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New York Zoological Park. Office of General Curator and General Curator Emeritus. Lee S. Crandall records and papers

Identifier: 1019

Scope and Contents

The Lee S. Crandall collection joins two sets of materials, a comparatively small set—mainly composed of correspondence—dating from Crandall's positions as Curator of Birds and General Curator at the Bronx Zoo, and a much larger set with materials dating from nearly the entire span of Crandall's long life.

The first series, with records from Lee Crandall's positions as Curator of Birds and General Curator at the Bronx Zoo, contains three subseries. The first consists of Crandall's own curatorial correspondence, the second of correspondence files created by other Bronx Zoo curatorial staff that presumably ended up in Crandall's files due to his position as General Curator, and the third is a volume of letters and other salutations gathered for Crandall and presented at his 1952 retirement. Within the correspondence, major topics include Society-sponsored collecting trips in Ecuador, Costa Rica, and the Congo by Charles Cordier; Crandall's own expedition to Papua New Guinea; special Bronx Zoo exhibits such as falconry shows and an exhibit of African art; and animal subjects, notably the 1941 importation of a pair of giant panda cubs that had been gifted to the New York Zoological Society by the Chinese government. Other than Crandall, the main staff members represented in the records are Mammal Curator Claude W. Leister and renowned aviculturist Jean Delacour, employed by the Society at the time in the capacity of Technical Advisor.

The second series, comprising the bulk of the collection, is divided into the following thirteen subseries: Correspondence, New York Zoological Society [NYZS] administrative records, Personal correspondence and papers, Posthumous correspondence and papers, Trips and conferences, Writings and publications, Mammal notes and correspondence, Bird notes and correspondence, Pigeons and poultry, Notebooks and scrapbooks, Photographs and paintings, Artifacts, and Cardfiles. These materials date from much of the span of Crandall's life, from his childhood in upstate New York through his year at Cornell Medical College, and from the entirety of his career at the Bronx Zoo. Taken as a whole, the series documents Crandall's work as a zoo professional and authority on birds and mammals as evidenced through his correspondence and writings, his friendly relationships with colleagues and ongoing interest in professional organizations, his expeditions to Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica, his student work at Cornell, and his personal interests in topics such as gardening, poultry breeding, and pigeon racing. The series holds manuscript and typescript drafts of much of Crandall's significant written output, including materials relating to The Management of Wild Mammals in Captivity, Paradise Quest, and A Zoo Man's Notebook.


  • 1898 - 1970
  • Majority of material found within 1910 - 1969


Access Restrictions

Please consult the WCS Archives regarding possible access restrictions.

Use Restrictions

Please contact the WCS Archives regarding possible usage restrictions.

Biographical Note

Lee Saunders Crandall (1887-1969) displayed an interest in caring for animals—and especially birds—from his childhood days in upstate New York. At his parents' farm in Utica, the young Crandall adopted a menagerie of local wildlife and raised prize-winning poultry under the banner of 'Ladnarc Farm.' In a brief attempt at following in his father's footsteps, Crandall attended Cornell Medical School for a year before changing course and seeking an apprenticeship at the New York Zoological Society's Bronx Zoo.

Crandall thus began his association with the Bronx Zoo in June 1908 as a student keeper in the animal departments. That fall William Beebe, the Zoo's Curator of Birds, hired Crandall on full-time, and promptly brought him along to assist on a collecting trip to British Guiana. As Beebe started devoting more of his time to field research, Crandall's responsibilities at the Zoo increased, and he was promoted to Associate Curator of Birds in 1911 and to Curator of Birds in 1919. Crandall himself went on to lead notable collecting expeditions for the Society, including a 1914 trip to Costa Rica and his famed 1928-1929 journey to Papua New Guinea. This expedition, immortalized in Crandall's 1931 book Paradise Quest, brought dozens of birds of paradise and numerous other specimens to the Bronx Zoo's ornithological collections, and started a life-long friendship between Crandall and his fellow explorer, Australian naturalist John E. “Pop” Ward.

Between 1943 and 1952, Lee Crandall served as General Curator in charge of mammals and birds. In 1952 Crandall was appointed General Curator Emeritus. Despite having retired, Crandall continued to come in to the Zoo daily to answer questions from and provide advice to both NYZS staff and zoologists from farther afield. At the same time, Crandall embarked on what would become his masterpiece, collecting over five decades of first-hand observations of animals at the Bronx Zoo and supplementing these with notes and references from his colleagues in the profession. This first fruit of this work, The Management of Wild Mammals in Captivity (1964; with subsequent editions in 1965 and beyond), was to have been accompanied by a companion volume on Crandall's own specialty, birds. Unfortunately, however, Crandall's final illness interrupted that endeavor.

Nevertheless, Crandall shared the depth and breadth of his knowledge with his colleagues through memberships in several professional organizations. He was a long-time member of the American Ornithologists' Union and the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums, served on the Board of the American Committee for Wild Life Protection, and was honored as a Fellow or honorary member of the International Union of Directors of Zoological Gardens, the New York Academy of Sciences, the Aviculture Society, and others. Additionally, Crandall authored over 250 articles and several monographs, among them not only Paradise Quest and The Management of Wild Mammals in Captivity, but also Pets and How to Care for Them (1911, with subsequent editions in 1921 and beyond), Pets: Their History and Care (1917), and A Zoo Man's Notebook (1966, with William Bridges, NYZS's Curator of Publications).

An in-depth biography of Crandall can be found in the memorial piece on him, written by long-time NYZS General Director William Conway, in The Auk.


10.6 Linear Feet (25 Hollinger boxes and 3 half-Hollinger boxes)

3.72 Cubic Feet (12 flat boxes and 1 cardfile cabinet)

6 Items (1 oversize folder and 5 items )

Language of Materials



Lee Saunders Crandall (1887-1969) began his sixty-one year association at the New York Zoological Society's Bronx Zoo in June 1908 as a student keeper in the animal departments, and was thereafter steadily promoted through the ranks, eventually becoming the Zoo's General Curator in charge of mammals and birds in 1943. Following his 1952 retirement, Crandall continued coming in to work for another 17 years, as the Zoo's General Curator Emeritus. Crandall was lauded for his collecting trips to Costa Rica and Papua New Guinea, his deep knowledge of zoo husbandry, and for his ability to translate those experiences into written works for both professional and popular audiences. Lee Crandall's records and papers include materials documenting his time at the Bronx Zoo; his family, friends, and personal interests; and his professional service. The collection contains Crandall's correspondence, correspondence of other curatorial staff, administrative records, personal papers, notebooks and scrapbooks, visual materials, artifacts, and drafts of much of Crandall's significant written output, including materials relating to The Management of Wild Mammals in Captivity, Paradise Quest, and A Zoo Man's Notebook.


This collection is arranged in two series with the following subseries:

Series 1
General Curator records, 1915-1952 (bulk 1926-1952)
Subseries 1A
Lee S. Crandall correspondence, 1915-1951 (bulk 1928-1949)
Subseries 1B
Other curatorial staff correspondence, 1926-1927, 1938-1943 (bulk 1940-1942)
Subseries 1C
Retirement salutations volume, 1952
Series 2
General Curator Emeritus records and papers, circa late 19th century-1970 (bulk 1910-1969)
Subseries 2A
Correspondence, 1910-1969 (bulk 1950-1968)
Subseries 2B
New York Zoological Society administrative records, circa 1910-1968 (bulk 1940-1965)
Subseries 2C
Personal correspondence and papers, 1898-1966
Subseries 2D
Posthumous correspondence and papers, circa 1950-1970 (bulk 1969-1970)
Subseries 2E
Trips and conferences, 1912-1968 (bulk 1938-1968)
Subseries 2F
Writings and publications, circa 1910-1968 (bulk 1960-1968)
Subseries 2G
Mammal notes and correspondence, 1898-1968
Subseries 2H
Bird notes and correspondence, 1898-1966 (bulk 1950-1960)
Subseries 2I
Pigeons and poultry, circa 1913-1952
Subseries 2J
Notebooks and scrapbooks, 1900-1968
Subseries 2K
Photographs and paintings, circa late 19th century-1969 (bulk circa 1920-1965)
Subseries 2L
Artifacts, circa 1900-1969
Subseries 2M
Cardfiles, circa 1900s-1960s

Accession Information

Internal transfers (Acc. 1979.019, 1979.029, 1979.033, 1979.035, 1979.036, 1980.161, 1980.216, 1983.010, 1999.012, 2006.001, 2014.138)

Donated to the WCS Archives by William Bridges (Acc. 1980.207)

Related Materials

Collection 2006. NYZS Publications Department Curator William Bridges records, 1933-1977

Collection 2024. NYZS General Director John Tee-Van records, 1939-1964

Collection 2069. NYZS Departments of Birds and Mammals Assistant Curator Grace Davall records, 1938-1973

Processing Information

Collection processed and finding aid created by Leilani Dawson, WCS Archives. November 2016-February 2017.

Guide to the Records and Papers of the New York Zoological Park General Curator and General Curator Emeritus Lee S. Crandall, 1898-1969
Leilani Dawson
February 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Language of description note
Collection processing and finding aid creation for this collection was made possible through the National Historical Publications and Records Commission Access to Historical Records grant program.

Repository Details

Part of the Wildlife Conservation Society Archives Repository

WCS Library/Archives
2300 Southern Blvd
Bronx New York 10460 United States