GRUBER, Ferdinand

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San Francisco, 1858
San Francisco, 1865
Zoographicon invented by Ferdinand Gruber

GRUBER, Ferdinand (1829-1907), avocational ornithologist, entomologist, taxidermist and natural historian employed first as curator at Woodward's Gardens, and later as Curator of the Department of Natural History, Memorial Museum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco and Curator of small animal and bird skins.

Ferdinand Gruber (1829-1907) = Clara (1835-1906)

Gruber died of cancer at age 77 on August 2, 1907.


Gruber invented what he called the Zoographicon which was on exhibit at Woodward's Gardens. It was extremely popular, and its exposure to the public gave Gruber entree to acquire unusual specimens:

“The industry of Ferdinand Gruber in obtaining exotic specimens of birds was fortuitously noticed in 1879 by Otto Fisnch (1880) when he was in San Francisco prior to departing for Hawaii. Finsch visited the California Academy of Sciences and reported: Their collections are very limited, and cannot be compared with those in Woodward's Garden, which have been amassed by the zeal of Mr. Gruber, now keeper of the museum there. Mr. Gruber has carried out an idea which I had long ago in my mind...This is a representation of the chief types of the different zoological centers of the globe by giving good illustrations of the fauna of the different parts of the earth in stuffed specimens, in accordance with the peculiar flora. This very instructive invention, which Mr. Gruber calls a Zoographicon is not only made to rotate as a while, do that the different views follow each other, but the chief representatives of it are also in motion: the Woodpecker hammers; the Dipper dives; the Ducks swim; and so on. This gives the whole a Marionette-like character, which of course is very attractive to the greater part of the visitors. The Zoographicon is always crowded. Such an enterprise would have assured that Gruber was in contact with suppliers of natural history specimens far from California. That he certainly received birds from the Hawaiian Islands is proven by a specimen of Apapane...”


WOODWARD'S GARDENS (1866-1891)


[ON GRUBER'S ZOOGRAPHICA AND ORNITHOLOGICAL COLLECTIONS]


1884. GRUBER, Von F. ''Die Seevogel der Farallone-Inseln''


Gruber collected on:

  • Farallon Islands (1860, 1861, 1862, 1866, 1873, 1875, 1877, 1885)




Island Collections~
ISLAND COLLECTOR INSTITUTION DATE NUMBER SPECIMEN
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-B5150.4142128 Cepphus columba Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-B5151.4142129 Cepphus columba Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-21440.4004070 Cepphus columba Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-A17412.4139849 Cepphus columba Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-B2963.4141365 Cepphus columba Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-B2966.4141367 Cerorhinca monocerata Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-B4507.4141943 Cerorhinca monocerata Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-5154.4142131 Cerorhinca monocerata Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-B5155.4142132 Cerorhinca monocerata Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-B21566.4150626 Cerorhinca monocerata Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-2968.4141368 Larus occidentalis Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-B4514.4141945 Larus occidentalis Birds968
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-5149.4142127 Larus occidentalis Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber UMMZ undated (19th century) UMMZ-20750 Larus occidentalis Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-36890 Larus occidentalis Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-21444.4004072 Oceanodroma homochroa Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-B5163.4142136 Phalacrocorax auritus Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-B5160.4142135 Phalacrocorax auritus albociliatus Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-B2965.4141366 Phalacrocorax pelagicus Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-B6155.4142380 Phalacrocorax pelagicus Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-B6156.4142381 Phalacrocorax pelagicus Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-4509.4141944 Ptychoramphus aleuticus aleuticus Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-5156.4142133 Ptychoramphus aleuticus aleuticus Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber OSU undated (August 1877?) OSUM-201 Uria aalge californica Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-4825.4142063 Uria aalge Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-5146.4142124 Uria aalge Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-5147.4142125 Uria aalge Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-5148.4142126 Uria aalge Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-17404.4139847 Uria aalge californica Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-17407.4139848 Uria aalge californica Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH undated (19th century) USNM-36830.4164658 Uria aalge Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber AMNH April 11, 18[?]1 AMNH-46127 Lunda cirrhata Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH 1860 USNM Birds B5152.4142130 Cepphus columba Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber MCZ April 16, 1861 MCZ-72733 Phalacrocorax pelagicus Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber CM May 1861 CM-P165746 Cerorhinca monocerata Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber and J. G. Cooper MVZ June 17, 1861 MVZ-4404 Uria aalge californica Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber MVZ May 1, 1862 MVZ-1949 Ptychoramphus aleuticus aleuticus Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber MVZ June 1, 1862 MVZ-4408 Fratercula cirrhata Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber MVZ June 1, 1862 MVZ-4415 Phalacrocorax penicillatus Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber MVZ June 12, 1862 MVZ-4405 Cepphus columba columba Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber and J. G. Cooper MVZ June 16, 1862 MVZ-4411 Phalacrocorax pelagicus Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber MVZ June 18, 1862 MVZ-4407 Fratercula cirrhata Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber MVZ June 19, 1862 MVZ-4410 Phalacrocorax auritus albociliatus Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber NMNH July 1866 USNM-51678.4006230 Uria aalge

californica ||Birds

Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber UCM January 1, 1873 UCM-8199 Larus californicus Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber MCZ January 1, 1875 MCZ-101159 Larus heermanni Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber OSU August 1877 OSUM-200 Uria aalge californica Birds
Farallon Islands Ferdinand Gruber WFVZ June 1885 WFVZ-138726 Lunda cirrhata Eggs




In the News~

November 26, 1858 [J. of Useful Sciences]: “Birds, Animals, Reptiles and Fishes, stuffed to order. F. Gruber, Naturalist, No. 119 California Street”


October 30, 1859 [DAC]: “A contribution for Philadelphia—Mr. George Davidson, of the U.S. Coast Survey, and not Mr. Gruber, the taxidermist, was the purchaser of the skin of the great sea bass lately caught in our harbor. After it had been properly prepared, he sent it by the last steamer as a contribution to the Philadelphia Academy of Natural History, where it will be stuffed and placed on exhibition.”


January 18, 1862 [DAC]: “German Society of Natural History—The following gentlemen have been elected officers of this society: ... The following Curators were appointed: On zoology F. Gruber...”


July 13, 1862 [DAC]: “German Scientific Society—The German Scientific Society held its annual election for officers, on Wednesday evening last, and elected the following, viz.: ... in ornithology specially, and zoology generally, F. Gruber...”


October 13, 1862 [SDU]: “Birds of California—F. Gruber, the naturalist, who is connected with the State Geological Surveying party, as well as a contributor to the department of natural curiosities in the Smithsonian Institute at Washington, took a temporary residence at Forest Hill, July 25th, in order to collect specimens of the different varieties of birds, etc., which inhabit the mountains. The Courier says: Gruber has succeeded in his undertaking far beyond his most sanguine expectations; and the beauty and variety which he has collected of the inhabitants of our mountain forests has agreeably astonished everybody who has seen them. His visit was extended to Lake Bigler, in the month of August, where he obtained different species of fish, toads, frogs, snakes, etc., which he has kept in a state of preservation—a monster rattlesnake being included, which was captured at Secret Springs, twenty miles above Forest Hill. Gruber has permitted us to copy from his diary the following list of the number and species of birds, etc.m which he has collected since the 25th of July: Of hawks 6 species, owls 3, woodpeckers 11 (one among them rare occurrence), hummingbirds 1, kingfishers 1, flycatchers 3, thrushes 2, blue birds 1, wrens 4*, warblers 5, tanagers 2 (one different from any described species), vireos 2, creepers and nuthatches (of each) 2, titmice and grosbeak (of each one) 2, finches and sparrows 12, orioles 1, jays 3 (one species not seen before on this coast), doves and grouse (one of each) 2, and quails 2 species—in all 65 varieties of birds. Of animals, 13 varieties; of fishes, 6 varieties. Gruber also collected over 1,000 insects, and a number of reptiles, plants, minerals, etc. *One of these is the white-throated wren, the second one discovered in California—the other being found at Fort Tejon in 1858. It is very pretty.”


July 9, 1870 [DC]: “Singular fish—At the establishment of F. Gruber, taxidermist, we yesterday saw a couple of very peculiar fish which were caught in our bay. They are about two feet long, one-half of the length being made up of a serpent-like tail. They have nostrils and a mouth with teeth, and above the nostrils there is a little hammer which fits into a hole in the head. The use of it is incomprehensible. The two are male and female and are readily distinguishable from each other. They are to be sent to the East, but before starting we hope that Dr. W. O. Ayres, our San Francisco ichthyologist, will have an opportunity of telling us about them.”


August 12, 1871 [DAC]: “The Mechanics' Fair. Fourth Day. The fair still continues to draw together, as it doubtless will for the next five or six weeks, a large crowd of spectators... We shall not attempt to describe everything, but rather select some of the more prominent exhibits...F. Gruber's two cases entitled "The Birds of All Countries" and "California Birds and Animals" are very generally admired...”


August 18, 1871 [DAC]: “A devil and an angel fish. We yesterday inspected at the naturalist's store kept by Ferdinand Gruber, in the basement of the California House, on California Street, two curious examples of very rare fish. The first, the Devil fish, is five feet long, and ugly enough to deserve its title. It resembles a rock eel, with an enormous head, mouth full of sharp canine and smooth molar teeth, and a large, fleshy tongue like that of a full sized quadruped. The fish was evidently old when caught, its teeth being particularly defective, and one may speculate on the amount of toothache it might have suffered in its native element, the cold Arctic where it was taken. The variety is known as Anarrhicas denticulatus and is extremely rare, the largest described before, as far as known, being only twenty-two inches in length. The other example, the Angel fish, Rhina californica, is also extremely rare. This one was taken in the Bay. One might wonder why it was so prettily named, as the fish itself is only second in ugliness to that mentioned above, but the reason is plain: it has two very large wing-like fins on either side and a little in rear of the head. Both will be immediately added to the collection at Woodward's Gardens.”


March 9, 1878 [Pacific Rural Press]: “Woodward's Gardens. The Central Park of the Pacific... Prof. F. Gruber, Curator of Museum...”


April 13, 1878 [Pacific Rural Press]: “More about Woodward's Gardens...polytechnic hall, to the former attractions of which is being added a large Zoographicon, an invention of Prof. F. Gruber, consisting of a wheel over 12 feet high and 24 in diameter, turning on a vertical axis, and displaying with its eight divisions in succession, characteristic and instructive scenes of the different continents, giving Arctic, Tropical, Semi-Tropical, and South Pacific Island views—all studiously true to nature; then the camera obscura, where for a small extra charge, a fine view in miniature can be had of the living, active scene around you, in the gardens and adjoining parts of the city...”


August 17, 1878 [DAC]: “Woodward's Gardens...Do not fail to see Prof. F. Gruber's Invention, the ZOOGRAPHICON, now open to the public in the Hall above the Aquarium.”


March 13, 1893 [SFCall]: “A live elk, of course, is always worth more more than a dead one, but when the famous "billy" makes his debut as a disciple of taxidermy he is bound to attract attention. The Academy of Sciences sent its taxidermist, W. G. Blunt, to the park to assist Charles [?] Gruber in making Billy presentable to the public. This has been done, but now comes the question, where will they out the stuffed body? There is no room in the museum, and it is a pity to see so noble a specimen of his race consigned to the oblivion of a park stable. Gruber recommends that he be placed in the center of the large room now used as the restaurant of the Casino. "Billy" will look just as saucy as he always did—his head turned slightly aside, ready for a charge; in fact, he seems to bid defiance to all comers.”


October 31, 1899 [SFCall]: “Kissing Bug. E. Emmett, San Benito County, Cal. The bug sent to this office was shown to Professor Ferdinand Gruber, entomologist and taxidermist at the Golden Gate Park Museum, and he at once pronounced it a Conorhiunus, a genus of Hemiptera, founded by Laporte in 1833, and added that it is of about fifty species of a bug commonly called “kissing bug.” He furnished the following description thereof: The body is somewhat flattened and the sides of the abdomen are strongly recurved. The head is long, narrow and cylindrical, and thickened behind the eyes, the ocelli are placed on this stouter part. The antennae are short, the hind pair being much longer than the others. Conorhinus sanguisugus, the blood-sucking cone nose, is a widely distributed species in the United States, and is known in some localities to infest beds and suck human blood.”


January 18, 1901 [SFCall]: “Miss Steedman, who has been employed as assistant in the museum, was notified that there was no further need for her services. Professor Gruber is to be reinstated as taxidermist. Resolutions were adopted expressing the gratitude and appreciation of the board for the services of the retired member, F. Zeile.”


February 25, 1906 [SFCall]: “Gruber—Entered into rest, in this city, February 24, 1906, a native of Arnsdorf, Saxony, Germany, aged 70 years and 6 months.”


August 3, 1907 [SFCall]: “Gruber—Entered into rest, August 2, 1907, Ferdinand Gruber, dearly beloved husband of the late Clara Gruber, a native of Saxony, Germany, aged 77 years 8 months and 6 days. A member of the Geselschaft Teutonia. Notice of funeral hereafter. Remains at the funeral parlors of Theodor Dierks & Co., 900 Devisadero Street corner of McAllister.”


August 3, 1907 [SFCall]: “Gruber—Entered into rest, August 2, 1907, Professor Ferdinand Gruber, dearly beloved husband of the late Clara Gruber, a native of Saxony, Germany, aged 77 years 8 months and 6 days. A member of the Geselschaft Teutonia. Friends and acquaintances are respectfully invited to attend the funeral tomorrow (Tuesday), at 10 o'clock a.m., from the funeral parlors of Theodor Dierks & Co., 900 Devisadero Street corner of McAllister, and thence to the crematorium in Odd Fellows' cemetery for incineration.”


October 23, 1907 [SFCall]: “Sues Gruber's executors. The estate of Ferdinand Gruber, former curator of the natural history department of the Central Park Museum, was sued yesterday by Dr. Christine A. Cook, a woman physician, for $2,940 medical fees. Gruber died August 4 [2] from cancer. Dr. Cook, in her complaint, states that she attended him for two years before his death, and that Gruber promised to pay her, but did not. James J. Dow and M. E. Cummings, the executors of the will, are named as defendants in the case. Dr. Cook says she presented her claim to them, but it was disallowed.”


January 29, 1908 [SFCall]: “Sues Gruber estate. Trial was begin in Judge Hunt's court yesterday of the suit brought by Dr. C. A. COook, a woman physician, against the estate of Ferdinand Gruber, curator of the Golden Gate Park Museum. Gruber died of cancer and Dr. Cook is suing for $2,940 for services rendered. a receipt for $220, endorsed “payment in full”, was offered in evidence by the defense. Dr. Carolina Coffin, daughter of Dr. Cook, testified that that was for medical supplies. Mrs. Johanna Iberger, in whose house Gruber died, testified that while the aged man was unconscious Dr. Cook took a wallet from his pocket and was examining receipts when forced to stop by Mrs. Iberger's husband. The case continues today.”


January 30, 1908 [SFCall]: “Dr. C. H. Cook, the woman physician who sued the estate of Ferdinand Gruber, former curator of the museum at Golden Gate Park, for $2,900 medical fees, was nonsuited by Judge Hunt yesterday on the ground that the action should have been brought in the name of the partnership, consisting of Mrs. Cook, her daughter, Dr. Coffin, and Dr. Freeman.”


March 1920 [Condor p. 59]: “It may be of interest to some of the present generation to recall the names of two men, long identified with San Francisco, who, although not professional ornithologists, were well known as contributors of specimens to the science... Ferdinand Gruber also kept a taxidermist's place downtown, and had charge of Woodward Zoological Gardens, which, with its live birds and mammals, formed an interesting place to visit, and was a noteworthy forerunner of the present day "Zoo" of which, indeed, it formed the basis. A small admission fee was charged, and it was very well patronized. Though not possessed of very exact or extensive ornithological knowledge, Mr. Gruber was enthusiastic on the subject of birds, and ready to impart any information he was possessed of. I remember he gave me a very fine skin of the Baird's Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus respendens), which up to that time I had not seen alive, but which subsequently I found to be common among the Santa Barbara Islands, ansd also along the coast. He died August 2, 1907, and at the time of his death was Curator of the Golden Gate Park Museum. Henry Wetherbee Henshaw Autobiographical Notes