Decorating the Elephant House

ca. 1932

The National Zoological Park was founded in 1889 and became part of the Smithsonian Institution in 1890. As its collections expanded in the 1930s, it began a new building program which used the services of artists working under the Federal Government’s Public Works of Art Project, established during the Great Depression to provide jobs to unemployed artists. These drawings and other artwork created for the National Zoo were part of this program. These are 3 of 12 animals that appeared in bas-relief aluminum panels around the interior walls of the Elephant House. These and other prehistoric creatures were portrayed to evoke the ancestors of the animals who would reside in the “Pachyderm Building.” All three of the animals in this drawing were enormous rhinoceros-like mammals that lived millions of years ago and whose weight ranged from 8,000 pounds (4 tons) to 36,000 pounds (18 tons).

National Archives, Records of the Public Buildings Service


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