The celebrated chimp that ruled the Bronx Zoo

I don’t think New York has ever had an official animal mascot. But between 1907 and 1914, a top contender would have been Baldy the chimp.

Caught wild in the Congo at age four, clever and cheeky Baldy was a star attraction at the Monkey House in the then eight-year-old Bronx Zoo.

[Baldy and his keeper, copyright the Wildlife Conservation Society]

Though all of this would be totally frowned on by today’s standards, newspapers at the time reported that he adopted human habits, such as washing his face and hands, eating with a knife and fork at a table, and learning to rollerskate at the behest of his keepers.

Baldy 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.

Behind the scenes and the Monkey House, however, Baldy may not have been as friendly as everyone thought.

A zoo publication noted in 1914 that he “is now quite matured and so savage at times that it is difficult to enter his cage.”

Later that year, his death by tuberculosis was reported by The Times.

[Baldy in a promotional zoo postcard]

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