This 80s era souvenir t-shirt from the Bronx Zoo just hit our online shop this week and I'm just smitten with that handsome old lion on the front. Isn't he beautiful?

Additionally, the origin of zoos and natural history museums is one of my favorite subjects to study. So, upon seeing this shirt, I jumped right into that world wide web and dug up some pretty great vintage photographs from the zoo to share on this T-Shirt Tuesday... 

Zoos used to serve a dual purpose of conservation, education as well as Natural History Museum. Then dead, mounted animal heads and hides became offensive to the public. The world class Head and Horns Collection of the Bronx Zoo, pictured above c. 1920, is now housed at the Buffalo Bill Museum.  

"Baldy the Chimp" was so famous, he shook hands with President Taft, who visited the zoo in 1911 and specifically asked to meet him, reported The New York Times


A tiger snake being handled by the head keeper of Bronx Zoo reptile house, November 1922.

In 1938, W. Reid Blair acquired the New York Zoological Society’s first giant panda, Pandora. Pandora–and to a lesser extent her compatriot, Pan–was a smashing success.  Her sojourn at the Society’s pavilion at the 1939-1940 World’s Fair was so popular that her return to the Bronx was celebrated with an enlarged enclosure and increased visitor viewing areas. 

"Peter the Great" being fed, c. 1947, a Bronx Zoo institution from 1906 till his death in 1953. 

 Fidel Castro and the eyes of a tiger, 1959. 

 Now go grab that shirt before I snatch it up!