Billy Bryan Starts a Zoo!

It all began in 1896 when an orphaned American black bear cub named Billy Bryan – short for William Jennings Bryan after the contemporary American politician – was given to Thomas S. McMurry (mayor of Denver from 1895–1899) as a gift. McMurry gave the hard-to-manage cub to the keeper of City Park, Alexander J. Graham, who started a zoo with this animal.

With the construction of an exhibit called “Bear Mountain” in 1918, it became the first zoo in the United States to use naturalistic zoo enclosures rather than cages with bars.

Today, the Denver Zoo attracts over 2 million visitors each year, is home to more than 4,000 animals from all over the world, and covers more than 80 acres.

And to think it all started with a little bear cub named Billy Bryan!

About the Author

Sheryl Jones was born and raised in the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas. She wrote her first story at the age of eight and has never stopped. She taught writing for twenty-three years and has written numerous children’s books and short stories for young readers, including four children’s books for Sea Turtle Incorporated, a sea turtle rescue organization.