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Frank Buck

September 24, 2009

Have you ever taken the kids to the zoo or chaperoned a field trip there and stopped at a massive monkey exhibit? And they're flinging dung and swinging their young into acrobatic flips or peeling and eating fruit chunks... and you think, "Who's clever idea was it to pluck these fellas from the wild, contain them, and display them for public viewing?"

That would be Frank Buck.

During the 1920s and '30s, Texas native Buck traveled the world trapping wild animals to display in what he referred to as a, "Jungle Camp." In 1934, he brought the camp to the Chicago World's Fair and patrons marveled so, that just one year later, Buck was able to open a 40-acre zoo in Massapequa, NY.

The Frank Buck Zoo's main attraction was "Monkey Mountain." An exhibit fashioned after the Matterhorn, Monkey Mountain stood 70 feet tall and visitors came from miles around to see 500 rhesus monkeys clamor for space and claim territory. A year after opening, 150 of the critters escaped and police had to corral them from the highway.

This incident only increased Frank Buck's renown. By 1937, he appeared in a 15-chapter serial, Jungle Menace, based on his exploits. In 1939, he took his Jungle Camp to an even larger World's Fair--the New York one. He starred in his own "Bring 'Em Back Alive" comic book and was featured on trading card sets. He even appeared in a 1949 Abbot and Costello film, Africa Screams.

Alas, after his death in 1950, the Frank Buck Zoo closed its doors and his Monkey Mountain became little more than a memory.

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