Bank holiday at the zoo, London, 1871.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Plate taken from the 'Illustrated London News'. Collecting unusual animals had been a past-time for several centuries, the first menagerie being acquired by Henry I. By the 19th century, zoos had taken on a public character after the opening of Regent's Park Zoo in 1828 and began to be credited with 'scientific' purpose, as well as demonstrating the extend of the British empire. Here, though, the purpose seems to be purely entertainment: a large crowd is gathered and school-children lean over the rails in excitement as a lion reaches out from its cage to claw a proffered piece of meat.