Paperback / softback
January 20, 2009
85 illus., 14 in color
10.00 Inches (US)
7.00 Inches (US)
2 Pounds (US)
$35.00 USD
v2.1 Reference

Carl Hagenbeck's Empire of Entertainments

The name of Carl Hagenbeck is as evocative in Europe as that of P. T. Barnum or Walt Disney in North America. Hagenbeck was the nineteenth century's foremost animal trader and ethnographic showman, known for his enormously popular displays of people, animals, and artifacts gathered from all corners of the globe. The culmination of Hagenbeck's commercial ventures was the opening of his Tierpark near Hamburg in 1907, a dazzling assemblage of constructed exotic environments inhabited by humans and animals.

Eric Ames shows that Hagenbeck's various enterprises illustrate a significant evolution in popular culture. Earlier display forms that relied on the collection and presentation of “authentic” artifacts and living beings--the panorama, the zoological garden, the ethnographic collection--gave rise to the self-consciously synthetic forms of entertainment that we now associate with theme parks and films. This shift took place in the context of Hagenbeck's exhibitions, which were simultaneously the apotheosis of the collecting impulse and the germinating source for the creation of fictional spaces that rely for their effect on the spectator's imaginative engagement and interaction with the spectacle.

Carl Hagenbeck's Empire of Entertainments locates Hagenbeck's myriad enterprises in the context of colonialism and nascent globalization; ethnography and anthropology; zoological gardens and international expositions; museum culture and visual spectacle; and consumerism and immersive entertainments. By tracing out the divergent lineages of themed environments, Ames offers a vivid reconstruction of the impulses and contradictions that lay behind the visual and display culture of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries--a culture that forms the foundation of contemporary themed environments.

Written in an accessible style with many wonderful images, this book draws on meticulous archival research and a wealth of primary sources not available in English. It is an original and entertaining interdisciplinary study that will appeal to readers interested in visual culture, popular culture, nineteenth-century German history, and film studies, as well as anyone intrigued by the history of such popular entertainments as zoos, museums, panoramas, world's fairs, cinema, theme parks, anthropological exhibitions, and Wild West Shows.

About the Author

Eric Ames is assistant professor of German at the University of Washington.


"Ames has done his research thoroughly, and has found beautiful illustrations and much novel material . . ."—Stephen Bottomore, Early Popular Visual Culture, V9 (4)

"… the book truly comes alive when Ames provides new details about the firm and its innovations…. Ames has made good use of the Hagenbeck firm's archives and has brought significant amounts of new materials to light.. In the end, Eric Ames has written an insightful and fascinating account of Carl Hagenbeck and his firm, and the book will be of great benefit to those interested in the histories of amusement and the 'exotic' in the German empire."—The German Quarterly

"Eric Ames' attractive volume is a meticulous and rich study of the captivating Hagenbeck story which breathes the air of turn-of-the-century colonial culture . . . . Ames' book is elegantly written and provides a compelling sample of the Hagenbeck material and other contemporary sources such as newspaper reports and journals of businessmen and organizers as well as a fine selection of photographic and printed illustrations. To make the material available in English also paves the way for further comparative studies of the topic. All in all, the art of entertaining and satisfying one's curiosity is splendidly demonstrated in this volume."—Journal of Folklore Research

"Eric Ames's beautifully illustrated book describes a range of interrelated enterprises, joined in the person of the German merchant-impresario Carl Hagenbeck: the capture and sale of wild animals, displays of exotic animals and people, and filmmaking . . . . His discussion of ethnographic performances sets Ames's book apart. Arguing that Hagenbeck invented them, Ames has done the research necessary to show how complicated were the relationships among impresarios, performers, and audiences . . . . Because Ames has explained a distinctive cultural moment, his book will be of interest to a diverse audience—including many scholars who were probably not among his intended readers."—Museum Anthropology

"Even in German, little has been published on Hagenbeck's zoo as a scene of shooting or the involvement of the Hagenbeck family in film production, and nothing as comprehensive as the fifth and final chapter of Carl Hagenbeck's Empire of Entertainments. Eric Ames has taken an insightful new look at a zoo and zoo director on which almost two dozen books and articles (thousands if one includes newspaper stories) have been written since the publication of the first book-length biography of Carl Hagenbeck was issued in 1887. And the University of Washington Press has done a fine job in producing an attractive book with an excellent selection of illustrations that help to prove Dr Ames's many points."—International Zoo News

"This book not only makes an important contribution to the history and understanding of Hagenbeck and his zoo. It also provides many stimulating leads for the contemporary discussion of zoo design and of the interrelationship of entertainment and information, which continues to play a dominant role in zoos today."—Der Zoologische Garten

"Ames's book casts a rich and provocative light into this previously unrecounted history, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the history of the human fascination with the exotic, the history of zoos, the history of film, or of cultural spectacles of all kinds."—Arctic Book Review

"Eric Ames's compelling new book now approaches [Hagenbeck's] spectacles precisely as spectacles, placing them in a history of popular entertainment culminating in the cinema. Ames argues, provocatively and persuasively, that Hagenbeck's entertainments constitute one of the origins of the cinema."—H-Net

"Carl Hagenbeck's Empire of Entertainment is a book so rich that it is important to do justice on it in a simple review. It brings to the fore a strangely forgotten dimension of mass culture, in the crucial period of the rise of the cinema (one of the great merits of Ames is also that he shows very well that there is no linear progression from the panoramic zoo to the film, but that the two are part of the same culture). It questions many too simple views on the cultural-political reading of mass entertainment. And it is wonderfully written. I know that academic publications—and this is one, to the utmost extent- don't have to be page-turners, but this one comes close to such an ideal."—Leonardo

"Ames offers fresh insight into the achievements of Carl Hagenbeck (1844-1913), the German wild-animal importer who created new ways to exhibit wild animals and the people who lived with them. Included fine illustrations and an extensive bibliography, this is a solid resource for those interested in zoos, circuses, theme parks, and the theoretical exploration of performance space. Highly recommended."—Choice

"Occasionally illustrated with black-and-white period photographs, Carl Hagenbeck's Empire of Entertainments is an impressive and seminal scholarship, making it strongly recommended for academic library 19th and 20th Century Popular Culture Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists."—Midwest Book Review


"Essentially Ames proves that Hagenbeck's enterprise paved the way for theme parks, such as Disneyland, and thereby contributes an important chapter to the develop of the modern them park…. The study also sheds light on an emerging culture of consumerism and spectacle, and allows us to observe the interplay of national and transnational forces against the background of colonialism and capitalism."—Central European History, Central European History

"Combining meticulous archival research with sophisticated theoretical approaches, Eric Ames provides an in—depth case study that will impact a broad spectrum of disciplines, including Cultural Studies, Anthropology, Performance Studies, and Film Studies."—Gerd Gemunden, Dartmouth College

"A splendid study of one of the greatest showmen in the history of zoos and circuses. Impeccably researched, this book analyzes Hagenbeck’s innovations in creating live animal environments and performances and places them within a larger history of themed displays and virtual reality. Beautifully written, this book is an important addition to a growing literature on the history of exhibition."—Barbara Kirshenblatt—Gimblett, author of Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Display

University of Washington Press

9780295988337 : carl-hagenbecks-empire-of-entertainments-ames
Paperback / softback
376 Pages
$35.00 USD

Other Titles in BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Entertainment & Performing Arts

What Ever Happened to Orson Welles?, updated edition

Joseph McBride
Jan 2022 - University Press of Kentucky
$29.95 USD - Paperback / softback

Hell-Bent For Music

Wade Hall
Dec 2021 - University Press of Kentucky
$50.00 USD - Hardback
$50.00 USD - Electronic book text

Selling Catholicism

Christopher Owen Lynch
Dec 2021 - University Press of Kentucky
$70.00 USD - Hardback
$70.00 USD - Electronic book text

Other Titles in European history

Defining Latvia

edited by Michael Loader, Siobhán Hearne, Matthew Kott
Jun 2022 - Central European University Press
$85.00 USD - Hardback

Liberals, Conservatives, and Mavericks in the Christian Churches of Eastern Europe since 1980

edited by Zachary T. Irwin, Frank Cibulka
Jun 2022 - Central European University Press
$95.00 USD - Hardback

Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, Volume 51

edited by David A. Brewer and Crystal B. Lake
May 2022 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$50.00 USD - Hardback