Lowman family collection on Bobo the gorilla, circa 1951-1992  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Lowman family
Lowman family collection on Bobo the gorilla
circa 1951-1992 (inclusive)
1952-1968 (bulk)
.21 cubic feet, (1 box, including 47 photographs)
Collection Number
2001.23 (accession)
Photographs, newspaper clippings, and other materials related to Bobo the gorilla, who was briefly raised by the Lowman family of Anacortes before being sold to the Woodland Park Zoo in 1953, where he remained until his death in 1968
Museum of History & Industry, Sophie Frye Bass Library
Sophie Frye Bass Library
Museum of History & Industry
P.O. Box 80816
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 206-324-1126
Fax: 206-780-1533
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public by appointment.


Historical BackgroundReturn to Top

Bobo the gorilla (1951-1968) was captured in then-French Equatorial Africa in 1951 and taken to the United States by William Said. In December of 1951, Bill Lowman purchased Bobo for $4,000 from Said in Columbus, Ohio and drove back to his home in Anacortes, Washington. Bobo was raised by the Lowman family until December 1953, when the time, money, and resources needed to raise Bobo were no longer feasible. The Lowmans sold him to the Woodland Park Zoo, for $5,500. The zoo built a great ape building in which to house Bobo, who quickly became the zoo’s top attraction. In the first year of Bobo’s residence, zoo attendance doubled. While the zoo brought in a female gorilla, Fifi, to be Bobo’s mate, he never showed any interest in her, and never produced any offspring. On February 22, 1968, Bobo was found dead in his cage of what was later found to be blood clots in his lungs as well as a hemorrhage. His death made the headlines of the Seattle newspapers the next day. Bobo’s body was later taxidermically preserved and put on display in the Museum of History & Industry.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection consists of photographs, newspaper articles and clippings, letters, postcards and cards (approximately 49 photographs, 35 clippings, and 19 pieces of correspondence, including 6 cards from an elementary school class), as well as Bobo’s medical records, and lists of property damage and expenses from his time with the Lowmans. Materials deal with Bobo’s life: the photographs primarily with his life before being sold to Woodland Park Zoo (including photographs with members of the Lowman family); the newspaper articles primarily about his life and death at Woodland Park Zoo; and the correspondence mostly with the Lowmans' treatment of Bobo. There are two photographs of Gertrude Davis Lintz, who also had purchased an infant gorilla in the same period.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alternative Forms Available

View selections from the collection in digital format here or by clicking on the camera icons in the inventory.

Restrictions on Use

The Museum of History & Industry is the owner of the materials in the Sophie Frye Bass Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from MOHAI before any reproduction use. The museum does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners.

Preferred Citation

Lowman family collection on Bobo the gorilla, Museum of History & Industry, Seattle

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Photographs, Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1-17:  Image of Bobo at the Lowman family home, ca. 1952
 Image of Bobo at the Lowman family home, ca. 1952
17 photographs
Numbers 4-7, 13 and 16: Gene Weber for Fred Carter, Photographer, Seattle (photographer)
circa 1951-1953
18: Bill Said feeding Bobo a bottle
Handwritten on verso: Taken from magazine pub. March. '52. Mr. Bill Said and Bobo at air port in Holland (we think) on their way to the U.S.--'51.
19-21: Bobo with Raymond Lowman
3 photographs
circa 1952
22-24:  Bobo with Bill Lowman
3 photographs
circa 1952
25-26: Bobo with Mrs. R.B. Lowman
2 photographs
circa 1954
27: Bobo with Bill Corcoran
circa 1954
28: Bobo with Ray Lowman, Bill Corcoran, and Bill Lowman
Forde Photographers , Seattle (photographer)
circa 1954
29: Bobo with young boy
Fred Carter , Seattle (photographer)
Written on verso: Bobo with grandson of Mr. Benson
circa 1954
30-40:  Bobo in gas station attendant costume at a Mobil Gas station
11 photographs
Fred Carter , Seattle (photographer)
circa 1953
41-45: Bobo at Woodland Park Zoo
5 photographs
Bob and Ira Spring , Seattle (photographer)
circa 1954
46-47: Gertrude Davis Lintz and her baby gorilla, Zulu
2 photographs
circa 1953

:  Papers, Return to Top

Container(s): Box

Container(s) Description Dates
48-59: Letters to the Lowmans regarding Bobo
60-61: Letters from the Lowmans in response to inquiries about Bobo
circa 1953
62-67: Handmade thank-you cards from schoolchildren in response to Bill Lowman’s visit and slide show about Bobo
6 cards
68: Woodland Park Zoo postcard of Bobo as an adult
69-80: Newspaper clippings about Bobo's life
81-88: Newspaper clippings about Bobo's death
89-103: Later newspaper clippings about or mentioning Bobo
104: Bobo’s medical records while living with the Lowmans
circa 1951-1954
105: Itemized expenses for Bobo while living with the Lowmans
circa 1951-1954
106: Itemized damages caused by Bobo while living at the Lowmans’ house
circa 1951-1954
106: Article reprint: Pulmonary Embolus and Testicular Atrophy in a Gorilla
Scholarly article by researchers J.I. Antonius, Simone A. Ferrie and L.A. Dillingham analyzing Bobo's condition at the time of his death, including autopsy results. Includes a letter from John I. Antonius to Mrs. Lowman upon his sending her the reprint.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Gorillas--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Zoos--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Personal Names :
  • Lowman, Bill--Photographs
  • Lowman, Raymond--Photographs
  • Corporate Names :
  • Woodland Park Zoo
  • Geographical Names :
  • United States--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Photographs