The Most Defiant Devil
William Temple Hornaday and His Controversial Crusade to Save American Wildlife
Publication Year: 2013
The late nineteenth and early twentieth century were a brutal time for American wildlife, with many species pushed to the brink of extinction. (Some are endangered to this day.) And yet these decades also saw the dawn of the conservationist movement. Into this contradictory era came William Temple Hornaday, a larger-than-life dynamo who almost uncannily embodies these conflicting threads in our history.
In The Most Defiant Devil, a compelling new biography of this complex figure, Gregory Dehler explores the life of Hornaday the hunter, museum builder, zoologist, author, conservationist, and anti-Bolshevist crusader. A deeply religious man, he was nonetheless anything but peaceful and was racist even by his era’s standards, going so far as to display an Mbuti pygmy as a "living specimen" in a zoo. A passionate hunter, Hornaday killed thousands of animals, including some of the last wild buffalo in America, but he was far ahead of his time in his influential views on the protection of wildlife. Hornaday designed and built the New York Zoological Park (which became the Bronx Zoo) and was chief taxidermist for what would later become the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.In this single, fascinating individual, we can discern some of the Progressive Era's most destructive forces and some of its most enlightened visions.
Published by: University of Virginia Press
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This book started nearly twenty years ago when I walked into Dr. Richard Harmond’s office at St. John’s University and asked him for advice on a master’s thesis topic covering the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. He rattled off three names: Speaker of the House Joseph Cannon, the author Thornton Burgess, and the conservationist William Temple Hornaday. ...
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The years 1800 to 1900 were a bloody century for American wildlife. Prolific species like the ubiquitous passenger pigeon and the hardy buffalo were gunned down with reckless abandon. A determined group of conservationists managed to pull the buffalo back from the brink of extinction, ...
1. Iowa Farm Boy
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William Temple Hornaday was born into a family of mythmakers. The origins of the Hornaday clan have baffled generations of family genealogists who have been unable to reliably trace the family name to Europe. ...
2. Collecting Naturalist and Hunter
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In 1876, William Temple Hornaday embarked on a two-year adventure to Asia that few Americans of his day could have contemplated. During his earlier “two trial trips,” Hornaday (“my western man,” Henry Ward called him) had demonstrated his keen eye for valuable species, a willingness to take risks, ...
3. Stuffed and Living Animals
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After two and a half years of traveling abroad, Hornaday returned to Rochester, New York, in April 1879 with two ambitious goals. First and foremost, he wished to write a gripping and informative memoir of his journey on a level with the work of the French explorer and natural historian Paul du Chaillu, ...
4. Director of the Bronx Zoo
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Six days after New Year 1896, William Temple Hornaday opened a curious piece of correspondence from his friend Frederic A. Lucas, “asking if I have received an offer from New York,” he wrote in his journal. “Have no idea what he refers to.” The next day, the entire trajectory of his life changed. ...
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5. Campfires and Conservation
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In August 1905, William Hornaday took a much-needed and long-awaited vacation to British Columbia, Canada, with his friend John M. Phillips. “I am about starting West on a hunting trip that I think will do me a lot of good, both physically and mentally,” Hornaday wrote to his former collecting companion Chester Jackson. ...
6. Our Vanishing Wildlife
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In March 1911, just after William Temple Hornaday returned from his politicking in Albany against the sale of game meat, he met with H. S. Leonard, a vice president with the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Although Hornaday subsequently produced several different versions of the meeting with varying details, ...
7. The Great War
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If 1913 had been a whirlwind for William Temple Hornaday, the following year looked to be just as demanding. By the third week of January, the director of the New York Zoological Park already had two months of work piled up on his desk, as he told T. Gilbert Pearson of the Audubon Society. ...
8. Fighting the Establishment
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In March 1920, Hornaday received what he regarded as payback for his vitriolic attacks on opponents of World War I and others he deemed un-American during the Red Scare. David Hirschfield, the New York City commissioner of accounts, had conducted a year-long, thinly veiled witch hunt ...
9. Fighting to the End
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In January 1928, as William Temple Hornaday lay in his bed at the Anchorage, his home in Stamford, Connecticut, battling the “demon” sciatica, Senator Peter Norbeck, a South Dakota Republican associated with the progressive wing of the party, introduced another migratory bird refuge bill. ...
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On April 18, 1912, George Orville Shields pulled his copy of William Temple Hornaday’s Two Years in the Jungle off the shelf for a little evening reading. After thirty minutes, he took out his pen to write the book’s author, his old friend. “I have kept you busy explaining and apologizing for me,” ...
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Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 17 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2013