Clyde Beatty's Jungle Zoo
Clyde Beatty's Jungleland
The name "Clyde Beatty" headlined not just one, but two South Florida tourist attractions.
Clyde Raymond Beatty was the epitome of the "Fighting Style" of animal trainer: the lone man who dared, armed only with a whip, a chair, and a trusty pistol strapped to his side, to enter a circus cage filled with dangerous, man-eating jungle cats and subdue the raging beasts for the entertainment of the crowd. Born on June 10, 1903, in Bainbridge, Ohio, he ran off at the age of eighteen with the circus and soon worked his way up from cage cleaner to featured act, by 1927 being billed as "America's youngest and most fearless wild animal trainer."
Through the 1930's and 40's Beatty would become one of the most celebrated circus performers in the world, appearing not just under the big top but on radio (as a character in "The Clyde Beatty Show" who was voiced, as it happens, by another actor), in movies (including an action serial that dubbed him the "King of Jungleland" and with Abbott and Costello in Africa Screams), and, as that medium became more important, on television.
Beatty toured for a time with his own Clyde Beatty Circus. In 1939 he bought out the McKillop-Hutton Lion Farm, which had opened in 1936 in a former rock quarry and served as a breeding farm for zoos and circuses rather than as a public tourist attraction. It was located in Fort Lauderdale at Northeast 10th Street near Federal Highway. Beatty turned it into a winter home for his circus and a tourist attraction, Clyde Beatty's Jungle Zoo, and opened in December of 1939. It operated until 1945, a victim of tightening zoning regulations brought on by complaints from the neighbors as city development began to overtake the site. Beatty took the show back on the road.
Around 1958 Beatty's circus entered a deal to bring their winter quarters to Deleon Springs, and possibly to buy the attraction, which was then operated as a privately owned business. That deal appears to have fallen through, however. Then, in early 1960, Beatty leased, with an option to buy, Aquafair, a small tourist attraction located off US 1 and 185th Street in North Miami. Aquafair was owned by George A. Hamid, himself a circus impresario and owner of the Atlantic City Steel Pier, where Beatty had appeared years before with his animal act.
Beatty renovated and reopened Aquafair, once again using the familiar name Clyde Beatty's Jungleland, for the 1960 season. It was not particularly successful, however, and Beatty sold out after just one year. Beatty continued to perform his circus act until he was struck down, not by a jungle cat, but by cancer in the mid 1960's. He died on July 19, 1965.
Note: the attractions profiled on this site are no longer in business.Return To Florida's Lost Tourist Attractions
Clyde Beatty photograph courtesy State Library and Archives of Florida, the Florida Photographic Collection.
Postcard images from the author's collection.
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