Oklahoma City Zoo: 1902-1959
“It started with a deer….”
These opening words tell how the Oklahoma City Zoo started, but also mark the beginning of Amy Dee Stephens’ book writing career. While searching for when the zoo started with that first deer, primary source newspapers revealed a wealth of forgotten history. I realized that I was one of the few people in the world who had a century’s worth of zoo history rattling around in my head. It was a shame to keep such great animal stories to myself.
Arcadia Publishing printed the book in May 2006. Since then, Oklahoma City Zoo; 1902-1959 has been nominated for the Outstanding Book Award by the Oklahoma Museum Association and the Oklahoma Book Award by the Oklahoma Center for the Book. It has sold over 2,300 copies.
Oklahoma City Zoo: 1960-2013
Journey through the second half-century to meet the staff and animals, and explore the exhibits that propelled the zoo from a third-class animal facility to one of the best zoos in the United States. I knew I needed to write Part 2 and share the rest of the zoo’s history. A request from Arcadia Publishing was the motivation I needed to put in the 250 hours of writing and research. A treasure trove of photographs emerged from four boxes in a basement at just the right time–making the book visually rich. Since the zoo is a culturally-important institution, my goal in writing Oklahoma City Zoo: 1960-2013 was to share zoo memories held by the community at-large.
(Both books available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Best of Books, Full Circle Bookstore or Arcadia Publishing).
Oklahoma City Zoo: Now and Then
In 2004, several zoo employees collaborated to publish a centennial book Oklahoma City Zoo Now and Then. The first half of the book includes full-color pictures of the current zoo and its exhibits. I wrote the second half, which features historical photos and stories about how the zoo began in 1902 with the donation of a deer. Oklahoma City Zoo Now and Then was well received. The Oklahoma Museum Association selected it as the 2004 Outstanding Publication.
So many people comment on their favorite animals from the book, especially Judy the elephant and Mathilda the hippo. I wanted to share their entire history, not just a few paragraphs. That’s when I felt compelled to pursue publication in full-book form—Oklahoma City Zoo; 1902-1959.
I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people who have read the book and wanted to share their memories of coming to the zoo. It is a privilege to know that people have seen value in a piece of history that could be viewed as obscure. Memories of visiting the zoo are a timeless and commonly-shared experience.
(Available at the Oklahoma City Zoo Gift Shop)