San Diego County









Mrs. Belle J. Benchley, manager and executive secretary of the San Diego Zoological Gardens since 1927, enjoys the unique distinction of being perhaps the only woman to occupy a position of this character.  She was but three years of age when her parents, Fred M. and Ida B. (Orrell) Jennings, removed westward from Kansas to San Diego, California, where her mother still makes her home and is enjoying excellent health.  Her father, Fred M. Jennings,  who passed away in 1928, long figured prominently in public affairs and made a splendid record as county sheriff of San Diego county, as did also her brother, Frank S. Jennings.  Mr. and Mrs. Fred M. Jennings were the parents of eight children, seven of whom survive and four of whom reside in San Diego.


Mrs. Benchley is a graduate of the San Diego high school and the San Diego Teachers College and also attended the University of California during a summer session.  She followed the profession of teaching in Orange County for a number of years prior to 1925, when she became identified with the San Diego Zoological Gardens in the capacity of bookkeeper and two years later assumed her present responsible duties as manager and executive secretary.  She has made a comprehensive study of the various birds, reptiles and animals in the zoo, numbering about two thousand, three hundred and eighty-five specimens.  The head of this wonderful institution is the well known Dr. Wegeforth, under whose capable leadership the San Diego Zoological Gardens, embracing one hundred and sixty acres, have become recognized as among the finest in the world.  Two busses are used daily to transport elementary and high schools pupils who visit the zoo for nature study.  The gardens are maintained for scientific and educational purposes rather than as a circus-like exhibition.  Mrs. Benchley has become widely known for her most interesting talks to the various clubs and organizations which have sought her services as a lecturer.  She is a member of the San Diego Athletic Club and the Altrusa Club and has served as a president of the latter.


Mrs. Benchley is the mother of a son, Edward J. Benchley, a journalist living in Los Angeles, who married Miss Della Sanchez, representative of one of the California’s honored pioneer families.




Transcribed by V. Gerald Iaquinta.

Source: California of the South Vol. III, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 267-268, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles,  Indianapolis.  1933.

© 2012  V. Gerald Iaquinta.