Andrew Downs fonds

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Andrew Downs fonds

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  • 1810-1895 (Creation)
    Downs, Andrew

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7 cm of textual records.

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Biographical history

Andrew Downs, ornithologist and founder of the Halifax Zoological Gardens, was born September 27, 1811 in New Brunswick, New Jersey, United States of America (USA), to Robert Downs and Elizabeth (Plum) Downs. In 1825 at age 14, Andrew moved with his family to Halifax, Nova Scotia (NS), Canada. He married twice: first to Mary Elizabeth Matthews who died in 1858 at age 30, and second to Matilda Muhlig on June 22, 1859. He had 5 daughters: Mary, Ann, Edith and two others. He worked as a plumber but his life-long interest was the scientific study of birds. In 1847 he established a wildlife reserve at the head of the Northwest Arm outside the city of Halifax, with 50 acres of land. By 1863 he expanded to 100 acres. He gained a reputation for excellence in taxidermy and in poultry improvement and acclimatization. His display of stuffed Nova Scotian birds won bronze at the International Exhibitions at London, United Kingdom in 1851 and 1862, and silver at the International Exhibition at Paris, France in 1867. Downs sold his property, animals and natural history collection in 1868, donated part of his stuffed birds collection to the newly founded Nova Scotia Provincial Museum, and moved to New York, USA, having been recommended for a position with the new zoological gardens at Central Park. He came back to Halifax on January 1, 1869, where he worked at taxidermy until his death on August 26, 1892.

Custodial history

Records were passed from Lucy Murray, Andrew Downs’ granddaughter, to a friend who passed them to friend’s niece Peggy Orr. Ms. Orr donated them to Nova Scotia Archives in July 2015.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of correspondence from Andrew’s father and siblings, and from other naturalists and collectors of birds; financial account books; inventories of stuffed birds; and letters of introduction for Downs when travelling. There is one letter addressed to Annie Downs after Andrew’s death. Also includes naturalization papers, property deeds, fire insurance, and power of attorney documents from Andrew’s father Robert Downs, 1810-1845. The records document the operation of the Zoo and the family and business affairs of Andrew Downs and his father.

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Copyright expired. In public domain.

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