstrom, and Mr. W. Turner, collected this record "bag" on an eight months' trek. They went through Swaziland, Portuguese East Africa, Tanganyika, Kenya, and Uganda, buying from the hunters and trappers, who brought their jungle catches into large bases.

- Sydney Morning Herald 18 December 1946

During a visit to the Belgian Congo in 1946 (now The Democratic Republic of Congo) the men came across the only elephant training school in Africa. They purchased a 6 year old as yet unnamed African Bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) from the school -

Image from The Australian Woman's Weekly 8 February 1947
Article title 'Zoo Baby from Africa's only Elephant School'

The elephant was bought from a special elephant training farm in the Belgian Congo. Run by the Belgian Government, it is the only one of its kind in Africa. Each February officials, with about 60 native boys, go out to catch young elephants.
They take with them a number of trained monitor or mother elephants, who are turned loose among the young ones and head them off for catching.

Taken back to the farm, the babies undergo a rigorous six months' course of education.

They lead a strictly regimented day-morning bath in the river, lessons, a period out at pasture, and another bath at night.
During this time they learn to lie down and rise at word of command and to know the human voice.

The monitors stay with them throughout training, assist backward babies who either won't lie down or get up by applying their trunks and tusks.

The motherly monitors think nothing of bringing a troublesome kindergartener to heel with a good firm slap from their trunks, Mr Brown says.

Each night the tethered elephant lines are visited by an old hippopotamus who comes up from the river, inspects the babies, and everything to his satisfaction, goes back as silently as he came.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on the 18 December 1947 that the ship carrying some 1,000 birds and some 75 animals had left Mombasa on the previous Sunday as was headed for Australia with special attendant E. Hargreaves on board. By 28th December the Swedish ship Mangarella had berthed at Freemantle, Perth ( Sydney Morning Herald 28 December 1946) later arriving at Mebourne bound for Sydney


MELBOURNE, Mon. - The Swedish vessel Mangarella which arrived in Melbourne today assumed the character of a modern Noah's Ark after calling at Mombassa, East Africa, on the voyage from Gothenburg. The vessel called at the African port to load a valuable cargo of animals, birds and reptiles for the Taronga Park zoo, Sydney.

The collection of wild life ranged from finches to a seven-year-old African elephant, the first of its kind to be brought to Australia.

- The Mercury 7 January 1947

With the arrival of so many species all at the once the zoo found itself short of cages and space and thus had resorted to cutting the enclosures down in size to accommodate the new arrivals. And with it the Sydney Morning Herald was pleased to announce

The young elephant that has just arrived is the first one the Zoo has had from Africa - but it will be no time before you will be able to ride him. He is only seven years old, and an elephant takes 15 years to grow up

- Sydney Morning Herald 22nd January 1947


Taronga Park is the ideal place to spend the Holiday Attractions Include new arrivals Just received from Africa-Whale headed Stork, Secretary Birds, Baby Ostriches, African Elephant, Rhinoceros, Cheetahs, Bat eared Foxes, and many others. All picnic requirements available lunch and afternoon tea served In attractive Tea Rooms Travel by Ferry

- Advertisement Sydney Morning Herald 27 January 1947

'Dumbo' The much loved character from the Walt Disney of the same name
Image by the kind courtesy of Walt Disney Clipart

Named for the cartoon Walt Disney movie character, 'Dumbo' as he was now named spent a very short life being one of the main attractions at the Taronga Park Zoo. However by late June/early July of 1947 the young elephant was showing signs of illness. On 14 July 1947 Dumbo the African Bush Elephant died he was around 7 years old at the time

SYDNEY, Sunday.

A Belgian Congo ' baby elephant, which was at Taronga Park, died today after an illness lasting some weeks. It is one of the most difficult animals to rear in captivity and, had it lived, it would have been the first animal of its kind to have lived in captivity anywhere in the world.

- Canberra Times 14 July 1947

A post mortem would later show the elephant had died of an undisclosed congenital illness.

Dead elephant could not have lived long


Dumbo, the Taronga Park Zoo elephant, worth £1,000, which died on Sunday, was internally deformed, which meant that he could not have lived long. This was discovered at a post-mortem examination today.

It was explained that Dumbo had not been insured because the rate of loss among animals was low.

-The Argus 16 July 1947

Sunday, April 24, 2011

"Almost Human" - The Sins of the Simians Part 1

When Charles Darwin pondered over his Tree of Life and the theory of evolution - he considered the one question that we all now know as the 'missing link'. At the time the so called missing link in the evolutionary path of man had not yet been discovered, although in modern times more discoveries are being made that could point to how we, as a species came into being.However, in the animal kingdom dwelt the almost human-like chimpanzee - that showmen were soon to exploit, and claim these unfortunate apes to be that so called connection, between ourselves and our prehistoric predecessors. Modern Science, has since put any such notions to the backwaters of pseudo-science and utter nonsense.

Advertisement for Casey - Brisbane Courier 20 May 1909

In 1909, a man going by the name of Ellis E. Joseph, brought to Australia, the first male chimpanzee. Named 'Casey' this intelligent primate entertained the Australian public throughout the federated states, the crowds flocking to see the so-called 'missing link'. Ellis Joseph was described as being over six feet in height. Joseph had been born in Bombay (now Mumbai) in India to parents of welsh extraction, before the family had moved to San Francisco in the USA when he was just 9 months old. Joseph in an interview in 1910 told the reporter that he had first got involved with the animal trade after his father had taken him on a trip to Panama where the young boy had captured birds and other small animals - selling them at a profit. Later on he ventured into Nicaragua, before embarking at 17 years old into the full time animal trade which led him briefly to Australia, then to New Zealand - before he headed to India. Before long, Ellis Joseph was a full time animal trapper and dealer supplying the major wildlife traders such as Carl Hagenbeck with tigers, lions and other sought after exotic species.

Ellis Joseph shows off Casey to the reporter Barrier Miner 27 April 1910

Joseph had captured Casey at around the age of perhaps 4 fours or 5 years old in 1907 in the Ashantee Region, Ghana in West Africa.Chimpanzees are recognised as having four subspecies with Casey more than likely, being the commonly known Western Chimpanzee subspecies Pan troglodytes verus. All four subspecies are now listed as endangered on the ICUN Red List. It seemed Casey hadn't been the only one Joseph had originally brought with him from Africa to Queensland Australia as he described in a interview that was reported in the Barrier Miner 27 April 1910: -

"I caught Casey between Kumasi and Kintampo, in Ashanti, Central West Africa, during December, 1907. He was half-grown then. At the present time he is about three-quarter grown. I also caught another one, 'Baldy,'' who died in Brisbane last year. When Baldy died Mr. Kidston, Premier, and Mr. M'Dermott, Under-Secretary, sent for me and purchased the dead animal for the Brisbane Museum."

"Baldy is the only dead specimen in Queensland. A third chimpanzee which I caught in French Guinea, in North-West Africa, towards the Sahara Desert, I named Joe. He died in Melbourne of moroseness, and Mr. Kershaw, director of the Melbourne Museum, purchased the body."

In the same interview Joseph went on to briefly describe his so-called 'civilising' of the then young Casey

"I took the civilising and training of 'Casey' in hand, and first showed him at Pretoria, and afterwards at Durban. At the latter place I left him, and went on a hunting trip to Rhodesia... "

- Barrier Miner 27 April 1910

Joseph knew he had a valuable asset, and had every intention of ensuring his living meal ticket stayed alive long enough, for him to make a good healthy profit. Casey first made the news headlines in May 1909 after he caught a common human ailment, resulting the cancellation of several engagements. Joseph in his wisdom called in a doctor to treat the ill chimpanzee

An Unusual Patient

" Casey," the big chimpanzee now on exhibition at the Edward-street Arcade, he became slightly indisposed yesterday after noon, and his alarmed entrepreneur immediately summoned a city medico. " Casey" tendered his pulse, and put out his tongue with less than would have been the case with a. human patient, and he subsequently submitted to the taking of his temperature with becoming gravity. The doctor diagnosed ''Casey's" indisposition as a feverish cold, and prescribed accordingly.

- Brisbane Courier 5 May 1909

Once recovered and well, the chimpanzee and his owner began to tour the country to rave reviews and adoring crowds. By 1910 the news media of the time were quick to cover Casey's travels, and describing his antics as 'amusing', funny calling Casey a 'man-monkey' 'the missing link' and 'almost human'. Considering advances in the field of genetic research, in the latter, they were not far from the truth.Both humans and chimpanzee share 98% of their DNA - yet are both unique and different from each other in a multitude of ways. Joseph with his background of animal trapping and his travels in Africa and South America was in a unique position to intrigue the crowd goers with tales of darkest Africa, stories of wild beasts, and of course the amazing intelligence of his chimpanzee to ensure he had a guaranteed income.

Something now and novel, in the way of shows, is coming in the shape of a Central African Chimpanzee-the first of its kind seen here. This strangely human-like creature, according to scientists, is the very nearest approach to man, and will be on exhibition in Argent-street next to Biggs's Hotel on Saturday next. Casey is about seven or eight years of ago, and is not yet full-grown, and stands nearly 4ft. in height. He is extremely intelligent, answering readily to his name, and performs various tricks. Ho also shakes hands with all visitors with an air of good-fellowship that is nothing short of laughable. He also indulges occasionally in the human habit of smoking, preferring a cigarette, but taking either pipe or cigar. He issues tickets bearing his autograph, with the celerity of a bookmaker. Of the great Anthropoid Apes, the Chimpanzee stands nearest in his relation to humanity, and stands in his anatomy 80 points out of 100 in common with man. His ceaseless activity is simply wonderful, and must give rise to envy in the minds of any gymnasts who, may be among the audience. Casey plays the piano, wheels prams, nurses babies, smokes, writes, plays a mouth organ, and does a hundred other things.

- Barrier Miner 9 April 1910

Among those who arrived by the Melbourne express on Thursday was Mr Ellis. Joseph, a notable African hunter, who has made numerous tips into that country or the famous firm of Hagenbeck, of Hamburg. Mr. Joseph had with him Casey, the only male chimpanzee now in Australia. Casey is a delight to the believers in the Darwinian theory. Upon his arrival in Adelaide he sat down to a meal of sago pudding, which he ate with a spoon, never once forgetting his manners. Afterwards, he accompanied Mr. Joseph on a taxi-cab ride round the city, till the Broken Hill express was due to leave Casey will appear in that city, after which, the hunter will return with him to Adelaide. Among the chimpanzee's accomplishments is that of piano playing.

- The Register 15 April 1910

The fact that Casey had learned all of the tricks described in the articles above, showed his intelligence and his ability to learn by watching Joseph, who in turn had managed to coerce the ape into learning the necessary routines that would guarantee a crowd pleaser, as well as a potential marketing tool for any future sale of the animal Joseph might have. He had every intention of parting with Casey for preferably a substantial sum of money. This was indicated clearly in the interview printed in the Barrier Miner article of 27 April 1910 when the reporter had asked Joseph what he intended to do with Casey.

"What do you intend to do with Casey? "

"I am going to sell him if I can get my price." Was the reply. "I will take nothing less than £1000 for him. He is a good money-getter. After I dispose of him I shall be off back to West Africa for the hippos, and the okapi, more particularly the latter."

Time for Casey, as Joseph well would have known, was rapidly running out where the immature young chimpanzee was concerned. Casey was fast approaching the age of maturity (8 -10 years) for males of his species, and with it, would come the problems associated with adult male chimpanzees, as some, would later on find out. In 1911 Joseph packed up his bags and Casey then headed to New Zealand to a welcome reception.


"Casey," the chimpanzee who by his mimicry and adoption of many actions common to the human species has earned the title of the "most faithful Darwinian conception of the 'Missing Link, " is at present holding receptions at 98 Willis-street, from 11 to 1, 3 to 5, and 7 to 9 daily. "Casey's" box of tricks is as extensive as it is interesting, and a favourite method of amusing himself, as well as onlookers, is to perform well executed somersaults and then to set to and applaud himself with loud and prolonged hand-claps. The quadruped is nothing if not courteous and affectionate, and he varies his habit of extending the "glad hand" to one and all by affectionately kissing and embracing his proprietor. Occasionally he breaks the monotony of life by taking a turn at the piano and a mouth-organ, while such things as winding a watch, wheeling a push-cart, drinking the health of his audience, and sweeping the floor of the saloon seem to come to him quite easily.

- Evening Post 2 February 1911


"Casey," now on view at 98 Willis Street, is surely Darwin's Missing Link. Casey shakes hands, walks arm-in-arm with his keeper, will fondle children, kiss you if you desire it. He plays the piano, smokes a pipe, signs an autograph book, his only failing being that he cannot talk. Apart from the curiosity of seeing such an intelligent monkey, "Casey" ought to be interviewed, because he is so human. He provides a lesson in natural history that all should be interested in. "Casey" is on exhibition daily, and some useful information, in the shape of short lectures on the habits of "Casey" and his great family, is imparted by the proprietor.

-NZ Truth 4 February 1911

With Casey soundly and firmly now in the public eye Ellis Joseph by March had found himself a willing buyer. Thomas Fox, a fellow fortune seeker and showman, bought Casey from Joseph. It seemed Casey though did not welcome the change or his new owner.

Casey, the well-known chimpanzee recently on show throughout the Dominion, has been sold to a Mr Fox, another showman seeking a fortune. But "Casey" doesn't like the change, and has given his new proprietor several maulings. Joseph confidently anticipates getting "Casey"' back at half-price.

- NZ Truth 25 March 1911

It would not be the first, or the last time Casey would maul Fox, as their story will later reveal. Under the management both of Joseph and Fox Casey continued to draw the crowds in New Zealand throughout 1911

The chimpanzee "Casey," which drew a large crowd of interested spectators at the Show, is giving entertainments on the section in front of Chilton's hall, near the firebell, and no doubt many who have not yet seen the strange creature will be attracted to the performances.

- Poverty Bay Herald 27 October 1911


Fox's Famous Performing Chimpanzee will open to-day in Anderson's Buildings, Richmond Quay, at 8 o'clock and will keep open till 5 p.m., opening again at 7 till 9 p.m. "Casey" is an African Chimpanzee, a native of the Ashantee region (Central West Africa). Since the Monboddo doctrine was first brought before a startled public, the number of those who place a more or less definite belief in the descent of man from the ape has become very considerable, and a visit to "Casey," a living illustration of Darwin's missing link theory, should prove of great interest to a vast number. Mr. Joseph, Casey’s owner, has refused large sums for this specimen, and there are only seven or eight specimens of the Chimpanzee alive in captivity in the whole world. He possesses 80 out of 100 points common with man's anatomy.

He is exceedingly intelligent, and seems to understand, everything, said to him. "Casey" will not only entertain you, he will make you think.

- Grey River Argus 15 December 1911

Casey remained in New Zealand until after December when he seems to vanish from the newspaper reports until late December 1912 reappearing again in a small article in The Advertiser dated 31 December 1912. It seemed the novelty of a performing chimpanzee was slowly, but surely wearing off with the media. Thomas Fox perhaps lacked the appeal of Ellis Joseph. By the beginning of 1913 just one small report appeared of Casey being temporarily housed in Moore Park Zoo in Sydney.

A Famous Chimpanzee

There has been deposited in the Zoological Gardens the famous chimpanzee Casey, now a full-grown male, and who, although black, with a villainous expression, is very quiet and playful. He stands over four feet high, and is possessed of such immense strength that no cage in the gardens except the solid stone bear-pits would be strong enough to hold-him. It is necessary to keep him securely fastened with chains to a strong post in the ape-house.

- Sydney Morning Herald 7 February 1913

Once again, though, by October 1913 - Casey was briefly back in the spotlight


During show week there was exhibited a wonderful chimpanzee called Casey. He is as tall as a man of the average height, eats and drinks, smokes sand takes his ease, plays a whistle and mouth organ, in fact does everything a man can do except talk. Off duty, Casey is allowed to wear the clothes nature provided for him, but when he appears before the public he dons a suit as easily as any mere human being.

- Queanbeyan Age 14 October 1913

By 1914 things for both Casey and his owner Thomas Fox headed for the worst of possible scenarios when Casey escaped from Fox's home in Marrickville, Sydney.

The well-known performing chimpanzee, "Casey," who is about 5ft high, and weighs about 12st, belonging to Mr Thomas Fox, of Meeks road, Marrickville (a suburb of Sydney), escaped a few days ago, and in its wanderings created such a scare that Mrs Emily Russell, 42, of Meeks road, Marrickville, dropped dead. The chimpanzee got away about half-past eight, and climbed on to the roof of a neighboring residence. When he commenced to descend, the crowd in the street took fright, and Mrs Russell collapsed and died. The capture of the animal caused a lot of trouble. Dodging in and out of backyards, he defied the residents to catch him, and even when Sergeant Wearin, of Marrickville, sent a bullet after him, he raced away. Subsequently the sergeant fired at him again and wounded him in the foot, but even then he proved troublesome. Mr Fox attempted to put him into his cage, but, although nursing an injured foot he went for him and mauled him. Mr Fox received an injury over the eye, and several lacerations on the face and had to receive attention at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. "Casey" was on exhibition at the Hawera show a couple of years ago.

- Hawera & Normaby Star 22 December 1914

On a late evening on 6 December 1914 Casey escaped from his owner's residence having managed to slip the chain that kept him secured from around his neck. Out in the street Casey created mayhem. -

Probably the most exciting incident in the history of Marrickville was witnessed in Meeks Road last night, when the huge performing chimpanzee made his escape into the street, and for a couple of hours refused to be captured, either by his keeper or two policemen who came hurriedly upon the scene.

The adventure, however had a very sad sequel, resulting in the death of Mrs Russell, who lives in Meeks Road, and who apparently dropped dead from fright.

Between 7 p.m and 8 p.m. Casey a performing chimpanzee well known to the Sydney public, and owned by Mr Fox made his escape into Meeks Road. The chimpanzee is always kept chained up, but being of a very cunning nature, he succeeded last evening in freeing himself from his chain and slipping out through the front gate.

Casey is a big animal, standing about five feet in height and weighing about 12 stone and is an excellent boxer, a fact of which he apprised his keeper, who received the most severe injury to the eye, besides several lacerations about the face while endeavouring to effect a capture.

It was not until the arrival of Sergeant Wearin and Constable Toobey of the Marrickville police that Casey was taken into custody. Before finally being captured the chimpanzee charged Sergeant Wearin, catching him by the collar of the coat, and the Sergeant found it necessary to fire two bullets into the beasts foot before it released its grip.

During the excitement the chimpanzee rushed at a group of women, and it was then that Mrs Russell was seen to fall to the ground. When she was picked up it was found that she was dead.

- The Sydney Morning Herald 7 December 1914

The grieving husband of the deceased woman John Henry Russell, took Fox to the Supreme Court claiming damages of £1,000 under the Compensation to Relatives Act 1897.
Ellis Joseph who was briefly in Australia at the time was told of the incident, and had expressed his regrets.

'I was here last April. I brought the American bison and other stuff from America and Canada for the Adelaide Zoo. I also brought the chimpanzee 'Casey' to Australia. By-the-way, now is 'Casey' getting along?' When told that 'Casey' had disgraced himself in the eastern' States and had frightened a woman to death and destroyed an eye of its owner, he expressed deep regret;

Interview with Ellis Joseph

- The Register 26 December 1914

By July Fox, now minus the use of his eye, and still bearing the scars of Casey's attack obtained a younger chimpanzee named 'Bismarck'. Now that Casey had caused, allegedly, the death of a woman,the popularity of the older chimpanzee seemed to be waning. Facing a court case, and (most likely) a declining audience and income with it. A new act needed to be found and Bismarck fitted the profile.

Mr. Fox the owner and trainer of Casey, the chimpanzee, will again, introduce little Bismarck the baby chimpanzee who gives a short entertainment including, piano playing.
- Cairns Post 20 July 1915


The case was heard in September of 1915 with the plaintiff alleging that due to Fox's negligence that his wife's death was as a direct result her running away from the pursuing chimpanzee.


...This was an action brought by John Henry Russell, bread carter and administrator of his late wife, Emily Russell, against Thomas Fox, to recover under the Compensation to Relatives Act, for the loss of the deceased whose death,as be alleged, by the negligence and want of care on the part of the defendant in the keeping of a Chimpanzee.

....The chimpanzee which was at once pursued by the defendant and his wife, one armed with an iron bar, and the other with hot water took refuge on the roof of a house. The police also joined in the pursuit, and Mrs Russell was one among a large number of people who were in the thoroughfare. Suddenly a cry was raised that the chimpanzee was about to make an attack, and Mrs Russell sustained such a severe shock that while running away she fell upon the road and subsequently died.

...Before the occurrence Mrs Russell was in, and plaintiff attributed her death to the shock caused by the the fear of an attack from the chimpanzee. He sued on his own behalf and for his children, for the loss of the wife and the mother, and claimed £1,000. In cross-examination, the plaintiff admitted that deceased of was stout build, and somewhat excitable.

The defendant pleaded not guilty.

-The Sydney Morning Herald 29 September 1915

Despite his plea of not guilty Fox was ordered by the jury to pay Russell £450 as compensation for the loss of the man's wife.

Fox had testified that Casey the Chimpanzee was in fact very docile and that he had exhibited the animal all over the country. The jury though remained unconvinced and thus Fox ended up being out of pocket.

Casey with Mrs Thomas Fox circa 1915 - 1916

Image from The Evening Tribune 7 May 1922

After the court case was over and judgement made, both of the court and it seemed the public, Fox along with his wife, and the two chimpanzees headed for America.

All of this came about in the person of ‘Casey” a giant black faced chimpanzee weighing 280 pounds, which was brought to this country by a man named ‘Fox’ in 1915……

…He was then sold to Fox who later brought him to this country to be exhibited for his extreme size, in the Sells-Floto Circus….

- Evening Tribune 7 May 1922

In 1917, a small single lined notation appeared in one Australian publication.

The chimpanzee Casey is dead at last. It passed over at Tampa, Florida, in January.

- Sunday Times 18 March 1917

This raised a serious question as to why it was reported at all. During the course of doing the research on Casey I had found a considerable number of references to a Casey being resident at Taronga Park Zoo from 1920 onwards, which proved to be somewhat of a quandary - until that was an indepth discussion with Lisa aka Timespanner guided me to google archive and a link Lisa had sent to me from a newspaper in the archive.We still had the issue though of whether or not there was any truth to the article or if it was simply made up - which many of the publications of the time tended to do, if there was no news to fill the pages. However in this case there was in fact truth to the story that yes indeed Casey the Chimpanzee had been taken to America, been shown in the side shows at Sells-Floto Circus. An interview with Ellis Joseph then an animal dealer based in New York in 1925 revealed that the Casey in Taronga Park Zoo was in fact called 'Casey the Second' after the Casey in this story.

Casey the first died from appendicitis as described in an article from The Evening Tribune 7 May 1922.

“This did not mean that Casey was a trained ape in the general acceptance of the term. He was a learned one, if I thus can describe him. Nothing he did was done through ordinary methods of training – instead he learned his every action through his association with Mr and Mrs Fox. He used a hammer, nails and saw, fashioning pieces of carpenter work for his own amusement; wore human clothing from choice to keep himself warm in cool weather, smoked a pipe and enjoyed it, filling and lighting it himself; drank beer from the bottle, ate with a spoon from a bucket, much in the style of a low-grade human; and could speak the word ‘no’ when he meant ‘no’, and carried in his expression and eyes a distinctly human appearance. "

"When he died it was on the operating table to which he had gone in faithful obedience to the command of his mistress and her assurance that he was in no danger, submitting placidly to the administration of ether. The ailment was that distinctly human one – appendicitis! "

"More, when an autopsy was performed on him, the report of five reputable surgeons with that the brain lobes of the beast showed ‘a development sufficient to have permitted continued speech in only a few years more!"

- Interview with Courtney Ryley Cooper on the argument of the missing link

- Evening Tribune (USA) 7 May 1922

The man interviewed Courtney Ryley Cooper, was in a unique position to make these claims about Casey, and how he he come to pass away - in being the fact that he was Sell-Floto Circus' press agent and more than likely had been the one to supply the images for the article - along with his rather opinionated comments. However, perhaps there is truth to them. Chimpanzees are capable of using tools, and of developing strong social bonds with others in their group. In this situation, Casey had developed a strong bond with Mrs Fox and thus had complete trust in her - which may explain why Cooper claimed he was able to be operated upon.Cooper was wrong though about Chimpanzees ever being capable of speech. Simply, their genetics are the cause in part of that impossibility as a study published in 2009 has revealed.

Casey - Evening Tribune 7 May 1922

Whatever the truth, Casey was no longer well thought of in Australia or why else would those words 'Dead at last' be used in a one line mention. Perhaps it's just me reading between the lines - but after all a woman had died because of Casey's escape. Yet Casey can't be blamed. He saw a chance and escaped his chain with unfortunate consequences for his owner and for Mrs Russell.