05 April 2021

Princess Alice, the Elephant

Alice in her pen at Liberty Park Zoo, from @utahhistory_collections

Princess Alice (1884-1953) was a wild born Asian elephant that was purchased in 1916 by SLC’s children from the Sells Floto Circus to be part of the zoo in Liberty Park, which was established in 1908.

The idea was born from the SL Telegram which suggested donations could be gathered to purchase an elephant from a circus, one of which had just come through SLC. At the time the most exotic animals at the small zoo in Liberty Park were monkeys.

The first contribution was from 14-year-old Esther Leib who lived in the Avenues. In all, $3,250 was received, the majority were small contributions from SLC children but several large contributions helped immensely, especially the final contribution from P J Moran (builder of the Big Cottonwood Aqueduct).

Princess Alice finished her final show in the Sells Floto Circus on Aug 27 1916 and she walked from the circus grounds at 800 S and Main St to her new home at Liberty Park. Her longtime caretaker from the circus, Emil “Dutch” Shider, joined her in SLC and continued to care for her at the zoo.

Even though her enclosure was rather small in the zoo, Alice got out for exercise quite often- sometimes planned visits to SLC schools and sometimes she escaped and wandered the streets of SLC. In the early days she was also put to work hauling heavy items in Liberty Park, plowing the Park for planting, dragging a road grater, among other tasks.

It was Alice’s frequent escapes that prompted the move of the zoo in 1931 from Liberty Park to its current location on land donated by the Hogle family.  

The construction of the new zoo was welcome news, not only for the better facilities for the animals but the construction jobs it provided during the Great Depression. Promises were made to limit the use of machines to construct the zoo so that more laborers could be employed, and wages would be paid daily to ensure food for families of workers.

Alice remained at Hogle Zoo for the rest of her life. She was euthanized March 30 1953 by placing an opiate in her drinking water. At the time she was thought to be 69 years old.

Her carcass was trucked to the Utah Animal By-Products Co plant in West Ogden in which she was turned into poultry feed and soap products.

The Deseret News published an editorial stating that “surely a princess, even an old, old one, deserves a better final fate than a truck ride to the soap factory.”

Of Note: Princess Alice was pregnant when she arrived in SLC and gave birth to Prince Utah.

Sources: SL Telegram 1916-08-27; SL Telegram 1916-09-25; SL Trib 1931-08-30; Des News 1953-03-31; Ogden Standard Examiner 1953-03-31

Alice performing circus tricks at Liberty Park, SL Trib 1928-07-13

Alice getting a manicure, SL Trib 1929-05-13

One of several attempts to transport Alice from Liberty Park to Hogle Zoo, SL Trib 1931-11-25

Alice and her longtime keeper Dutch Shider, SL Trib 1932-08-17

Alice performing circus tricks at Hogle Zoo 1940, from UDSH. 

Alice’s birthday party 1941 at Hogle Zoo, from UDSH

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