May 25, 2022

Ray Hahn

Toby, the East African Warthog

When my daughter was a very young student, I can’t remember for sure, but it may have been while she was a third or fourth grader, I took a day’s vacation and helped chaperon a class fieldtrip to the Philadelphia Zoological Gardens. This story could take so many turns, but I promise to divert only this once: as an adult chaperon that day, I was asked to pay my own admission fee to the grounds. A grounds-pass on that day was $3.75. The same ticket today costs $16.95.

Since that was likely forty years ago, I have little to recall of the day, but in a recent telephone conversation, the name Toby was mentioned.

We were reminiscing about television programs we enjoyed, but more specifically ones that are not syndicated. The name Toby came into the conversation when Tobias Zachary “Toby” Ziegler was mentioned. Toby was a fictional character in the television drama The West Wing, played by Richard Schiff. The role earned Schiff an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2000. For most of the series’ duration Toby was White House Communications Director.

For reasons never understood without an advanced degree in human behavior and development, hearing the name Toby reminded me of that day at the zoo, all those years ago. My daughter’s class was assigned to a young intern who surely was a veterinarian science major that was also a tour-guide that day. And it was obvious she was unhappy about it.

After introductions were complete the guide set off into the “wilds” of the garden. The first stop was along an old wooden rail fence that was meant, but would fail miserably if it were tested, to keep people on the safe-side of a moat separating a strange and totally unfamiliar animal who was enjoying a breakfast of what appeared to be sweet-potatoes and a head of lettuce.

We all lined the fence and awaited words of wisdom from the guide. We got nothing! She turned to face the group and asked us, “Do you have any questions?”

A tow-headed kid that I later taught mathematics raised his hand and asked, “What’s his name?”

“Toby,” was the reply.

To this nearly worthless piece of witticism, the boy raised his hand again and asked, “Does he know his name?”

*   *   *

Longtime readers of Postcard History will remember a contributor named Dr. Donald Matter. Don Matter was a dear friend and a very accomplished postcard collector. He had lots of stories about his postcards and some of those stories appear in early issues of Postcard History. One story that may never be told is the one concerning Don Matter’s collection of zoo sponsored (or maybe the word should be, sanctioned) postcards.

In postcard history we know that several zoos have sanctioned sets of postcards and they continue to be very collectable. A few highly recognized organizations include the Royal London Zoo in Regent’s Park, Parc Zoologique de Paris, Prague (Czech Republic) Zoological Gardens, and the New York Zoological Park. There are certainly other organizations affiliated with zoos that should not be overlooked.

The New York set can be identified by the logo seen in the upper-left corner.

The following is a partial list of the animals pictured on the NYZP cards. The African Wapiti, Antelopes, Artic Foxes, Barbary Sheep, Bighorn Sheep, Chimpanzee, East African Wart-hogs, Giraffes, Hippopotamus, Jaguars, Lions and Lionesses, Mule Deer, Polar Bears, Tapirs . . . plus flight cage birds and more.

We apologize for not having complete information on the set, but it may be a safe assumption that the set consists of at least sixteen cards.

*   *   *

Dr. Matter’s cards are now spread across the hobby and are in hundreds (perhaps, more) collections. The only such card available here at Postcard History is the one above. It shows an East African Wart-Hog. I doubt that his name is Toby.

4 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

What a delightful article. During the early 1980s, I worked for the NYZP as Production Editor for the membership magazine, Animal Kingdom. We devoted a lot of effort to ensure that our color pictures and postcards were the best we could produce. These pictures came from field researchers and the zoo’s own full-time photographer.
This article tempts me to consider collecting these cards.

Nice stroll through memory lane. I’ve picked up some zoo postcards on our family’s visits over the years. Some of my fondest memories of my children and my wife were during our many zoo visits. I enjoyed watching their reactions to the animals more than seeing the animals. That reminds me that my wife and I are overdue for a visit to the Portland, Oregon zoo with our grandsons. I would love to see their reactions to an animal like the wart-hog this fall. (If the COVID-19 cases don’t spike again)

Last edited 1 month ago by Dennis McBurney

I visited the Cleveland Zoo many times during my younger days, but don’t recall if I have any postcards it issued. I do have several cards from other zoological gardens.

Another delightful encounter with a human. Good writing does that. Of course the subject matter is interesting, but it’s the personal touch that made this article gold.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
4
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x