Statistics Saturday: The Questions Wikipedia’s Detroit Zoo History Raises


Drawn from Wikipedia’s Detroit Zoo page, in the history section, because I wanted to know whether the Detroit Zoo had ever actually been in Detroit rather than in the suburbs of Royal Oak and Huntingdon Woods:

The first Detroit Zoo opened in 1883 on Michigan and Trumbull Avenues, across from the then site of Tiger Stadium.

Wait, they called any ballpark before Yankee Stadium a Stadium? (No: Tigers Stadium was named Navin Field when it opened, in 1911, and before that the Tigers played in Bennett Park.) Wait, Bennett Park goes back to 1883? (No: to 1896). Wait, the Tigers go back to 1883? (No: to 1894.) Wait, did baseball even have the Western League, which is what the American League started as, in 1883? (No, but that’s kind of complicated.)

Sentences Completed: 1
Total Questions Raised: 4

A circus had arrived in town, only to go broke financially.

As opposed to going broke morally?

Sentences Completed: 2
Total Questions Raised: 5

Luther Beecher, a leading Detroit citizen and capitalist, financed the purchase of the circus animals and erected a building for their display called the Detroit Zoological Garden.

By calling him a leading Detroit citizen and capitalist I imagine he just strode around town wearing evening dress and holding sacks full of money while explaining to the working class that he was uplifting them morally by not paying them more money; that can’t be right, can it? (There’s no article about Luther Beecher, so I am going to suppose that anything you say about him can be true, like, “he was raised as an abolitionist, but later in life painted Christmas oranges blue in order to satisfy his belief that they should rhyme”.)

Sentences Completed: 3
Total Questions Raised: 6

The zoo closed the following year and the building converted into a horse auction.[5]

So what the heck does this thing have to do with the actual Detroit Zoo? Also what happened to the animals? Do I want to know? (I’m betting ‘no’.)

Sentences Completed: 4
Total Questions Raised: 9

The Detroit Zoological Society was founded in 1911, but the zoo’s official opening did not occur until August 1, 1928.

Were … they just puttering around town asking people to put up their giraffes for seventeen years then? And people did?

Sentences Completed: 5
Total Questions Raised: 11

At the opening ceremony, acting Mayor John C. Nagel was to speak to the gathered crowd.

I honestly don’t have any questions about this. I’m a little curious why they had an acting Mayor instead of the regular kind, but I know that cities just go through stretches where they have acting Mayors instead sometimes and that’s a normal function of city mayoralties.

Sentences Completed: 6
Total Questions Raised: 11

Arriving late, Nagel parked his car behind the bear dens and as he came rushing around the front, Morris, a polar bear, leaped from his moat and stood directly in front of Nagel.

Why did the zoo put the mayor’s parking spot within leaping range of the polar bears? Also why didn’t they make a moat that was bigger than what a polar bear could leap across?

Sentences Completed: 7
Total Questions Raised: 13

Unaware how precarious his situation was, Nagel stuck out his hand and walked toward the polar bear joking, “He’s the reception committee.”

Did grown-ups not know back then that between the options of rushing towards a polar bear and rushing away from the polar bear, the better option is nearly invariably rushing away from the polar bear? Is this maybe why they didn’t have a regular mayor and were making do on an acting basis? Was the regular mayor before Nagel perhaps lost when he accidentally slathered himself in bacon grease and rolled around in shredded cheese and sour cream until he was a mayor-flavored shell-less burrito and climbed into the mouth of a surprised yet compliant tiger?

Sentences Completed: 8
Total Questions Raised: 16

The keepers rushed the bear and forced him back into the moat, leaving the mayor uninjured.[6]

Wait, the polar bear was named Morris?

Sentences Completed: 9
Total Questions Raised: 17 (though that should’ve been counted against two sentences back).


At this point I cease reading because if I learn anything more about the history of the Detroit Zoo I will have completely obliterated my ability to know anything about the history of the Detroit Zoo.

Oh yeah, as for my original question, about whether the Detroit Zoo had ever been in the actual City of Detroit, as opposed to the suburbs of Royal Oak and Huntington Woods? I have no idea.

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Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there.

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