This is the "Collection 1012" page of the "Hornaday, William T. and W. Reid Blair outgoing correspondence and subject files, 1895-1939" guide.
Alternate Page for Screenreader Users
Skip to Page Navigation
Skip to Page Content
wcsbanner wcs

Hornaday, William T. and W. Reid Blair outgoing correspondence and subject files, 1895-1939  

Last Updated: Oct 30, 2013 URL: http://ielc.libguides.com/content.php?pid=532736 Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Collection 1012 Print Page
  Search: 
 
 

Guide to the outgoing correspondence and subject files of the New York Zoological Park Directors William T. Hornaday and W. Reid Blair, 1895-1939

Guide to the Outgoing Correspondence of New York Zoological Park Directors William T. Hornaday and W. Reid Blair, 1895-1939 1012

Guide to the Outgoing Correspondence of New York Zoological Park Directors William T. Hornaday and W. Reid Blair, 1895-1939
1012

Collection Overview

Repository
Wildlife Conservation Society Archives
Creator
Blair, W. Reid, (William Reid), b. 1875
Creator
Hornaday, William T., (William Temple), 1854-1937
Collection Number
1012
Title
New York Zoological Park. Office of Director. William T. Hornaday and W. Reid Blair outgoing correspondence
Date
1895-1939
Extent
20.5 linear feet (89 letterpress volumes in 51 flat boxes)
Language
English
Abstract
William T. Hornaday (1854-1937) was the first director of the New York Zoological Park, from 1896 until his retirement in 1926. W. Reid Blair (1875-1949), Veterinarian from 1902 to 1922 and Assistant Director beginning in 1922, directed the Zoo from 1926 until 1940. These records consist of carbon copies of outgoing correspondence reflecting the planning, policies, and day-to-day operations administered by the director and general curator of the New York Zoological Park. These letterpress volumes contain the majority of the replies to incoming correspondence also held in the WCS Archives (collection 1001).

Return to Table of Contents »


Indexing Terms

Corporate Name(s)

  • New York Aquarium.
  • New York Zoological Park.
  • New York Zoological Society.

Personal Name(s)

  • Blair, W. Reid, (William Reid), b. 1875
  • Hornaday, William T., (William Temple), 1854-1937

Subject(s)

  • Animal dealers
  • Wildlife conservation
  • Zoo animals
  • Zoo directors
  • Zoo exhibits
  • Zoo veterinarians
  • Zoo visitors
  • Zoos -- Administration

Return to Table of Contents »


Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Letterpress volumes are fragile and may not be photocopied. Please contact the WCS Archives regarding possible additional access restrictions.

Usage Restrictions

Please contact the WCS Archives regarding possible usage restrictions.

Acquisition Information

Internal transfer.

Repository Contact

Wildlife Conservation Society Archives

2300 Southern Boulevard
Bronx, NY, 10460
718.220.6874
library@wcs.org

Processing Information

Original collection description from Guide to the Archives of the New York Zoological Society, compiled by Terry Collins and Steven P. Johnson, 1982.

Revision Description

 Finding Aid revised and entered into Archivists' Toolkit by Sarah Carbone, Long Island University. June 2012

Related Collections

Collection 1001. William T. Hornaday and W. Reid Blair incoming correspondence and subject files, 1895-1939.

Collection 1007. William T. Hornaday papers, 1888-1937.

Collection 1010. Willilam T. Hornaday American Bison Society records, 1905-1934.

Collection 1023. William T. Hornaday Camp-Fire Club of America records, 1903-1914.

Collection 1033. William T. Hornaday scrapbooks, circa 1896-1927.

The Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress also holds a collection of William T. Hornaday's personal papers.

 

Preferred Citation

[Item], [Date]. William T. Hornaday and W. Reid Blair outgoing correspondence, 1895-1939. Collection 1012. Wildlife Conservation Society Archives, New York.

Return to Table of Contents »


Biographical Note

William T. Hornaday (1854-1937) was the first Director of the New York Zoological Park, from 1896 until his retirement in 1926. W. Reid Blair (1875-1949), Veterinarian from 1902 to 1922 and Assistant Director beginning in 1922, directed the zoo from 1926 until 1940.

William T. Hornaday

A passionate defender of wildlife, William T. Hornaday was well known during his lifetime for his closely linked roles in the worlds of zoos, natural history writing, and wildlife conservation. He served as the first director of the New York Zoological Park, known today as the Bronx Zoo, from the time of its planning in 1896 until his retirement in 1926.

William Temple Hornaday was born December 1, 1854 outside of Avon, Indiana. In 1856, his family moved to a farm in southern Iowa surrounded by extensive, virgin prairie, and Hornaday was drawn to native wildlife at an early age. He attended Oskaloosa College in 1871 and then went on to Iowa State Agricultural College (now Iowa State University). Later, he received three honorary degrees, including one from Yale University.

While at Iowa State, Hornaday served as taxidermist for the college museum, but he left in his sophomore year, November 1873, for a position with Henry Augustus Ward’s Natural Science Establishment in Rochester, NY. Hornaday’s work with Ward led to opportunities for extensive travel on collecting trips and allowed him to develop his reputation as a field naturalist. His travels in the Caribbean, West Indies, South America, and Asia—along with the experiences of his youth and his later confrontation with the bison slaughter—shaped his philosophy toward wildlife.

Hornaday’s work with Ward also furthered his interest and expertise in taxidermy. In his taxidermy work, he moved the field away from presenting animals as isolated in static, unnatural poses. He introduced the concept of displaying them surrounded by their natural element, and he refined new techniques to present animals in more naturalistic attitudes. He founded the National Society of American Taxidermists in 1880, and he was named Chief Taxidermist of the US National Museum in 1882.

It was in this capacity that Hornaday was sent on a collecting trip to the American west in 1886. With the American bison on the brink of extinction due to overhunting, he hoped to preserve them for posterity through taxidermy. The trauma of personally witnessing the deliberate decimation of the bison herds, and the general public indifference to it, set Hornaday on the path for a 50-year struggle dedicated to protecting wildlife and educating the public about the plight of wildlife.

With these goals in mind, Hornaday spent the late 1880s lobbying for the bill that would eventually establish the National Zoo in Washington 1889. After leading the design of the new national zoo and promoting a vision of captive breeding programs for endangered species, Hornaday resigned in 1890 because he was not made director. He spent the following six years working in real estate.

In 1896, the newly chartered New York Zoological Society, now known as the Wildlife Conservation Society, enticed Hornaday back to the zoo field by offering him the opportunity to create a world-class zoo. Hornaday played a major role in selection of the site for the New York Zoological Park (he hated the nickname “Bronx Zoo”), which opened in 1899, and in the design of early exhibits. He served in the triple role of Director, General Curator, and Curator of Mammals until he retired in 1926. Among his many activities, he established one of the world’s most extensive collections, insisted on unprecedented standards for exhibit labeling, promoted lecture series, and offered studio spaces to artists. In the Bronx, Hornaday changed the perception of zoos from amusing curiosities to centers for education about wildlife and their protection.

After his retirement, Hornaday was appointed Director Emeritus and continued to write and advocate for wildlife up until the week before his death on March 6, 1937, at age 82, in Stamford, Connecticut. He was survived by his beloved wife of 58 years, Josephine, and a daughter, Helen.

Hornaday’s advocacy is generally credited with preserving the American bison from extinction. On returning from his 1886 trip to the American west, he published The Extermination of the American Bison (1889), both a scientific work and a call for social action, and began speaking publicly on the subject. He created the bison exhibit for the National Museum which helped to galvanize public opinion on the slaughter. He began his advocacy for a national zoo, hoping to propagate bison in captivity, and he began to plan, with Theodore Roosevelt, a society for the protection of the bison. Years later, as director of the Bronx Zoo, Hornaday acquired bison, and by 1903 there were 40 bison on the zoo’s 10-acre range. In 1905, the American Bison Society was formed at a meeting in the Bronx Zoo’s Lion House, with Hornaday as its president. When the first large-game preserve in America was created in 1905—Wichita National Forest and Game Preserve—Hornaday offered 15 individuals from the Bronx Zoo herd for a re-introduction program. He personally selected the release site and the individual animals. By 1919, nine herds had been established through the efforts of the American Bison Society.

At the start of Hornaday’s career, wildlife conservation was a little-known concept and federal legislation on such matters was unknown at the time. Yet the bison was not alone in its plight: the passenger pigeon was in its final decline, and hundreds of thousands of birds were being slaughtered all over the world to decorate women’s hats. During his lifetime, Hornaday published almost two dozen books and hundreds of articles on the need for conservation, attempting to present it as a moral obligation. Most notable was the 1913 publication—and distribution to every member of Congress—of his book Our Vanishing Wildlife. This indictment of the overhunting of American wildlife, and the legislation that failed to protect it, profoundly influenced public opinion. Throughout his career, he lobbied and provided testimony for several congressional acts for wildlife protection laws and the establishment of preserves. In 1913, he established the Permanent Wildlife Protection Fund as means to agitate for wildlife protection.

Today, Hornaday is often remembered not for his considerable achievements but for his grievous decision to present the Congolese pygmy Ota Benga as a zoo exhibit in 1906. Although his thinking on non-human life was progressive and even revolutionary, his thinking on his own species was casually racist. His racism was not remarkable for his time, but it was far from universal, and the exhibit was met with immediate outrage and discontinued. Famously irascible, Hornaday never apologized for the incident nor apparently for any criticism ever offered him.

In 1914, Hornaday created the Wildlife Protection Medal for significant contributions to conservation. The Boy Scouts of America carried on this tradition after his death, and they continue to present the William T. Hornaday Award to those who make significant contributions to conservation and environmental protection.

W. Reid Blair

William Reid Blair, DVS (June 7, 1875-March 3, 1949), better known as W. Reid Blair, worked at the New York Zoological Park from 1902 to 1940. He began as Assistant Veterinarian and Pathologist and retired from the Zoo as its Director. During his 38-year career at the Zoo, he implemented many advancements in the care of captive animals, and he focused on the educational capacity of zoos. Additionally, it was Dr. Blair who relaxed the insistence of William T. Hornaday, the Zoo’s first director, on the use of the formal name New York Zoological Park in favor of the more familiar Bronx Zoo.

Blair was born June 7, 1875 in Philadelphia. His interest in animals and their care began during summers on his grandfather’s farm in Massachusetts where he lived after 1885. It was further developed during his studies at McGill University, from which he received a DVS degree from the Faculty of Comparative Medicine in 1902 and an honorary LLD in 1928.

Blair began his career with the Bronx Zoo in 1902 as Assistant Veterinarian to Dr. Frank Miller. The following year, Blair took over as Head Veterinarian. After serving for two years (1918-1919) as Chief of the 4th Veterinarian Corps in the US Army in France and Germany, he returned to the Zoo and, in 1922, was appointed the Zoo’s Assistant Director. Upon the June 1926 retirement of William T. Hornaday, the Zoo’s first director, Blair became Director of the Bronx Zoo. He remained in that post for nearly 14 years until his own retirement on May 1, 1940. After his retirement, Blair maintained his interest in the Bronx Zoo, continuing to attend New York Zoological Society meetings. Described as “genial, social and outgoing,” he was greatly loved by his friends and associates. He died in New York on March 3, 1949. Blair was committed both to the care of zoo animals and to the scientific study of them. “He came to the Zoo with a two-fold purpose: to lengthen and benefit the lives of the creatures in captivity, and to furnish whatever solid contributions to biology, zoology and medicine could be made from such a wonderful observation post as a zoo.” He encouraged students and professors to make use of the research facilities available at the Zoo. His contributions to veterinary science and the management of animals in captivity were considerable: he wrote and published many papers on subjects such as infections, parasites, and bone diseases in animals in captivity, and was able to implement many changes in the husbandry of wild animals in captivity that improved and lengthened their lives. Many of these are still in wide use in zoos today.

Upon becoming Director, Blair submitted to the Executive Committee a seven-point list of suggestions that embodied his vision for the Zoo: 1) Enlargement of the collection of the wild cattle of the world; 2) Experimentation with the Hagenbeck idea of barless exhibits, using moats instead of fences or bars; 3) Creation of a special exhibit for anthropoid apes; 4) A facility to promote breeding of big cats, monkeys, and small mammals; 5) A separate building for the exhibit of the Zoo’s very large collection of parrots and other psittacine birds; 6) An auditorium for lectures and member meetings; 7) A cooperative research program with local universities.

Although many of these goals were realized after Blair’s departure, their origins can be traced to Blair. These include the 1941 opening of the African Plains exhibit—a multi-species “barless” exhibit relying on moats—and the 1950 opening of another “barless” exhibit, the Great Apes House, which was eventually replaced in 1999 by the opening of the Congo Gorilla Forest.

Blair was an avid and active collector of new species for the Zoo. He authorized and sometimes accompanied numerous collecting trips and brought back many unusual animals, several of which were first exhibited in captivity at the Bronx Zoo. Among these were the first Bongo (“Doreen”) and the first Okapi to be seen in this country. He sent the first expedition to New Guinea, which vastly expanded the Zoo’s collection of birds, especially birds-of-paradise.

Blair was determined to promote the idea that the purpose of a zoo was as an “educational rather than as a purely recreational undertaking.” He did much to advance this belief, beginning with winning a 1927 Ohio lawsuit over a bequest to the New York Zoological Society as an educational institution. Shortly thereafter, he hired the Bronx Zoo’s first docent, Claude W. Leister, a biology instructor at Cornell University, as Assistant to the Director and Curator of Educational Activities.

Blair was committed to wildlife protection, and for many years held the position of Executive Secretary of the American Committee for International Wildlife Protection. He served as Professor of Comparative Pathology at New York University’s Veterinary College. In 1940, he received a Merit Citation from the Park Association of New York City.

Return to Table of Contents »


Scope and Content

These records consist of carbon copies of outgoing correspondence reflecting the planning, policies, and day-to-day operations administered by the director and general curator of the New York Zoological Park. These letterpress volumes contain the majority of the replies to incoming correspondence also found in the WCS Archives (collection 1001).

Return to Table of Contents »


Arrangement

Records are divided into three series:

Series 1
 General correspondence, 1898-1936, in 86 chronological letterpress volumes
Series 2
 National Collection of Heads and Horns, 1908-1915, 2 letterpress volumes
Series 3
 Gifts to the animal collections, 1933-1940, 1 letterpress volume

Return to Table of Contents »


Collection Inventory

Series 1: General correspondence, 1898-1936 

Box

1898 May 23-1899 June 20, 

1

1899 June 20-1899 November, 

1

1899 November 3-1900 February 21, 

2

1900 February 21-1900 May 24, 

2

1900 May 24-1900 September 6, 

3

1900 September 7-1900 October 22, 

3

1900 October 23-1900 November 30, 

4

1900 November 30-1901 January 11, 

4

1901 January 11-1901 March 20, 

5

1901 March 20-1901 May 18, 

5

1901 May 20-1901 July 16, 

6

1901 July 15-1901 September 18, 

6

1901 September 14-1901 November 18, 

7

1901 November 18-1902 January 27, 

7

1902 January 27-1902 March 14, 

8

1902 March 14-1902 May 7, 

8

1902 May 8-1902 June 24, 

9

1902 June 24-1902 September 24, 

9

1902 September 25-1902 December 23, 

10

1902 December 23-1903 March 28, 

10

1903 March 28-1903 June 19, 

11

1903 June 19-1903 September 23, 

11

1903 September 23-1904 April 6, 

12

1903 November 13-1904 April 4, 

12

1904 May 3-1904 August 6, 

13

1904 August 6-1904 December 1, 

13

1904 December 3-1905 March 4, 

14

1905 March 3-1905 May 25, 

14

1905 May 26-1905 August 3, 

15

1905 August 5-1905 December 2, 

15

1905 December 1-1906 February 24, 

16

1906 February 24-1906 September 13, 

16

1906 September 13-1907 January 3, 

17

1907 January 3-1907 April 4, 

17

1907 April 5-1907 June 22, 

18

1907 June 24-1907 September 5, 

18

1907 September 5-1908 January 13, 

19

1908 January 14-1908 May 15, 

19

1908 May 15-1908 September 15, 

20

1908 September 15-1909 February 5, 

20

1909 February 5-1909 June 24, 

21

1909 June 24-1909 November 12, 

21

1909 November 12-1910 April 6, 

22

1910 March 29-1910 June 22, 

22

1910 June 23-1910 November 7, 

23

1910 November 7-1911 March 28, 

23

1911 March 28-1911 August 15, 

24

1911 August 14-1911 December 21, 

24

1911 December 21-1912 May 31, 

25

1912 June 1-1912 November 30, 

25

1912 December 3-1913 June 26, 

26

1913 June 26-1914 January 15, 

26

1914 January 15-1914 June 27, 

27

1914 June 30-1914 October 22, 

27

1914 October 22-1915 March 13, 

28

1915 March 13-1915 June 18, 

28

1915 June 17-1916 January 7, 

29

1916 January 8-1916 April 28, 

29

1916 April 29-1916 September 18, 

30

1916 September 19-1917 February 17, 

30

1917 February 13-1917 July 23, 

31

1917 July 25-1918 February 7, 

31

1918 February 7-1918 September 17, 

32

1918 September 17-1919 September 30, 

33

1919 September 20-1920 March 3, 

34

1920 March 3-1920 August 3, 

34

1920 August 4-1921 June 6, 

35

1921 June 6-1921 September 26, 

36

1921 September 26-1922 January 18, 

36

1922 January 18-1922 May 20, 

37

1922 May 20-1922 September 15, 

37

1922 September 15-1922 December 20, 

38

1922 December 20-1923 September 29, 

38

1923 October 1-1924 September 5, 

39

1924 September 5-1925 October 8, 

40

1925 October 9-1927 February 24, 

41

1927 February 25-1928 April 12, 

42

1928 April 16-1929 May 31, 

43

1929 May 31-1930 May 24, 

44

1930 May 24-1931 April 9, 

45

1931 April 10-1932 April 26, 

46

1932 April 26-1933 June 28, 

47

1933 June 28-1933 August 12, 

Scope and Contents note

Location of volume covering 1933 August 14-1934 October 22 unknown.

48

1934 October 22-1936 March 6, 

49

Return to Table of Contents »


Series 2: National Collection of Heads and Horns, 1908-1915 

Box

Correspondence, 1908-1910 

50

Correspondence, 1911-1915 

50

Return to Table of Contents »


Series 3: Gifts to the animal collections, 1933-1940 

Box

Gifts to the collections records, 1933-1940 

51

Return to Table of Contents »


Wildlife Conservation Society Library & Archives | 2300 Southern Blvd. Bronx, NY 10460 | library[at]wcs[dot]org


Description

Loading  Loading...

Tip