December 30, 1928: Duluth Zoo called “one of the leading municipal zoological gardens of Midwest”

On this day in Duluth in 1928, the Duluth News Tribune declared that the “Duluth Zoo Takes Rank as One of Leading Municipal Zoological Gardens of Midwest.” It was not an official ranking, but a bit of good ol’ home town boasting. The paper praised Bert Onsgard, the West Duluth printer who started the zoo with a lost fawn he found near the Canadian border. Onsgard not only convinced Duluth to establish a zoo at Fairmount Park, but he also secured “the construction of its necessary buildings, obtained valuable donations among citizens, [and] visited large zoos for ideas to be incorporated into the Duluth zoo.” That’s a lot of work for a guy whose potion as zoo manager was considered “honorary.” He had also managed to acquire quite a few animals by trade: northern Minnesota had an abundance of white tail deer (as it does today) and Onsgard was trading deer for other animals with zoos much further south. At the time the zoo had been operating for less than four years and was home to “all varieties of deer including the yellow, white and black fallow deer; mountain lions, African lions, pumas; polar black, Russian and brown bear; fox, raccoons, bobcats, skunks, badger, coyotes; jackals; cranes, pheasants, swans, ducks, pelicans, storks, ostriches, eagles, doves, parrots, unaries; monkeys, seals and mountain goats.” Read a more complete history of the zoo and Fairmount Park here.

A lithographic postcard of the zoo at Duluth’s Fairmount Park, ca. 1930s. (Image: Zenith City Press)