It turns out that Newt Gingrich has been annoying the public with his many trillion half-baked ideas — remember that he is, fundamentally, an Ideas Man, in the fundamental sense — since 1954. He was an 11-year-old boy, and he and his "buddies" had a grand vision: to throw some animals in a park and call it a zoo.

Elon Green, in a delightful piece showcasing the earliest press mentions of each of the Republican presidential candidates, found this 1954 AP brief about an "Ambitious Young Zookeeper" taking on the establishment:

An 11-year-old is fighting City Hall here in an attempt to establish a zoo in the city's Wildwood Park.

Young Newton Gingrich told Mayor Claude Robins and four city Councilmen that he and a number of youthful buddies could round up enough animals to get the project started if granted use of the park.

Gingrich has often mentioned that his childhood dream was to enter the zookeeping business. Instead he had to settle for being one of the more repugnant American political figures of his generation. But he's always kept his interest in animals, and one of his few, if only, redeeming features is his advocacy for wildlife preservation. You won't hear him emphasizing that much in a 2012 Republican primary, however.

[Background image via AP]