The spectacular giraffes on display on Broadway

Philiphone1809In 1838, residents of New York were treated to a rare sight: two giraffes at Broadway near Prince Street.

The giraffe exhibit is recorded in the diary of Philip Hone, a wealthy resident (at left) who served as mayor in 1826.

“July 3, Tuesday: Two of these beautiful animals [giraffes] are being exhibited in a lot on Broadway below Prince Street; the place is handsomely fitted up, and great numbers of persons pay their respects to the distinguished strangers,” wrote Hone.

“The giraffes or cameleopards, as they are called (I like the first name best), were taken by one of our Yankee brethren in the interior of Southern Africa.

“They are the only survivors of eleven who were taken, and have been brought to this country at a very great expense.”

The sketch below accompanies the diary entry, republished in The Hone and Strong Diaries of Old Manhattan, by Louis Auchincloss.


The caption reads “A drawing made in the beautiful pavillion. No. 509 Broadway, were hundreds daily resort to gaze with delight upon these elegant quadrupeds, the first ever seen in America.”

It doesn’t look like Broadway at Prince Street would be like at the time, but this is what the caption tells us.

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3 Responses to “The spectacular giraffes on display on Broadway”

  1. Pontifikate Says:

    Wasn’t the “Barnum and Bailey Circus” (without either Barnum or Bailey) located near that same corner around this time? Maybe it was somewhat later.

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Right, Barnum’s Museum was at Broadway and Ann Street. He had incredible animal exhibits: beluga whales, monkeys, a kangaroo. But it didn’t open until 1841.

  3. ronfrankl Says:

    Hone’s diary is a remarkable document, a detailed glimpse of everyday life in New York in the first half of the 19th century. Recommended reading if you want a better understanding of New York and its development.

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