Selig Zoo and Movie Studio

Selig, William (1864-1948), U.S. motion picture pioneer, born in Chicago, Ill.; actor, theatrical manager 1888-99; improved early motion picture camera; produced first long historical motion picture (Coming of Columbus'). Selig Polyscope Co.

Click me for a better shot. 1920's
In 1913, he purchased 32 acres of land next to Eastlake Park (now known as Lincoln Park) at a reported cost of $1 million. The property was turned into a zoo for the animals that he used in his films. By 1915, 700 animal species were residing at the Selig Zoo. In 1916, he sold the Edendale property to William Fox and moved his studio onto the zoo property. Even though his studio folded in 1917, he maintained the zoo at least to the mid 1930's.
Corner of Mission Rd. / Selig Place. Pic taken by Javier.
Now a doughnut shop and Laundromat replaces the Zoo entrance.
Aerial View of the Movie Studio and Zoo. Note the Lincoln Park carousel bottom center. (

Selig Polyscope Co. Spends One Million Dollars In Southern California.

American film pioneer William N. Selig was the first producer to build a studio in Hollywood, California. A former magician and owner of a successful minstrel show, Selig became interested in film after seeing the Edison Kinetoscope demonstrated in Dallas in 1895. The following year, Selig decided to enter the industry himself by creating a projection device. When he couldn't, he simply had technicians copy the Lumière Cinématographe. He added a couple of changes and called it the Selig Standard Camera. He also devised the Selig Polyscope projector.

Postcard of inside the zoo.
This postcard above is the Eastlake Park Zoo in Lincoln Park.
This zoo was actually on the Lincoln Park grounds.
This looks like the park maintenance yard.

Later in 1896, he rented a downtown Chicago Loft, set up the Selig Polyscope Company and became a filmmaker. Though, the Motion Picture Patents Company tried to shut him down, Selig and his films prevailed.

Selig's creations back in Chicago.
Typical Movie Poster1Typical Movie Poster2

They became especially popular in 1909 when the enterprising Selig recreated a successful lion hunt by President Theodore Roosevelt who was on African safari at the time. Interestingly, Selig made the film before Roosevelt had actually killed a lion. As soon as Selig received word that the President had slain one, he released his film Hunting Big Game in Africa and had a major hit. Thereafter billing himself as Colonel Selig, the producer bought an entire African menagerie and began making exotic jungle movies, complete with authentic location footage.

Jeff Look sent me these pictures above.
He was related to Mr. Selig.
Thanks Jeff!

New 8/10/03

More photos sent to me by Jeff Look.
Jeff came to Los Angeles to see the Selig statues being restored. These creations will be installed at the new Los Angeles Zoo entrance.
Thanks again and again Jeff!

Too bad Lincoln Park can't have a couple of these statues
overlooking the lake!

Deb and Jeff Look with statues.
Maned Lion at Griswolds studio.
Trunkless Elephants.
The Selig Polyscope.
Selig and Company with elephant. The man with the cigar is Mr. Selig.

To make The Count of Monte Cristo (1909), Selig went to the Southern California coast and set up a studio in an area called Edendale that has since become part of Hollywood. Selig was one of the first producers to make feature length films and also created the first American serial film, The Adventures of Kathlyn. He also had an animated series of "Seligettes." It was through Selig's company that cowboy superstar Tom Mix got his start. Unfortunately, stiff competition forced to Selig to close down his production company in 1918. Four years later, he retired.

This 1962 picture below shows signs of decay and neglect. (

More Zoo Pictures

Another Zoo entrance picture.Postcard of the Zoo entrance.

A visitor sent this picture taken at the Selig Zoo.     5/23/00


Selig Odds and Ends:
First movie made in Los Angeles.
The first Tarzan movie was filmed at the zoo.
It was the only zoo south of San Francisco.
In time, it became the largest collection of wild animals in the world.
In the 1930's, financial problems and a flood spelled the end of the zoo.

Nov. 19, 1923 LA Times.

Nov. 20, 1923 LA Times.

Nov. 21, 1923 LA Times.

Apr. 23, 1922 LA Times.

Sometime in the late fifties or early sixties I discovered and took a few photographs of the remaining fragments of the entry gates. What fascinated me about the animal sculptures, especially the lions, is that they all looked liked they'd been starving. I wondered who had done the original casts and what the thinking behind that aspect was.

Malcolm Lubliner 
Malcolm Lubliner Photography

Images are copyrighted.
Use of them other than on
may not be done without prior consent.

Thanks Malcom for the images!

Note the large and small Ferris wheel.

Have any history, stories or pictures about the Zoo?
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