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Giraffes on the Green

Glasgow Green Poster. Mid 19th Century.
University of Glasgow Special Collections Eph Eph E/38

Giraffes Alive!
Poster advertising the first giraffes on show in Scotland on Glasgow Green.
The famed Bostock & Wombwell travelling Menageries, begun by George Wombwell in London in 1805, became the largest in Britain and toured the British Isles and the Continent, followed by America from coast to coast, South Africa, Australia & New Zealand and latterly India and the Far East. By the late 1880s the enterprising zoologist, circus magnate and showman Edward Henry Bostock became head of the family businesses.

The Bostock and Wombwell family operation went on open The Scottish Zoo.

Sir Roger the Elephant that currently resides (stuffed) in Kelvingrove Museum travelled with the menagerie during the late 1880’s, before joining a newly opened zoo. It is reported that he lived happily at the zoo until he was put down humanely in December 1900. By then, Sir Roger was around 27 years old.

This poster is from John Smith’s Ephemera, this collection differs from other collections in the library in that it consists almost entirely of items sent to him in the course of his career as bookseller, town councillor, estate owner and citizen. It came to the library when he died in 1849. The collection gives us a broad picture of Glasgow life in the first half of the nineteenth century, and not simply middle class life. The poor, the physically and mentally sick and the criminal classes all crossed the path of the Bailie or the bookseller.

 

Courtesy of University of Glasgow Special Collections

University of Glasgow Special Collections

The University of Glasgow Special Collections span over 2,000 years of human activity. The University has been accumulating items of historical importance since its foundation in 1451. Early donations to the library that still survive include books donated by the Scottish humanist poet George Buchanan in 1578. Since then acquisitions have included the bequest of William Hunter’s library, artist James McNeill Whistler’s letters from the early 20th century and more recently the Scottish Theatre Archive. Access to the collection, housed on the 12th floor of the University’s Library, is free, allowing you to delve into a unique archive.

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