Houston Public Library, Houston Metropolitan Research Center

Hans Nagel Collection MSS.0332

Descriptive Summary

Creator Nagel, Hans
Title: Hans Nagel Collection
Dates: Bulk, 1925-1950
Dates: 1850-1959, 1925-1950
Identification: MSS.0332
Quantity: 5.0 Linear feet, 4 boxes
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository: Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library

Biographical Note

Hans Nagel was best known for delighting the children of Houston during his tenure as zookeeper at the Hermann Park Zoo during the 1920s and 1930s. His life before and after his career at the zoo is unknown. He was of Dutch ancestry and born in Germany although he allegedly reported to immigration authorites in 1932 that his birthplace was Tobin, Texas. He trained at the Hagenbeck Animal Company in Germany. His unorthodox style was reflected in his training of the zoo animals to perform as if in a circus setting. It was a familiar sight to see Nagel using a whip and small pitchfork to either agitate or subdue the zoo animals for performances.

Nagel’s duties extended beyond his work with the animals. Reportedly he witnessed prowlers breaking into the zoo late at night. He chased the intruders several yards while firing shots into the air; intercepting any further progress they would have made into the zoo grounds.

Nagel made himself available to help others when needed. He once administered critical first aid to a biology student from Sam Houston State College who was extracting venom from poisonous snakes. The student had inadvertently pricked himself with his own hypodermic needle and began exhibiting symptoms shortly after. Nagel also saved a park official visiting the zoo who was being mauled by the Bengal tiger. Nagel killed the tiger by shooting it with his pistol. Nagel was later awarded with a gold medal in appreciation from the citizens of Houston. For a Montgomery County homicide case, based on Mr. Nagel’s assessment of bird behavior, a parrot who had witnessed the murder was held in custody in hopes that it would divulge whether or not the prime suspect was the killer. Despite attempts of Sheriff’s deputies to get the parrot to speak, the information was never disclosed.

Nagel himself was not immune to the mishaps of working with wild animals. In 1931, he was attacked by the eldest male lion in the zoo during a performance which involved Nagel harrassing the cat with his pitchfork. Nagel had endured many such attacks and apparently held no grudges against the animals.

When not attending to his post as zookeeper, Nagel managed to surround himself with some of Houston’s most prominent citizens. A darling of the local press; journalists and photographers were always invited to document Mr. Nagel’s gatherings, performances, and other attention-getting antics. The result of this was two-fold. It gained Nagel permanent citizenship in this country during a time when his entry into the United States was being investigated, and focused attention on the upkeep of the zoo grounds.

Scope and Contents

The Hans Nagel Collection contains two scrapbooks, documents, historic newspapers (primarily from Houston, Texas), railroad ephemera and one map from Mr. Nagel's personal collection. These items are dated from 1851 to 1959. Photographs and news clippings of Han Nagel's career with the Houston Zoo at Hermann Park are prominent in the collection.



The Hans Nagel Collection is comprised of five series. The series are organized by subject or format. Within each series are itemized listings of their contents.
Series 1: Houston Zoo Scrapbooks
Series 2: Historic Documents
Series 3: Newspapers
Series 4: Railroads
Series 5: Maps


Access Restrictions


Use Restrictions

Permission to publish or reproduce materials from the Hans Nagel Collection must be obtained from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center or the appropriate copyright holder.

Index Terms

Houston Zoo
Missouri Pacific Railroad Company
Animal trainers--Houston (Tex.)
Hermann Park (Houston, Tex)
Railroad companies -- United States
World War, 1914-1918
Zoo animals
Zoo directors-- Houston (Tex.)

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Hans Nagel Collection. Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library.

Acquisition Information

Donated by: Houston Museum of Natural Science, April 14, 1988.

Processing Information

Processed by Charles Stephenson and Tammy Jordan. Completed August 27, 2006.

Detailed Description of the Collection


Houston Zoo Scrapbooks

Box Scrapbook
1 1 1923 to 1930
Newspaper clippings, no photographs
Newspaper clippings, with photographs
Animal performances
Hans Nagel with animals
Houston Zoo staff with animals
Box Scrapbook
2 2 1930 to 1934
Newspaper clippings, no photographs
Newspaper clippings, with photographs
Animal performances
Hans Nagel with animals
Houston Zoo staff with animals
Hans Nagel with leopard
Hans Nagel with chimpanzee
Hans Nagel and Houston Zoo staff capturing an alligator
Hans Nagel and chimpanzee performing for a crowd of people
Hans Nagel training a lion
Hans Nagel training lions


Historic Documents

3 Certificates: Street Improvement Certificates issued to John Tolken in the amounts of $5.99 and $6.00, December 21, 1888
Leaflet: "Here Comes Texas, l Leaflet for Centennial Year, " Vol. 1, No. 1, January 1, 1930
Certificate: Certificate issued to John H. Clay appointing him Postmaster of Osage, Colorado County, Texas. From Alexander W. Randall, Postmaster General of the United States of America. October 22, 1866
Invitation: Formal invitation to Inaugural Ball and Banquet in honor of Governor James L. Hogg. Austin, Texas. January 20, 1891
Letter: E. R. Bates. El Paso County. 1862



3 Houston Post, Vol. 34, No. 221. Headline: “Peace, War End. . . . Germany Accepts Conditions Fixed by the Allies
Houston Chronicle, Vol. 18, No. 29: “Germany Surrenders”
The Daily Nut Shell, Vol. 1, No. 5 : Newbern, North Carolina, George Pittman, Editor and Proprietor
The Daily Nut-Shell, Vol. 1, Nos. 1-11. Houston, Texas. December 3, 1876 to January 21, 1877
The Houston Age, Vol. 15, No 1. Houston, Texas. D. J. Argary, Editor and Proprietor May 15, 1885
The Weekly Occidental, Vol. 9, No. 442. San Francisco, California. Horn-Hong & Co., Publishers. August 7, 1890
The New York Times, Vol. VIII, No. 18, 274. June 10, 1908
“Fifty Important Dates in the Great War,” November 17, 1918
The Weekly Telegraph, Vol. XXVIII, No. 19. Houston, Texas. R. H. Cushing, Editor and Proprietor. July 23, 1862
Newsclippings: German Proclamations in Belgium and France with foreword by Ian Malcolm, M.P. Published by Hodden and Stoughton, London, New York and Toronto. MCMVI (1916)
Houston’s 100th Anniversary, The Story of Houston’s 100 years - - and of those who contributed to its growth. Houston Chronicle. Sunday, August 30, 1936
The Houston Daily Telegraph, Vol. XXX, No. 109. E. H. Cushing, Editor and Proprietor. July 29, 1864
The Houston Daily Telegraph, Vol. XIX, No. 16. E. H. Cushing, Editor and Proprietor. April 12, 1864
The Saturday Evening Caller, Vol. 1, No. 8. F. E. Brown, Manager. April 18, 1885
The Daily Citizen, Vicksburg, Mississippi. “The last newspaper printed on wallpaper in Vicksburg during the siege.” July 2, 1863.
The Texas Ranger, Vol. XIV, No 25. Washington, Texas. December 15, 1851
The Nut-Shell, Houston, Texas. Notice of pending publication by John H. Brown and Eugene Bottler. November 23, 1876
The Age, Vol. V, No. 32. Houston, Texas. July 24, 1875



4 Timetables
Missouri Pacific Railroad, San Antonio Division. 1952-1955
Missouri Pacific Railroad, Kingsville Division. 1956
Missouri Pacific Railroad, Palestine Division. 1959
Rock Island Railroad. 1949
Illinois Central Railroad. 1949
The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. 1949
National Railways of Mexico. 1939
Fares and Tariffs
General note
for dates 1921, 1947, 1949, & 1953
Freight Conductor’s Handbooks (2)
Time Books
General note
for dates 1942, 1946,1947 & 1948
Missouri Pacific Conductors Memorandum
Maintenance and Operations Regulations Circulars
Safety Rules. 1941
Union Agreement with Brotherhood of Railway Employees
Charter: Missouri Pacific Lines Employees Hospital Association. 1942
Constitution, Brotherhood of Railway Employees
Association of American Railroads Code of Rules Governing the Condition of Railroad Cars
Freight Train Classification Instructions
Pamphlet: Railroads Unlimited. America’s Modern Transportation Miracle



4 Pictorial Map: Glacier and Mineral Lakes National Parks. Mineral Territory Tributary to Norfolk and Western Railway. Identifying mineral and gas deposits in Kentucky. West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina.