|Date of birth, Place:||01.07.1886, Helena, Montana, USA|
|Date of death, Place:||10.10.1960, Washington, D.C., USA|
William M. Mann was born in Helena, Montana. He was interested in animals already in his early boyhood. He attended Lyon School for Boys, Spokane, Washington, 1900 – 1902, and Staunton Military Academy, Virginia, 1902 – 1905. During a brief furlough from the academy in 1903, Mann worked as an animal cage cleaner at the National Zoological Park (NZP) in Washington, D.C.
After graduating from the academy in 1905, Mann worked as a rancher in Texas and New Mexico where he also started collecting entomological specimens. He continued his education at Washington State College, Pullman, 1907 – 1909, and Stanford University, 1909 – 1911, where he received his Bachelor’s degree. In 1915 he received his Sc. D. degree in Entomology at Harvard University (Bussey Institution), where he studied under William Morton Wheeler, the renowned ant authority.
Between 1911 and 1916, Mann made several entomological collecting trips abroad to Brazil, Haiti, Cuba, Mexico, the Middle East, and to Fiji and the Solomon Islands, and in between a brief study period in Switzerland, in 1914. Mann served as an entomologist for the Bureau of Entomology, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), from 1916 to 1925. During this period, Mann made entomological collecting trips to Spain, Columbia, Central America, Mexico, and Cuba, and as assistant director of the Mulford Expedition to the Amazon River Basin, 1921 – 1922. He returned from this latter trip with more than one hundred live animals, which he gave to NZP. He also did entomological studies in Holland and Italy.
In 1925, Mann, became the fifth NZP Superintendent. The title of the NZP head administrator was changed in 1926 to that of Director, and Mann held that position until his retirement in 1956. Mann’s major achievements during his tenure as head administrator of the NZP included the Park’s building program, 1927 – 1940, and several major collecting expeditions. These expeditions helped to supply to the NZP animal stock during the era of the Great Depression and World War II. The major expeditions were the Smithsonian-Chrysler Fund Expedition to Tanganyika (1926), the National Geographic Society-Smithsonian Institution Expedition to the East Indies (1937), and the Smithsonian-Firestone Expedition to Liberia (1940).
Mann’s tenure also witnessed the construction of new animal houses and support buildings, including several which were built by the Public Works Administration, a New Deal relief program.
In 1926, William Mann married Lucile Quarry, shortly after his return from the animal collecting expedition to Tanganyika, East Africa. As a wife of a zoo director, Lucile traveled with her husband to Europe and on live-animal collecting expeditions. Trained as a journalist, she kept detailed diaries of the trips when she accompanied William. She also acted as a foster parent to many of the orphaned infant NZP-born animals at the Manns’ apartment.After his retirement in 1956, Mann was director emeritus of the NZP, and was made honorary research associate of the Smithsonian Institution.
He is remembered as a creative and progressive zoo director, and received many awards from zoological park organisations. In 1976 the William M. Mann Memorial Lion-Tiger Exhibit in the NZP was named after him in honour of his achievements.
Mann was also an honorary curator of Entomology at the United States National Museum during almost his entire career, and donated his entomological collection to the USNM.
When Mann became director of the National Zoological Park in Washington D.C. he looked at an animal collection which was far from his ideal of a representative collection of live wild animals from all parts of the world. To achieve this ideal collection, it would have been the easiest way to buy animals from commercial animal dealers, of which Frank Buck was one of the famous specimen. Unfortunately, animals often arrived in poor health. Furthermore, reputable dealers did not supply animals that were fragile or had a bad survival rate when kept in captivity. So, it was decided that NZP organised its own collection expedition, and used this as a public relations vehicle for the zoo. As a matter of fact, this raised national awareness, which was important because the zoo depended on Congressional appropiations for its budget. The upcoming expeditions thus not only supplied animals, but also brought a variety of institutional benefits to the zoo.
The Smithsonian-Chrysler Expedition to Tanganyika in 1926 was the most expensive expedition to be undertaken by the Smithsonian since the Smithsonian-Roosevelt expedition, and financed by car manufacturer Walter P. Chrysler. Mann’s expedition was a combination of private hunting safari, government-sponsored scientific expedition, and publicity stunt in its personnel, equipment, and organisation. It was very important to have the aim of the expedition approved as being scientific, because this would avoid the obligation to purchase expensive licenses and limitation to the number of animals that were allowed to be killed. These game laws came into existence under pressure from conservationists and were applied to recreational safaris. Mann decided not to go to the Sudan, South Africa or Kenya, because he considered these “collected over”. The main objective of this expedition was to bring home a giraffe. Unfortunately, the only giraffe that was captured, died before it could be transported home. Therefore, Mann decided to purchase two giraffes from the government of Sudan on his way home. Although, not captured the giraffes themselves, the public still liked the outcome of the expedition, because of the stories sent home, either broadcasted or published. So, these stories were just as valuable a product of the expedition as the animals themselves, of which Mann brought home more than twelve hundred.
The National Geographic Society-Smithsonian Institution East Indies Expedition in 1937 was a relief for Mann, as he could escape the struggling with architects and artists in his duty of zoo director, and return to his real love: collecting animals in the wild. This time they brought native American species, such as cougars, alligators, raccoons and black bears, as good-will gifts. As in Tanganyika, an important product of the expedition was press coverage. The Manns arrived in the East Indies when the region was so well covered by collectors that the Dutch colonial government had taken measures to protect the area’s wildlife. Nevertheless, with the aid of both J.A. Coenraad, a Dutch veterinarian who ran a small zoo, and Liang Gaddi Sang, a native from Borneo, William Mann succeeded capturing nearly eighteen hundred specimens. The journey by boat back to the United States was a tough ride, and only about 50% of the animals survived in the tightly packed ship.
Three years later the Manns, during the Smithsonian-Firestone Expedition to Liberia, realised that collecting animals was not always as easy as on the two former trips. There was absolutely no animal collecting tradition in Liberia, though the ubiquitous Hagenbeck company had been there, and the lack of good infrastructure made it hard to achieve their goals. Harvey S. Firestone Jr. decided in 1923 to start a rubber plantation in Liberia, which was the first major foreign investment in the country. A few animals from the Firestone plantation were donated to NZP in the 1920s. But when Harvey Firestone and William Mann were introduced to each other, after Mann was invited to the plantation by the new manager, George Seybold, this led in 1940 to an animal collecting expedition financed by Firestone. Some of the Liberian animals were exhibited at the New York World’s Fair, the same location where now Queens Zoo can be found. Of course, newspaper publicity was initiated again, and the Firestone company expected to benefit from it. The Manns returned with a cargo of a disappointing one hundred Liberian mammals, birds, and reptiles, apart from the 135 animals sent ahead to the World Fair. This William Mann expedition to Liberia was probably the last large-scale collecting trip of its kind.
- Animal Attractions, nature on display in American zoos by Elizabeth Hanson, 2002;
- Encyclopedia of Entomology, Volume 4, by John L. Capinera;
- Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7293 (partly available online); William M. Mann and Lucile Quarry Mann Papers, circa 1885 – 1981 by Gerald J. Rosenzweig