A Great Source for Zoo & Zoological Society History

Zoological Society Publications, 1950 and on

By Paula Brookmire

Are you a zoo-history buff? Do you need to do a research paper for a school class? Are you curious about some of the most popular animals at the Milwaukee County Zoo over the years? Maybe you want to learn about how our Zoo and Zoological Society support conservation.

Why not travel back in time, then? We’re putting the archives of the Zoological Society online. For nearly six decades (since 1951), the Zoological Society of Milwaukee (ZSM) has produced regular publications giving members inside information about the Milwaukee County Zoo. Now you can pick a year and go back to read all about it. We think everyone from schoolchildren to historians will find these early stories fascinating. Meanwhile, to learn about the publications themselves, here’s a synopsis over the years:

Publication History

In July 1951, the third issue of Milwaukee Zoo News shows kids petting a Zoo rabbit.


The story starts in the middle of the 20th century. The Zoo was called the Washington Park Zoo, and it was 59 years old then. The Zoological Society, the major supporter of the Zoo, published the first issue of Milwaukee Zoo News in May 1951. The cover featured a photo of two infant gorillas—Samson and Sambo. That newsletter declared that the two gorillas were “one of the most successful exhibits ever placed at the Zoo.” It was right on target. Samson and ZSM publications were both “infants” in 1951, but they have been going strong ever since. Samson lived at the Zoo for 31 years and died in 1981. Yet he is remembered with an annual run/walk called Samson Stomp & Romp, which celebrated its 32nd anniversary in 2012. Milwaukee Zoo News covered the 11 years (1951-1962) during which the new Zoo on Blue Mound Rd. was being planned and built. While the Milwaukee County Zoo officially opened in May 1961, building continued for several years.

Animal Talk

The April 1975 issue featured Samson the gorilla.

1960s, 1970s:

In fact, the first issue (February 1963) of Animal Talk, the newsletter that replaced Milwaukee Zoo News, discussed five major buildings under construction. Animal Talk was a chatty, fun-to-read little newsletter started and written by Walter Kroening. He became the first executive director of the Zoological Society in 1978 (an unpaid position) and oversaw capital improvements the Society made at the Zoo. Kroening’s humor, passion for animals and attention to detail show through in Animal Talk, which he wrote from 1963 through September 1980, when he had a stroke. He is the longest-term ZSM editor, at 17 ½ years. Paula Brookmire, ZSM publications coordinator since 1996, is the next longest-term editor, completing 16 years in April 2012. 


Alive Fall 1989

A jaguar graced the fall 1989 cover of Alive.

The successor to Animal Talk was Alive magazine. Created in 1981, Alive celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2011. The new magazine had a more sophisticated look than the previous newsletter. The main stories traditionally have highlighted the Zoological Society’s three-part mission: conservation, education and support of the Zoo. Originally, some stories were written by Zoo curators, veterinarians or zookeepers. In its first incarnation, Alive was a 20-page, vertical-format (5 ½ by 11 inches), matte-print magazine. Starting with the January 1987 issue, the magazine expanded to a glossy-page, 8 ½-by-11-inch format with color front and back covers. This version of Alive initially had news items, a calendar of events, a children’s section and feature stories. A children’s section, now called Kids Alive, continues to the present (2010). The Alive calendar eventually was dropped in favor of a more frequent calendar of events in Wild Things newsletter (started 1995). In 1998, Alive magazine went to full color on its inside pages rather than just its front and back covers. Since 1998, also, striking animal photos by Richard Brodzeller have graced the cover.

Alive & ZSM Staff:

Alive Summer 1991

Jay Jocham did the cover illustration for the summer 1991 Alive.

Carol Moore Waite, who became Zoological Society executive director Feb. 1, 1981, was Alive magazine’s first editor. From March 1983 through October 1986, the Alive editor was Lillian Ramaker (who later became Lillian Boese when she married Dr. Gil Boese, now president emeritus of the Zoological Society and Zoo director emeritus); Ramaker also became executive director of the ZSM. In 1987, Kerry Bublitz was editor, and Laura Pedriani was assistant editor. In 1988 Pedriani moved from the ZSM staff to become a Milwaukee County Zoo employee, and in 1990 she became director of the Zoo’s Public Affairs & Services Department (which she still heads as of 2012). Bublitz remained Alive editor through October 1988. In January 1989 Susan Slater was listed as editor, Bev Greenberg was head of Development for the ZSM, Robin Higgins was head of Zoo Pride, and Mary Thiry was head of education; most of the photography was done by Zoo photographer Mike Nepper. Susan Slater continued as editor through April 1990. The July and October 1990 Alive magazine issues were edited by the public relations firm Cramer-Krasselt, specifically by Patty Harrigan. Then the Zoological Society hired her as director of marketing, and she became the official editor of Alive from fall 1990 through April 2001. As of January 1991, also, Richard Brodzeller was listed as Alive’s official photographer, although always on a free-lance basis; he continues to be the official photographer as of 2012. For a few years in the mid-1990s Alive covers featured illustrations of Zoo animals by Alive designer Jay D. Jocham. In 2001 Patty Harrigan Mills gave up the Alive editorship and focused exclusively on recruiting sponsors for the ZSM Marketing Department. Paula Brookmire, who had been an Alive contributing editor since 1996, took over as editor starting with the July 2001 issue and has continued through to the present.


Platy Press, September 2008
  • Footnotes: In winter 1991, the ZSM created a children’s newsletter called Footnotes, which ran for 15 years, through January 2006.
  • Platy Press: In spring 1991, a newsletter (now called Platy Press) was started for the ZSM’s premier giving group, the Platypus Circle. Brookmire edited both Footnotes and Platy Press from 1996 on.
  • Wild Things: As the Zoological Society grew and added more events and fund-raisers, more communication was needed. Alive was published quarterly, but the deadlines often were too far in advance to promote many events. Robin Higgins, head of the ZSM Membership Department in the 1990s, decided to add an event newsletter published more frequently. She financed the newsletter, named Wild Things, with funds previously used to print and mail out individual event invitations and notices to Zoological Society members. She could put the event information (and often the invitations) into the newsletter.

    The first issue, edited by Paula Treacy, was for December 1995 through January 1996. Paula Brookmire took over in January 1996 when she came to work at the ZSM. Brookmire, who had worked for more than two decades as a writer and editor on The Milwaukee Journal (now the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), developed Wild Things into an expansive event newsletter published six times a year that also promoted volunteering at the Zoo and animal sponsorships.

    April/May 2010 Wild ThingsIn May 2006 Julia Kolker, who had been writing for Wild Things for a few years, became editor. In 2009 Robin Higgins – as head of the Communications, Marketing & Membership Department – faced budget concerns in a tenuous economy. To save money in publications, she trimmed pages from Alive magazine while adding more stories to the ZSM’s Web site. And she found a way to upgrade Wild Things to a full-color newsletter and yet save thousands of dollars. Starting with the February 2010 issue, Wild Things transformed to a slim magazine style harking back to the 5 1/2 -by- 11-inch format in the first Alive magazines. Zak Mazur became editor in July 2011. In June 2012, Wild Things celebrated its 100th issue.

Before 1950:

The Milwaukee County Zoo library has few Zoological Society publications from before 1950. There are some early annual reports. There are a few issues of the Bulletin of the Washington Park Zoological Society, 1930 through 1934. Volume No. 1 starts in 1930, and it may have gone longer than 1934, but we have no copies after 1934.

Send us early publications and photos, films or videos

If you come across any publications from the Zoo or Zoological Society between 1910 and 1950 or photos of the Zoo up through 1989, we would love to see them. We’re even interested in old films or videos. You can send hard-copy publications directly to:

Zoological Society of Milwaukee
10005 W. Blue Mound Rd.
Milwaukee, Wis. 53226.

Photos-Films from 1910 through 1989:

If you have old photos of the Milwaukee County Zoo or of a Zoological Society program such as a member picnic or a summer camp, check our Web site for how to submit them.

To see specific publications from the past, click here for our publications archive. Or visit the Milwaukee County Zoo library by calling (414) 771-3040, ext. 226, for an appointment.