A Gift of Giraffes

Walter P. Chrysler and Dr. Mann with the Bachelor Lions on the deck of the S. S. Leviathan.
Walter Chrysler, what an animal! (Source: LOC)

Lions and tigers and a capitalist, oh my! Walter P. Chrysler, smiling, stands on board the S. S. Leviathan with Dr. William Mann, director of the National Zoo. Dr. Mann is about to depart for British East Africa where he will lead a Smithsonian expedition funded by Chrysler to trap animals and bring them back alive. It was the first U. S. expedition to make live capture a priority. A lack of giraffes inspired the trip.

Dr. Mann told the New York Times, “Our keepers at the National Zoo are asked by children continually: ‘Where are the giraffes?’ . . . Then Mr. Chrysler heard of our difficulty, and offered to the Smithsonian Institution to finance an expedition to collect giraffes and whatever else we need.”

The Chrysler-Smithsonian Expedition left New York March 20, 1926, destined for Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanganyika (present day Tanzania). From there, the party traveled by railroad to Tabora and made base camp. All during the expedition, Dr. Mann wrote of his adventures which were re-read over the air from WRC Radio, Washington, D. C. The trip lasted eight months.

Dr. Mann returned October 24, 1926, at Boston with two loaded cargo ships. Mann brought the giraffes the kids wanted plus: white-bearded gnu, impala, reed buck, long-eared fox, a male great kudu, a female eland, wart hogs, leopards, hyenas, ratel, seventy monkeys (including five blue monkeys and five purple-faced monkeys), five kinds of mongoose, jackals, lovebirds, six crowned cranes, black spitting cobras, Egyptian cobras, boomslangs, soft-shelled tortoises, and fifty chameleons, which according to Smithsonian Acting Secretary Dr. C. G. Abbot, made a most attractive display.

The total haul counted 1,200 animals, the largest addition of animals in the history of the National Zoo. The Chrysler-Smithsonian expedition increased the number of animals by 50 percent. So, the next time some idiot at a car show tries to give you grief about those Federal loan guarantees to Chrysler Corporation in 1980, tell ’em to go feed the giraffes.