July 10, 1907: A sea lion escapes

Posted on September 22nd, 2009 – 10:26 PM
By Ben Welter

Some older readers – hi, Aunt Shirley! — may have childhood memories of Longfellow Gardens, a zoo adjacent to Minnehaha Falls. It opened in 1907 and attracted thousands of visitors each year before closing in 1934.

At its peak the Minneapolis zoo boasted a variety of animals: hippos, zebras, camels, elephants and, of course, lions and tigers and bears. Most were kept in small pens, pits or cages, but deer, elk, flamingos and sea lions were allowed to roam the grounds, at least in the early years.

In 1907, one sea lion decided he’d had enough of the place and found a way out. The Tribune took a fanciful approach to Paupukeewis’ escape, with reports suggesting that the animal “flip-flopped” over Minnehaha Falls and made his way down the Mississippi River, stopping briefly at a houseboat in “Lillydale” on his way south in search of “sunny climes.”

In this initial report, the Tribune informed readers that the escapee “wore a plain suit of shiny black” and answered readily to the name of Paupukeewis. The clever mammal proved elusive. Despite numerous sightings in the days that followed, Paupukeewis was never recaptured.

Roaring Sea Lion
Is Rolling Along
to Sunny Climes

Paupukeewis, the sea lion which R.F. Jones thought was tame enough to stand without being hitched, has neglected to wire its master since it left its beautiful suburban home in Longfellow Gardens and went splashing down the Mississippi. Thinking it might have decided to spend a few days at that delightful down-the-river bathing place, Harriet Island, Mr. Jones has forwarded its description that it may be apprehended, but thus far no one seems to have seen the animal there.

Mr. Jones is afraid Paupukeewis is intending to make his way to the gulf and then wait around until the completion of the Panama canal, when it will cross to the Pacific to visit relatives at its former home, Santa Barbara, Cal.

The sea lion is said to have made a friendly overture to one John Knutson, a sorter on the St. Paul boom, to the extent of biting a piece out of his trousers and to have paddled away with the sample. Another report of the missing animal described him loitering lazily at the mouth of the Minnesota river, but plain-clothes men sent out from Longfellow Gardens failed to locate Paupukeewis.

Mr. Jones is afraid the animal will be the target of some sportsman who will mistake him for a great river monster, and to hasten the return of the pet he has offered rewards.

When it left home the sea lion wore a plain suit of shiny black, and it answers readily to the name of Paupukeewis.

Wearing his trademark top hat, zoo founder and owner Robert (Fish) Jones fed some of the sea lions that still roamed the grounds in about 1910. Click here for more photos of the zoo. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)

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