Micky the world’s cleverest chimpanzee

Before she died at the fantastic age of 98, my Nana gave me her boxes of family photographs. She knew I value family histories and would keep her things safe. I’m in the process of organising them and in one box I found a tourism brochure from Liverpool from around 1938/39. In it, an advertisement, for Liverpool Zoological Park caught my interest. In particular, “MICKY,—the world’s cleverest CHIMPANZEE.”

Liverpool Zoological Park advert
Liverpool Zoological Park advert from around 1938/39

Liverpool’s had several zoos, zoological gardens and wildlife exhibits since the 1830’s. The Bartlett Society website mentions no less than seven including a Dolphinarium during the 1970s.

Liverpool Zoological Park opened in May 1932 and closed in October 1938, around the time that my grandparents, then in their early thirties, took that trip to Liverpool. The park was on Elmswood Road, south of the city centre and, if you know Liverpool, was on the site that’s now part of the University of Liverpool. It boasted:

One of the Finest Collections of Animals, Reptiles and Birds

  • American Buffaloes
  • Brown Bears “Teddy & Gobo”
  • Lions “Nero & Cleopatra”
  • “Rajah” the Royal Bengal Tiger
  • “Simla” the Asian elephant
  • Several chimps including our Micky

I’ve no evidence my grandparents ever saw him, but I’m curious about Micky. He was, apparently, not just a clever chimp, he was the world’s cleverest CHIMPANZEE and I want to know more about him. I hadn’t then found a photograph of Micky but The Bartlett Society does list several postcards of Micky that hint at what life at Liverpool Zoological Park was like for Micky:

  • “Mickey [sic] at play” (Chained chimpanzee smoking while swinging in a tyre)
  • “Mickey kicks off” (Chained chimpanzee sat on football, and holding another football)
  • “Mickey lights up” (Chained chimpanzee lighting cigarette)
  • “Mickey news selling” (Chained chimpanzee sat on a swing holding a zoo magazine)
  • “MICKEY, the world famous chimpanzee at the Liverpool Zoological Park, drinking Lemonade with a straw”

Liverpool Zoological Park closed in late 1938, so what happened to Micky? I need to do more research, but it looks like it wasn’t a happy end for the world’s cleverest chimpanzee. According to this entry on Streets of Liverpool (A Pictorial History of Liverpool:)

It (Liverpool Zoological Park) had a varied but small collection of animals and birds—the star attraction being a chimpanzee named Mickey which escaped in 1938 and attacked (not seriously) a number of keepers and visitors before being shot at a nearby house.

I guess poor Micky was too out of breath from smoking to outrun whoever it was that shot him. And not even being the cleverest chimp in the world could save him from a bullet.

I’m Andy Clarke

Although I’d like to tell you tales about the time I roadied for rock bands, faked my own death, and dated supermodels, the truth is far less exciting. For the past 30 years, I’ve been a digital product and website designer at Stuff & Nonsense and more recently consultant Director of Product Design at Nozomi Networks. I’ve written several books. Not historical romance novels featuring gypsy girls and lusty stablehands, but about website design including Transcending CSS (2005 and 2019,) Hardboiled Web Design (2010 and 2015,) and Art Direction for the Web (2019.) I’ve lived in Cymru/Wales for 25 years because my private island has very slow internet.