White Elephants and Ingenuity

The elephants were now at the Zoo, but Dr. Harry had taken out a loan to purchase them, and he needed funding to pay it back. He went to prominent local businessman John Spreckels (above, center), hoping to convince him to donate. Spreckels said no, adding the quip that, “I will, providing you can get whiter elephants than some I already have,” referring to his recent unfortunate business deals. But Dr. Harry hadn’t given up. He invited Spreckels to the Zoo and presented him with just that—white elephants! The keepers had covered Empress and Queenie in white powder. Spreckels gaped, but then laughed heartily, appreciating the joke. And it worked—he agreed not only to pay for the elephants but also for an exhibit for them.


Beginnings 1916 - 1926
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