Nationalism, Nostalgia, and the Campaign to Save the Bison

in Nature's Ghosts

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780226038148
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226038155 | DOI:
Nationalism, Nostalgia, and the Campaign to Save the Bison

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In early 1886, William Temple Hornaday, the chief taxidermist at the U.S. National Museum, had bison on the brain. A decade before, the species that had come to symbolize the Great Plains had been all but obliterated from the southern portion of its once extensive range. Now increasingly frequent predictions about its extinction in the north seemed to be coming to pass. After several months of correspondence about the status of the species, Hornaday reached a grim conclusion: fewer than 300 bison remained throughout the entire United States. He issued a call for a Smithsonian-affiliated zoo that would shelter the breeding stock of endangered species and help educate the public about their plight. In December 1905, the American Bison Society was founded, with Theodore Roosevelt as honorary president, Hornaday as president, and Ernest H. Baynes as secretary. In addition to nationalism and nostalgia, biology may have also played a role in the success of the conservation campaign to save the bison. The success of the bison restoration efforts contrasted greatly with the story of the passenger pigeon.

Keywords: William Temple Hornaday; bison; zoo; endangered species; American Bison Society; Ernest H. Baynes; passenger pigeon; conservation; extinction; nationalism

Chapter.  11059 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Environmental History

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