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Donkey Boys: 1904

Donkey Boys: 1904

New York City circa 1904. "Donkeys in Central Park." Lest there be any doubt about the credentials of these young fellows, their Parks Department badges identify them as "Donkey Boys" 1 and 2. Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.

On Shorpy:
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Just like Peter Pan promised

If you don't grow up, and don't go to school, you end up on Pleasure Island, and turn into a donkey boy. Any chance J.M. Barrie based some of his imaginings on the life of real donkey boys?

Five Dead Donkeys

New York Times, July 13, 1898.


They Were Pets in Central Park, and a Former Attendant Is Accused of the Crime.

Five of the pet donkeys in Central Park have been poisoned, it is alleged, by a discharged employe out of sheer spite, and many little boys and girls are well-nigh disconsolate as a result. Only one donkey, Dandy, is left, and he, poor creature, wears a most woebegone look. Of the five dead donkeys, several had been in the Park for twenty years or more, and had carried upon their backs many hundreds of children.

Among the attendants who looked after the donkeys and held the children who rode upon them was Robert Enis, a fifteen-year-old boy, who had been employed by John Lucas, the owner of the donkeys, about a year ago. Enis, it is said, became lazy and negligent, as well as surly and impertinent to the customers. Accordingly, about seven weeks ago he was discharged. At the time of his discharge he boldly declared, according to the statement of Richard Holmes, who acts as Superintendent of the donkey boys, that he would get square with Mr. Lucas, and would poison the donkeys.

Nothing was thought of the matter at the time, as no one believed for an instant that Enis would really carry out his threat. On Saturday, July 2, the donkey Jack took sick. He was usually the first donkey to trot out of the stable when it was opened in the morning, but on that day he would not go out, and acted as if he had no strength. He remained in the stable all day. The next day another donkey took sick, and in the course of a few days three others were taken down, all showing the same symptoms. They gradually became worse, going into convulsions, after which death resulted.

When the animals died in such agony Mr. Lucas reported the case to the police, and Capt. England assigned Detectives McGinty and Savage to work up the case. The detectives examined two of Mr. Lucas's donkey boys, who told them of Enis's threats to get even with Mr. Lucas and poison the donkeys. An autopsy was held on the carcass of one of the donkeys, and the veterinary surgeon found the liver and stomach in a highly inflamed condition, and said that the animal must have died from the effects of some strong poison, which he thought was arsenic. He will make a chemical analysis of the parts.

Enis was arrested yesterday on a warrant issued by Magistrate Simms, and was taken to Yorkville Police Court. He was confronted with the affidavits of the two boys who had given information to the detectives and with the veterinary surgeon's statement, but he stoutly denied having poisoned the donkeys. The Magistrate held him in $1,000 for examination, and remanded him to the care of the Gerry society.

Inasmuch as the donkeys were great pets with everybody, and were constantly being given cakes, peanuts, and fruit, it would have been an easy matter to put poison into the tidbits.

According to the statement of Mr. Holmes the remaining donkey misses the others very much. "He will look this way and that way, and then call them; and when no answer comes he will hang his head and look so sorrowful that it would almost make you cry to see him."

Donkey Ride, 1888

Judge's Young Folks,
An Illustrated Paper for Boys & Girls,
pg. 40, June, 1888



ISN'T it jolly to ride on a real live horse! But if there is no horse close at hand, why, a donkey will do just as well. Our frontispiece shows some happy children who are enjoying a treat of this kind, and reminds one that a trip to Central Park, where there are a number of donkeys of various sizes to suit all children, large and small, might be very interesting.

After being told that they are stationed in the East Ramble between the Mall and the Arsenal, we start off in that direction, and presently the jingle of a string of bells and the patter of tiny hoofs on the concrete walk draw nearer and nearer, and finally a turn in the path brings to view a little dirty-gray donkey, jogging along in an easy-going trot, and looking about half asleep. By his side is a boy who guides him and at the same time looks out for a little girl seated on his back. She has enjoyed the ride so much that she begs of nurse Betty for "just one more."

"Whoa, Jack," calls the donkey boy, and as nurse Betty consents to another turn, the boy leads off for a second trip. But Jack doesn't look at it in that light —he insists that one trip is enough for each passenger, and no persuasion, coaxing or driving can induce him to take another view of the matter, and he deliberately backs up in his place in the line of donkeys, and there is nothing to do but to take the little rider off and transfer her to "Jim," whose turn it is to go out.

The donkey boy laughs and rubs Jack's nose, for he thinks him a most knowing animal, and he can tell you some wonderfully cunning tricks of this self-willed donkey.

Jim is taller and of a dun-brown color, and is much more obliging than Jack, so he starts along at a lively gait, and gives his rider a good jolting as he gallops down the path. She thinks it is jolly fun, though, and laughs in high glee; she would very much like to try it over again, but hasn't the courage to ask nurse Betty for still another ride—so she contents herself with the promise to come again some day soon.

"Tommy" is a funny little donkey, not much larger than a good-sized dog, and his ears seem to be as long as his whole head. He is the smallest of the lot, yet he is a perfect despot, and the others dare not dispute his right of way. Sometimes he takes a notion to stand crosswise in the line, and no amount of beating will compel him to turn around until he feels inclined to do so. He has a great liking for tobacco smoke, and if any one will only blow the smoke into his nostrils he will follow them all about as long as it lasts. A mischievous fellow one day gave him some tobacco to chew, and he liked it and swallowed it, but it made him so ill that now the donkey boy keeps a sharp watch upon all visitors, and will allow them to feed him nothing, even such a delicate morsel as a thistle.

A man in uniform

Donkey Boy #1 appears to have an admirer.

"Donkey Boy"?

Not sure I'd have wanted to wear a badge with that label.

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