Royal Reels: Gambling


This Ebay cover caught my fancy because of the intriguing addressee: Horne’s Zoological Arena, Wild Animal Importers, 318 Keith & Perry Buildings, Kansas City Mo, United States America. It had two copies of the green ½d ‘LAKE MARIAN’ pictorial stamp of Tasmania as well as a single 1d ‘Roo on Map of Australia’ stamp, postmarked with a roller cancel of HOBART/ 5 SEP 13/ TASMANIA (Figure 1).

The reverse had no postal markings or manuscripts, but the flap had a printed ‘BEAUMARIS/ HOBART’ in blue (Figure 2).

There was only one reference to the addressee of any import, and it was an unique historical archive, containing financial documentation, testimonials, letters, photographs, etc.; a file of loose photographs, papers, etc.; two United States passports (cancelled) of I.S. “Trader” Horne, who was identified as an animal dealer in Kansas City (MO) from approximately 1914 onward. Isaac Sherman “Trader” Horne (1882-1959) and the Horne Zoological Arena Corporation (formerly located in Kansas City, Missouri at the same address on the cover) were among the largest suppliers of wild and exotic animals, birds, reptiles, and other specimens to circuses, zoos, motion picture studios, and private individuals, including William Randolph Hearst for his private zoo at San Simeon, California.

This archive was prepared for the purpose of raising investment capital to expand the corporation and to establish a zoological garden in the Los Angeles area, with the specific intent of providing the motion picture industry with all of their animal needs including appropriate jungle settings for filming. Included were numerous photographs of animals in the wild and in captivity, original testimonial letters from zoos, circuses, etc. Horne’s venture subsequently became known as the World Jungle Compound, in Thousand Oaks, California, eventually being acquired by 20th Century Fox studios.

An early photo shows Horne’s Wild West show (another of his animal ventures) being presented in the Los Angeles Coliseum, the stands of which were filled. From a later period, there are a series of promotional photos of Errol Flynn, many of them taken on his yacht Zaca, advertising Never Say Goodbye and Escape Me Never; J.S. Edwards also appears in another photo with a boa constrictor and a monkey. This massive document was prepared especially for Horne, as is it gilt-stamped on the cover with his name (Figures 3 & 3A).

Specifically, this archive contains: Certificate of incorporation in Wilmington, Delaware, May 13, 1929; By-laws of the corporation; Minutes of the first meeting; Proposal for Los Angeles Zoological Garden and Jungle Studio; and a balance sheet with total assets of $57,700, & liabilities of $625,388.46; an enumeration of the various animals in inventory including 6 wildebeest (most expensive @ $3600), Koodoo cow and calf, sables, springbuck ram, leopard, lynx, Rhodesian baboons, bushbaby, and a large aardvark ($1000).

There are artist’s renderings for proposed park, letters of reference and commendation from South Pasadena National Bank, May Co., Commerce Trust (Kansas City) and City Bank (Kansas City). The scrapbook contains numerous photographs of elephants, rhinos, lions, giraffe, zebra, hippo, wildebeest, vultures, oryx, ostrich and reindeer in the wild. One promotional photograph shows an animal cage in front of the Moon Theatre (Nebraska ?), advertising The Revenge of Tarzan [1920]. Some of the vaudeville promotional photographs date back as far as 1907. Some of the photographs were obviously staged (Figure 4).

A search for ‘Beaumaris, Hobart’ produced several ‘hits’ with the Beaumaris Zoo, the most likely found in the Australian Dictionary of Biography’s account of Mary Grant Roberts (1841-1921) was the most convincing that the ‘Beaumaris’ on the cover’s flap could be related to the Hobart Zoo: “In 1877 Mary and her husband built Beaumaris on two acres (0.8 ha) of land between Newcastle Street and Sandy Bay Road. Mrs Roberts was interested in birds: her aviary may have been started in her former home, Ashfield, but the major hobby-collection she developed in the grounds of her new home became the basis of the Beaumaris Zoo, opened to the public in 1895.

Mrs Roberts had no formal scientific training, but was skilled in animal care. Her zoo, set in attractive gardens, became noted for its display of thylacines as well as birds. The first Tasmanian zookeeper to attract international attention to indigenous Tasmanian fauna, she was elected a corresponding member of the Zoological Society of London in 1910. She was well known as the first to breed Tasmanian devils in captivity, publishing a study of her achievement in the society’s Proceedings of 1915.

Mrs Roberts joined in many social issues. Concerned for the welfare of native animals, she founded the Game Preservation Society and the Anti-Plumage League (1910) and was responsible for the Royal Society of Tasmania’s campaign to strengthen the State’s protective legislation.”

Could this cover have included a request from the Beaumaris Zoo that Isaac Horne should provide birds or animals for their Zoo?

Categories: Business