Sunday, February 14, 2010

Did Young Howard Meet Baby Roger? (1893)

Well, Chrispy was persuing the Ebayeum when this elephant popped up. No, it's not a burlesque joke, but I had no idea about any of this.

Then, as I always do, said, "Hmm, Lovecraft. Lovecraft?" It's sort of like Biblical Archaeology - it's really archaeology, but if you're within sniffing distance of Jesus, it becomes Biblical Archaeology. So, anytime I'm skipping about the Ebayeum, I say to myself, "OK, Providence? yep. Lovecraft lived between 1890 and 1937. yep. Was he withing camel-spitting distance of this event? yep. Then to paraphrase a Stan-Leeism, It-t's-s-s bloggin' time!"

Having just had (b. 2007) a baby elephant at our Louisville Zoo, I know it's well nigh impossible to keep a mother and her child away from a baby animal. Zoo's know it. YOU know it. I saw it, though darned if I can find my elephant pictures. Changed cmputers, and can't find anything on my thumb drives when I want them.

I include an image of Louisville's "Scotty" for comparison, age approximately 1 year old. Scotty is (was and is) adorable. I added a link to more Scotty info above, click on the blog title.

Now back to Lovecraft and the possibility (low probability??) that when April 1893 hit and so did the depressing fact that Lovecraft's father was institutioanlized, and Susan brought little HPL home to Angell Street, would there be temptation to take the boy to see the new elephant?

I think Lovecraft may have written about only two kinds of animals in his million plus words he's bequeathed us: Cats and water-dwelling vermin. Cats he loved, sea and pond life he detested. Elephants? I can ne'er recall the word anywhere in any of his writings.

The seller of the items put together a better presentation of "Roger" than I could ever do, so here it is from the Ebayeum (starting bid about $100).

I am presently offering, in separate auctions, a number of old and very interesting photos. Original photographs and real photo postcards are often historical and rare one-of-a-kind images that freeze that long ago moment in time for the benefit of future generations.

is a vintage and original cabinet card photograph depicting a young elephant, tethered by a leather collar and rope to his left leg. This scarce old photo is copyrighted by photographer William Mills & Son in 1893. Their studios were located, both at the Arcade (building) and Olneyville, in Providence, Rhode Island. Although there is no further identification on the photo, I strongly believe that the elephant depicted in this photo is “Baby Roger”, who once was housed at the Roger Williams Park Zoo, also in Providence, Rhode Island. “Baby Roger, purchased at age two by the children of Providence for the Roger Williams Park Zoo in 1893. (I)n 1901, a Long Island (New York) filmmaker made a short about him, "A Visit to Baby Roger". He was much loved until he grew older and became irritable and was sold to a circus in 1915. He toured Europe and was killed in Georgia after attacking his keeper and killing a female elephant who was stealing his hay.” Unfortunately, "Baby Roger" was an elephant with a somewhat infamous history of bad behavior. (please see research and pictures below) This rare and wonderful old photo is a nearly 120 year old treasure of Roger Williams Park Zoo’s history. It may even be a treasure for a Providence, or Rhode Island Republican politician…albeit, less the “infamous history of bad behavior”.

In later years, Baby Roger was depicted in a captioned photographic illusrtration in a book titled, "Providence, Old and New", which was published in 1897. I have provided some pictures below of the title page and illustrations of Baby Roger in that book, which I researched from the internet. They are merely offered for reference, and are NOT offered as part of this auction. (please see research and pictures below)

circa 1893

4” x 5.5”; mat measures 4.25” x 6.5”


PS: In 50 years of the Providence Journal, 1904, pp. 134,135

When the suggestion was made that a subscription be started by school children to buy the elephant "Baby Roger" for Roger Williams Park, the purpose was to secure as many givers as possible for the object; hence it was necessary to refuse large sums offered to complete the needed amount. The enterprise was started in the spring of 1893, and in a few weeks the $1,500 needed was subscribed by 2,300 children, who made their deposits in the Journal office. This addition to the Zoo was formally presented to the park commission by the child who first gave money for the object, and over 30,000 people, many of them children, witnessed the event. The story
of "Baby Roger" and his acquirement by the city was afterward printed in pamphlet form, together with some of the verse inspired by the circumstances of the gift,
which had excited such great interest.

{Chripy, as a child, recalls vividly the start of the Louisville Zoo and how the tin can was passed so we could plunk in our change to help start it in the 1960's.}


tap said...

How can I find this on ebay or get in touch with its owner/seller? I am making a documentary on elephants in RI and have film footage of the famous pachyderm and would LOVE to see/have this picture! I have info on the photograph itself but had never seen it

Chris Perridas said...

"tap", the auction appears to have ended. You have all the information I have. Email me if you want to discuss further.



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