Monarch of the Plains: Federalism and Ecology in Nineteenth Century American Museum Habitat Groups

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Monarch of the Plains: Federalism and Ecology in Nineteenth Century American Museum Habitat Groups
Jones, Emma B
University of Florida
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Master's ( M.A.)
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University of Florida
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Art and Art History
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Subjects / Keywords:
Art museums ( jstor )
Bison ( jstor )
Ecology ( jstor )
Federalism ( jstor )
Museums ( jstor )
Narratives ( jstor )
Natural history ( jstor )
Nature ( jstor )
Taxidermy ( jstor )
United States history ( jstor )


General Note:
In 1888, amidst considerable public fanfare, William Temple Hornadays Buffalo group, a taxidermy--based display of the American bison and its habitat was unveiled at the United States National Museum. The American Museum of Natural History shortly followed suit and 1891 they unveiled their own bison group created by Hornadays protege, Jenness Richardson. While American bison populations had been declining throughout the 19th century, public awareness and concern for the bison did not reached its peak in the 1880s and 1890s because of a constellation of social, political and economic changes. Both exhibits were popular and well received in part because they reflected these changes in both scientific and political thought during this period. The bison groups created by Hornaday and Richardson capitalized on the unique status of the nineteenth century natural history museums, which were becoming more publicly directed and civic-minded while increasing their intellectual authority. This paper examines the narratives embedded in these two displays, looking at how federalism, a relatively controversial subject in this era, was naturalized through the scientific imagery of ecology. Hornaday and Richardsons groups, which were value-laden constructions of nature, projected a narrative of unity grounded in hierarchy and paternalism that complemented proto-ecological thought based loosely on Darwinian thought and the Linnaean concept of an economy of nature. This paternalistic narrative in turn complemented the emergence of a neoclassical liberal ideology driven by industrialized capitalism that increasingly relied on federal support. This paper seeks to demonstrate how the bison, placed within the ideological framework of the museum, was able to unite the concepts of federalism and ecology while capitulating to the structures of power dominant during this period.

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2014 E. Bennett Jones


To my Mother and Father, for always supporting me in every way possible


4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I am grateful to the College of Fine Arts at the University of Florida for the funding and opportunity to pursue this research. I am also grateful to the Special Collections libraries at both the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and the American Museum of Natural History in New York as well as the digital archives of the Smithsonian Institution and the Biodiversity Heritage Library for providing me with the source material n eeded to complete this project. I would like to thank my two committee members and advisors on this project, Dr. Glen Willumson and Dr. Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis. I am appreciative of the guidance I have receive d from Dr. Willumson over the course of my time here as well as the chance he took admitting and funding someone with an untraditional background. I am also very thankful to Dr. Smocitivis for the constant counsel (even at 2 A.M.) and for our Oxford semina rs, which were always delightful. I am also grateful to my friends Brent Garbowski and Crystal Migwans, who both hosted me during my research trip to New York, as well as my friends Adam Ro se, Alex Zak, and Madison Zalopa ny for hosting me while in Chicago I would finally like to thank my parents. My mother was certain I was well stocked with study snacks and encouragement throughout my entire higher education. My fathe r was not only my faithful editor, he was also there for late night phone calls and panics and has always encouraged and supported me so that I could aspire to great heights.


5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 6 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 7 CHAPTER 1 BACKGROUND ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 9 Introduc tion ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 9 The American Bison ................................ ................................ ................................ 14 2 THE BISON GROUPS ................................ ................................ ............................... 20 ................................ ................................ ........... 20 ................................ ............. 27 Consistency and Change in the Bison Groups ................................ ....................... 34 3 INTELLECTUAL CONTEXT ................................ ................................ ....................... 38 The Habitat Group Idea ................................ ................................ .......................... 38 Bison, Museums, and Time ................................ ................................ .................... 44 Natural History and Ecology ................................ ................................ ................... 50 The Systematic View ................................ ................................ .............................. 55 4 POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC CONTEXT ................................ ................................ .. 61 Ecology and Economy in the Habitat Group ................................ ........................... 61 Neoclassical Liberalism and the Gilded Age ................................ ........................... 64 Federalism and the Habitat Group ................................ ................................ .......... 68 5 SOCIAL CONTEXT ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 76 The Bison Groups and Domesticity ................................ ................................ ........ 76 Domesticity and the West ................................ ................................ ....................... 81 The Preservation of the Bison ................................ ................................ ................. 84 Conc lusion ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 88 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................... 91 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ............................ 94


6 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 1 1 Map of the exterminatio n of the American Bison to 1889 ................................ .. 15 2 1 ................................ ................................ .............. 24 2 2 Engraving of Group in National Museum ................................ ........................... 26 2 3 the Hall of Mammals circa 1900 ................................ ..... 29 2 4 Illustrat ................................ ................................ ..... 33 3 1 United States National Museum Mammal Hall with Bis on Group ...................... 39 5 1 s cow and calf ................................ ............................ 77 5 2 William Temple Hornaday and Sandy, the bi son ................................ .............. 87


7 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts MONARCH OF THE PLAINS: FEDERALISM AND ECOLOGY IN NINETEENTH CENTU RY AMERICAN MUSEUM HABITAT GROUPS By E. B ennett Jones May 2014 Chair: Glen Willumson Major: Museology -based display of the American bison and its habitat was unveiled at the United States National Museum. The American Museum of Natural History shortly follo protg, Jenness Richardson. While American bison populations had been declining throughout the 19 th century, public awareness and concern for the bison did not reached its peak in the 1880s and 1890s because of a constellation of social, political and economic changes. Both exhibits were popular and well received in part because they reflected these changes in both scientific and political thought during this period. The bison gro ups created by Hornaday and Richardson capitalized on the unique status of the nineteenth century natural history museums, which were becoming more publicly directed and civic minded while increasing their intellectual authority. This paper examines the n arratives embedded in these two displays, looking at how federalism, a relatively controversial subject in this era, was naturalized through the laden constructions of nature projected a narrative of unity grounded in hierarchy and


8 paternalism that complemented proto ecological thought based loosely on Darwinian narrative in turn complemented the e mergence of a neoclassical liberal ideology driven by industrialized capitalism that increasingly relied on federal support. This paper seeks to demonstrate how the bison, placed within the ideological framework of the museum, was able to unite the concept s of federalism and ecology while capitulating to the structures of power dominant during this period.


9 CHAPTER 1 BACKGROUND Introduction The imminent extinction of the American bison ( Bison bison ) at the close of the nineteenth century became a subject of considerable public concern in the United States. 1 in 2 Accounts from expeditions to the newly acquired p light was raised in the 1870s. 3 Despite these warnings it was not until the end of the century that concern reached its apogee when finally in 1894 the first legislation protecting the bison was successfully passed. 4 e nineteenth century was the product of a constellation of changes and events specific to that moment in time. Concern for the political thought in the United States at th e end of the nineteenth century. Increasingly natural history was adopting what would become in the twentieth century an ecological 1 Bison bison was sometimes referred to as buffalo, which are in fact a distinct species from bison. This paper will use the term bison even though the terms were interchangeable in the nineteenth century. 2 Environmental History 2, no. 2 (April 1997): 179 196, 179 and as quoted in Valerius Geist, Buffalo Nation: History and Legend of the North American Bison Stillwater, MN: Voyageur Press, 1996, 98. 3 For exampled Harpe while Penn Monthly 4 In 1894 a law was passed protecting the few living bison inside Yellowstone National Park but did not extend protection to the species as a whole, see Larry Barsness, Heads, Hides & Horns: The Complete Buffalo Book Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1985, 155.


10 mindset inspired by the works of Carl Linnaeus and Charles Darwin. Meanwhile the power of federal government was expanding i n the wake of major social and economic chang e following Reconstruction and W estwa rd E xpansion. The genealogical roots of ecological thought and federal intervention not only saved the bison from extinction but also allowed the bison to become a symbol of American identity. 5 These epistemological changes were simultaneously benefitting natural history museums. These museums were increasingly becoming sites of intellectual authority that responded dynamically to changes in science, including the changes wro ught by Linnaean and Darwinian thought. Museums were also benefitting from an emergence of neoclassical liberal ideology, which advocated for the increasingly powerful federal government to provide public services, such as education and museums, while pres cribing to a paternalistic social ideology rooted in white Protestantism. 6 The scientific and educational reform effecting museums also shaped how natural history museums created displays, moving from static rows of morphological specimens to more dynamic narrative displays. One of the earliest and most celebrated of these new museums displays was a habitat group of American bison, mounted at the United States National Museum in Washington, D.C. and created by William Temple Hornaday. The successful preser vation of the bison was due in part to Hornaday, a taxidermist and zookeeper, who helped found the American Bison Society and whose book, The Extermination of Bison 5 he body of ideas that later gave birth to the field of ecology in order to avoid anachronism as ecology, as a field, did not exist until twentieth century. More attention will be paid to the development of ecology and these ideas in C hapter 3 6 This argu ment is made more broadly by Tony Bennett, Pasts Beyond Memory: Evolution, Museums, Colonialism Museum Meanings, Routledge, 2004.


11 celebra ted 1888 public exhibit, featuring a taxidermied family of bison, began a trend in museological displays and catapulted the bison to fame. His exhibit ideas quickly spread through his protg, Jenness Richardson, who in turn created a similar display at th e American Museum of Natural History in 1891, disseminating the preserva of the bison es poused by Hornaday. departure from previous museum displays and incorporated a form of narrative exhibit creation promoted by Hornaday and other members of the so 7 While maintaining an ostensible fidelity to nature, narrative taxidermy, through careful selection of figures and poses, imparted a st ory that communicated a range of values. These narratives were explicit as well as tacit, allowing reflection of both groups as products of the natural history museum and in light of some of the social and political values that dominated Gilded Age American biology. 8 In Chapter 1 some of scientific knowledge surrounding bison in this era. 7 Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences 55, Supplement 1, No. 5 (October 18, 2004), 90. 8 titled er to the figures within the group, sometimes described by Hornaday, Richardson, and their contemporaries as buffalo. In using the term habitat group, this paper draws on the distinction made between habitat groups and dioramas in Karen Wonders, Habitat Di oramas: Illusions of Wilderness in Museums of Natural History Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis nova ser. 25. Uppsala Sweden : s.n., 1993, 12 18, which argues diorama have painted backgrounds while habitat groups only contain preserved animal and plant speci mens placed on sculpted foregrounds.


12 Chapter 2 takes a more in group, as Hornaday was a prolific writer and published extensively on bison, taxidermy, and the m was the first taxidermist hired by a museum to produce museum displays. His ideas directly and attention will be paid to their understanding of differences between the groups as well as the visual consistency and change between both displays. Chapter 3 groups, examining the habitat group idea in relation to other museum displays as well as to the natural history museum as w hole. The political and social changes affecting the displays while the unique ideological framework of the museum validated th eir content in part because of how museums structure time. The role of the natural history museum as a scientific institution will also be examined in Chapter 3 addressing how proto ecological thought was particularly well suited to these ideological museum based displays. I explore how Darwinian shaped, and were shaped by how people thought about nature. In Chapter 3 I also argue that proto ecological thought c reated a systematic view that later contributed to the


13 study of ecology and the conservation ethic, and was directly communicated by the medium of habitat groups. In Chapter 4 I look at some of the political and social changes affecting the United States t hat also affected museum practice and scientific inquiry. I focus on the expansion of the federal government as well as the rise of a neoclassical liberal ideology. I extend my argument about the systematic view promoted by proto ecological thought and po sit that this view also reflected changes in how Americans understood nationhood, viewing a nation similarly as a unified system made up of inextricably interdependent specifically allowed for the coalescing of these political ideologies with scientific thought, successfully naturalizing the power structures implicit within neoclassical liberalism by grounding them in science. In C hapter 5 I examine some of the social ideologies embedded within both neoclassical liberalism and the bison groups. Both groups consciously depicted the bison as a nuclear family, something that (while biologically incorrect) naturalized the paternalistic hierarch al power structure embedded in the bourgeois ideal of domesticity. The nuclear family and its power structure also enabled neoclassical liberalism, which utilized nationalism as a form a social control. 9 The intersecting discourses of class, gender, and ra groups to enforce and disseminate these hegemonic values and were part of a shift in American identity that increasingly saw the nation as a family. The developing role for the federal go vernment became that of patriarch. 9 E. K Hunt, Property and Prophets: The Evolution of Economic Institutions and Ideologies 7th ed. The HarperCollins Series in Economics. New York: Harper Collins College Publishers, 1995, 139 140.


14 unpack the conjoined narratives of ecology and federalism manifested in their bison groups in order to understand one way in which depictions of nature within museums contribut ed to American nationalism, simultaneously respo nding to and shaping political change. The American Bison While the American bison long held significance in Native American cultures, 10 it gained increased cultural importance in Anglo American culture in the nineteenth century. This was particularly seen following the 1840s when expanded settlement in the Great Plains brought Anglo Americans into contact with more bison. 11 By some account s bison existed as far inland as the Eastern seaboard, but flourished in western grassland environment that characterized the Great Plains region. 12 13 this region allowed them to dominate frontier narratives, as well as being an in tegral part of the lived experience of Americans following expansion. Bison were the subject of multiple natural history texts during this period and often texts incorporated popular bison lore, sometimes in direct contradiction to bison biology. Prized f or both its meat and hide, the bison was featured prominently in frontier folklore and, especially in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, was memorialized as 10 Giest, Buffalo Nat ion and Andrew C. Isenberg, The Destruction of the Bison: An Environmental History, 1750 1920 New York: Cambridge Universit y Press, 2000. both discuss Native American relationships with bison in greater detail. 11 Isenberg, The Destruction of the Bison 3 12 Report of the United States National Museum Under the Direction of the Smithsonian Institution 1887 369 548. Washington, D.C: United States Government Printing Office, 1887, 376 3 81. 13 Isenberg, The Destruction of the Bison 15 18.


15 Figure 1 1 Map of the extermination of the American Bison to 1889. Adapted from a dra wing by William Temple Hornaday in "Geographisches Handbuch zu Andrees Handatlas, vierte Auflage, Bielefeld und Leipzig, Velhagen und Klasing, 1902" from the Wikimedia Commons


16 enabling westward expansion. 14 Popular sources of the period claimed bison meat allowed early frontier families to survive the winter, 15 while bison behavior was credited with literally settling the landscape: 16 bison wallowing, or rolling in the dirt produced sed trails created by herd migrations. Bison were typically associated with the western plains, where popular written sources and artistic depiction claimed the bison was so populous as to darken the plains. 17 The extremely visible nature of bison herds, wh ich subsequently diminished with each western migration of Euro American settlers, allowed the bison to serve as an obvious symbol for the vanishing frontier. Bison hunting accelerated rapidly throughout the 19 th century, peaking in the 1870s and decreasi ngly significantly in the 1880s as bison became scarce. 18 Initially, bison hunting existed as subsistence hunting but economic demands for the bison increased dramatically in 1870s when bison meat and leather became an important commodity in the East and ra ilroads made shipping buffalo products east cheap and effective. 19 Bison meat was an exotic luxury item sometimes served for Christmas dinner, with the tongue being the most valuable cut. 20 More importantly, new techniques in leather tanning developed during the 1870s allowed bison hide to be turned into 14 Barsness, Heads, hides, and Horns 5 6. 15 486. Joel Asaph Allen. History of the American Bison, Bison Americanus Washington, D.C: Government Prin ting Office, 1877, 566. 16 Hornaday, 417 420. 17 History of the American Bison 462. 18 494 502. 19 Isenberg, Destruction of the Bison 3 6. 20 Ibid. 177.


17 leather and it quickly proved to be a material ideally suited for machine belting. 21 The development of the more effective breech loading rifle, which became commonplace after Reconstruction, also increased commercial bison hunting and had del eterious effect on the species. 22 Extermination of the Bison (1887) typically posit that there was once a large herd on the Great Plains (called the universal herd by Hornaday) that was divided by the Union Pacific Railroad into the northern and southern herds. 23 The southern herd was hunted to extinction first, through what ; more buffalo were killed than were used for meat or leather and the entire herd was supposedly destroyed in four years. 24 According to Hornaday, in the 1880s, due to th e building of the Northern Pacific Railroad from 1880 1882, commercial hunters were able to spread to the northern herd and by 1884 bison became difficult to find. 25 Nineteenth century descriptions unt for the role non elimination of bison in order to foster Anglo American settlement. 26 21 Barsness, Heads, Hides, and Horns 111 112. 22 467 and Barsness, Heads, Hides, and Horns 115 116. 23 494. 24 506. 25 Ibid. 464 465. 26 Environmental historian Andrew Isenberg has argued that drought, ecological competition, and habitat The Destruction of the Bison


18 The idea of a universal herd or even the smaller southern and northern herds obfuscates th e fact that bison typically live and lived in small groups. Typically they were segregated by sex, with young bulls in one herd and cows in another. Cows, calves up to three years old, as well as older bulls lived in these herds separate from young bulls, although the herds came together for mating for several months in the late summer. 27 protected young calves. Bison were often portrayed as living in Victorian domesti c units despite the fact that sex segregation proved valuable to early bison hunters. 28 29 They Descriptions of bison by Anglo Americans typically describe the animal as large, stupid, and brutish, with buffalo being a derisive term for someone. 30 Paradoxically, bison hunting was considered a daring and noble sport by the wealthy elite. 31 As bison became scarcer, demand for bulls used in trophy mounting increased corresponding to the nostalgia and symbolism bison were being imbued with. 32 For many wealthy easterners, to bison was increasingly restricted to the privileged and elite at the end of the nineteenth century. 33 27 Barsness, Heads, Hides, and Horns 18. 28 Richar 434. 29 According Larry Barsness, until tanning techniques improved hide hunters usually preferred cow (female) meat and leather, as it was more tender and easier to work. See Barsness Heads, Hides, and Horns 118 128. 30 Barsness, Heads, Hides, and Horns 11 12. 31 Ibid. 11 12, 15. 32 33 Ibid. 181.


19 The Americ an bison lent itself to this type of nostalgia and projection, existing as it did as mutable symbol throughout the nineteenth century. It represented both an obstacle to progress and then a tool to achieve it, ameliorating the destructive effects of civili zation, and becoming both an icon of loss and redemption. The bison was deployed strategically as a part of symbolic politics, and as both a symbol of and a material weapon in the war of attrition undertaken by the U.S. government against Native Americans. 34 35 museum displays far from being a neutral window onto nature, selectively incorporated aspects of bison folklore in order to contribute to the hegemonic values of the period. 34 In The Destruction of the Bison Isenberg described how bison legislation was sometimes used in partisan politics in order to create support without any chance of actually passing, such as Representative reputation o f the Department of the Interior. See The Destruction of the Bison, 148 150. 35 Ibid. 151 2.


20 CHAPTER 2 THE BISON GROUPS In 1888, amidst considerable public fanfare, the United States National Museum based display of the American bison and its habitat that had taken more than two years t o complete. In promoting it, The Washington Star reported: A scene from Montana picturesque group a bit of the wild west reproduced at the National Museum something novel in the way of taxidermy real buf falo grass, real Montana dirt, and real buffaloes. 1 The exhibit, created by William Temple Hornaday, was the result of years of work, including an expedition led by Hornaday and funded by the United States National Museum to collect the bison, the accessor occupied an important position in the history of museum taxidermy. Trained as an artist, taxidermist, and naturalist, he began his career at Iowa State University before setting out for Rochester, New York, in or der to fulfill his dream of learning the art of taxidermy 2 After several successful years working in the included a notable trip to Bo group of orangutans that is sometimes credited with being the first American habitat 1 2 and private collectors. Most American natural history museums bought their display specimens directly from Transformed Wildlife Display in American Natural


21 group. 3 4 At the United States National Museum, Hornaday became the first full time taxidermist hired by an y museum. He next became director of the Bronx Zoo. 5 Hornaday was an avid conservationist who founded the American Bison Society, which successfully lobbied for the creation of several protected bison herds, contributing to the extinction. His writing and museum work, especially his pioneering habitat groups and di oramas, not only established an emerging standard of museum practice they also played into and created a romantic ideal, that of explorer naturalist. In part, Hornaday Americans including Andrew Carnegie to support his projects. 6 In his influential guide, Taxidermy and Zoological Collecting, Hornaday admitted that the creation of a narrative and factual manipulatio n within taxidermy in order to better communicate that narrative were necessary components of good group displays. 7 His particular style of narrative museum work, emulated by many, allowed for the projection of social values. what he felt was the imminent destruction of the bison. 8 Washington, D.C.: this later formed the core of the National Zoological Park. He spoke 3 nited States National Museum in 1882, see Wonders, Habitat Dioramas, 115. 4 40. 5 5, 144. 6 Ibid. 70 71. 7 William Temple Hornaday. Taxidermy and Zoological Collecting; a Complete Handbook for the Amateur Taxidermist, Collector, Osteologist, Museum builder, Sportsman, and Traveller 8


22 and wrote at length describing the plight of the bison, and founded the American Bison Society, which mobilized conservation efforts and successfully contributed to preventing the species from going extinct. 9 Americans began actively working to protect the bison, having previously recognized the potential extinction of the species. The bison was rebranded from the collateral damage of progress t o a rallying point for American success, ingenuity, and benevolence. The bison received limited federal protection in 1894. 10 After being hired by the United States National Museum, Hornaday conducted an actual bison specimens were in fact meager as well as incomplete. 11 Becoming increasingly concerned about their imminent extinction, Hornaday petitioned the director of the Smithsonian Institution (which oversaw the United States National Museum) for funding to lead an expedition west in order to collect thirty bison specimens. This would allow the museum to preserve what Hornaday felt was the last of a dying species, and create a truly spectacular bison display in order to educate the public. 12 The Secretary, Spencer Baird, agreed and in 1886 sent Hornaday and a team to Montana with the full financial and institutional backing of the Smithsonian. 13 Adroit at stirring up publicity (as shown by the numerous articles publicized about hi s expedition), Hornaday wrote articles for popular newspapers and publications, and spoke openly and passionately about the 9 10 The National Park Protect ive Act, protecting bison within Yellowstone National Park, was passed in 1894, see Barsness, Heads, Hides, and Horns 155. 11 12 Ibid. 529 530. 13 Ibid. 530 532.


23 bison. He later published his account of the expedition The Extermination of the American Bison which originally appeared as a pape r in the Sm ithsonian Annual report for 1887 It was a lively explorer narrative fairly typical of the genre. explicitly clear in The Extermination of the American Bison (1887) and Taxidermy and Zoological Collecting (1894), as well as numerous articles on taxidermy he wrote. In r anything Pose your mounted specimens according to the same principles, and the re sults will be 14 While instructing aspiring taxidermists Hornaday frequently [r]epresent every day, peaceful, home scenes in the lives of your animals. Seek not to startle and appal [sic] the beholder, but rather to interest and standing on the alert, playing with each o ther, or sleepily ruminating. 15 bison (in an idyllic family arrangement) calmly drinking at an alkali watering hole (like those created by buffalo wallow) and standing alon 14 Hornaday, Taxidermy and Zoological Collecting 237, 111. 15 Ibid. 244.


24 Figure 2 Bison Exhib it in the U.S. National Museum 1887, Unknown creator. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 43, Folder: 1.


25 16 17 It, along with the live bison calves kept by Hornaday on the National Mall, drew multitudes of visitors and immediately motivated the museum to increase the number of permanent displays. 18 The exhibit was also featured in national publications, including an extensive illustrated article in Cosmopolitan magazine. 19 r the exhibit was to tell the story of the was a resounding success. bull, a young c ow, a yearling calf, and a four month old calf set in a fictitious environment based on the Montana Buttes. Th e setting was indicated by the sculpted foreground that included actual sod and grasses taken from Montana, as well as bison skulls. 20 21 According e 22 The group was mounted in a large mahogany case (sixteen by twelve by eleven feet, one of the largest constructed during this period), with glass on all four 16 17 Ibid. 90. 18 106. 19 89. 20 While some exhibit makers base 21 22 Ibid. 546 547.


26 Figure 2 2 Engraving of Group in National Museum c. 1887 by R.H. Carson, produced


27 sides, a significant departure from previous display conventions as it allowed the group to be viewed in the round. 23 Most images of the group utilized and implicitly indicated a preferred view, that of the old bull, the old cow and the four month old calf standing 24 became a lasting icon of the American bison as a species, appearing on the buffalo nickel, postage stamps, and the seal of the National Park Service. 25 cow and calf in order to both aug ment its grandeur and make the sexual dimorphism clearly visible. 26 On the reverse side of the case the three adolescent figures (the young 27 Morris K. Jessup, trustee and president of the American Museum of Natural History in New York recognizing the popularity and success as well as scientific decided the American Museu m of Natural History should have its own bison group. 28 The museum had hired Jenness Richardson, 23 24 Hornad 25 26 Hornaday, Taxidermy and Zoological Collecting, 236 237. 27 28 Wonders, Habitat Dioramas 123.


28 ecting expedition in order to gather the necessary specimens. 29 Very little is known about Richardson; he did not publish papers about his museum work and died tragically of tuberculosis at a young age. 30 He worked at the American Museum of Natural History from 1886 until his death in 1891. He trained under Hornaday and the two exchanged positive and supportive correspondence during 31 Because of as wel l as their continued correspondence, it is after his death before going on to work at the Cali fornia Academy of Sciences, where he became famous for his group work. 32 Richardson was particularly passionate about ornithology and the mounting of bird specimens. His work creating bird groups for the museum not only predated his bison display but was a lso considered particularly exceptional and it appears Richardson may have been hired in part to prepare ornithological specimens for the museum. 33 34 In 1922 while Frederick Lucas was preparing his pamphlet on the history of habitat groups, The 29 Ibid. 123. 30 Charles R. Knight, Charles R. Knight: Autobiography of an Artist Ann Arbor [Mich.]: G.T. Labs, 2005, 37. 31 Hornaday to Richardson, July 28, 1888. Administrative Archive, July 1888. American Museums of Natural History Archives. 32 Knight, Autobiography o f an Artist, 37 33 Richardson to Mearns, November 8, 1883; November 15, 1883; Nov. 28, 1883, February 28, 1883. Edgar Alexander Mearns Collection M43; American Museum of Natural History Archives. 34 American Museum of Natural History, Annual Report 1886 1887, New York, NY, 1887, 15.


29 Figure 2 Fuerman Collection Negative number 356. American Museum of Natural History Photographic Archives.


30 Story of Museum Groups particularly outstanding. 35 In 1887 the museum conducted its firs t official collecting expedition, led by zoologist Daniel G. Elliot and Richardson to the Montana Badlands in order to collect bison specimens. 36 No bison were found however and the muse um was forced to purchase bison at considerable cost, 37 as bison were nearly extinct during this period. At Show in July of 1888. American painter Albert Bierstadt purchased a calf from W. F. New York City and sought out the services of a taxidermist to mount it for use in his studio. 38 Bierstadt consulted Richardson who convinced him to donate the calf to the museum at which point Cody also offered to sell a recently deceased cow to the museum at the reduced price of $15. 39 35 Hornaday to Lucas, July 18, 1922. Frederic A. Lucas Collection L83. American Museum of Natural History Archives. 36 American Museum of Natural History, Annual Report 1887 1888, New York, NY, 1888, 18 19. 37 Ibid. 18. 38 Bi erstadt to Jessup, August 7, 1888. Administrative Archives August 1888. American Museum of Natural History Archives. 39 Richardson to Jessup, July 31, 1888. Administrative Archives July 1888. American Museum of Natural History Archives. Wallace to Jessup, August 3, 1888. Administrative Archives August 1888. American Museum of Natural History Archives.


31 40 Negotiations with Cody (through his partner Nate Salsbury ) continued, as he was willing to sell the museum additional bison already mounted by Henry Ward for $350 per piece. 41 According to Richardson Joel A. Allen, curator of mammals, opposed the purchase of mounted bulls from Cody because the specimens were infe rior to those on display in Washington. 42 As of August 13 th 1888 the museum had accumulated one large cow, one four year old cow with calf, one three year old cow, one two year old bison (gender unspecified) and one yearling calf, but still needed one spik e bull and one where those other specimens came from (with the exception of the cow and calf from Cody). 43 ian Institution but 44 Richardson proposed buying a spike bull from a well known bison t is unclear whether or not the museum did. 45 40 Wallace to Jessup, August 3, 1888. Administrative Archives August 1888. American Museum of Natural History Archives. 41 Salsbury to Richardson, August 8, 1888. Administrative Archives August 1888. American Museum of Natural History Archives. 42 Richardson to Jessup, August 13, 1888. Administrative Archives August 1888. American Museum of Natural History Archives. 43 Ibid. 44 Richards on to Jessup, August 7, 1889. Administrative Archives August 1889. American Museum of Natural History Archives. 45 Richardson to Jessup, November 8, 1889. Administrative Archives November 1889. American Museum of Natural History Archives.


32 in locating specimens demonstrated the importance they placed on the bison group as well as the increased fascination and nostalgia surround the bison during this period. The demand for bulls as well as their relative scarcity also demonstrated the how fetishized the bison was becoming, as bulls were considered less valuable in the commercial bison trade. 46 In 1889, Richardson and his assistant Rowl ey embarked on another collecting order to collect the accessories for the group. 47 Like Hornaday, Richardson considered his group to be mnemonic of a specific place, s 48 any museum, featured eight bison and was place d in a rectangular glass and mahogany ca se measuring eighteen by thirty two by fourteen feet. 49 The group featured a one large cow, a cow and calf mounted together (most likely the set acquired from Cody), one three year old cow, one two year old bison, on e yearling calf, one spike bull, and one old bull as well as grass, clusters of foliage, and a f 46 465. 47 American Museum of Natural History, Annual Report 1889 90, New York, NY 1890, 8. 48 Richardson to Jessup, August 7, 1889. Administrative Archives August 1889. American Museum of Natural History Archives. 49 Wonders, Habitat Dioramas, 123.


33 Figure 2 Ernest W. Smith, 1902 negative number 17340, American Museum of Natural History Photographic Archives.


34 from one o f the short ends, with what is most likely the large cow, another of the younger cows, and one of the calves visible. An illustration of the group produced by Ernest W. Smith in 1902 however shows the group from one of the longer sides with the large bull clearly centered. Because of the importance placed by both Jessup and Richardson on locating a bull for the group as well as the fact this illustration shows more of the group, this was most likely the preferred view or front view of the group. In this vie w, the large bull is not directly engaging what are most likely cows to either side of him and is isolated from the cow and calf, who are the only two figures that seem directly engaged. The other bison seen on the reverse side of the group are also relati vely isolated and most of figures seem to be grazing, with the exception of one, possibly the yearling, who is lying down. Consistency and Change in the Bison Groups While they are essentially variations on the same idea (to show a group of bison in the r ound with foreground accessories that indicated their habitat), there are important de velop a bison group at the American Museum of Natural History were underway and should not b e seen as merely derivative. y last words to Mr. Hornaday


35 50 Richardson furthermore indicating that within the plan for the group, the conce pts of place, topography, and vegetation were significant to the creators This geographic specificity was an innovation distinguished the groups but it also subtly merely resting on a smooth plain. The rela tionship of figures to ground as well as to each other also distinguished show the various life stages of the bison across both genders. In order to accomplish this Horn aday claimed a certain amount of inaccuracy was necessary. 51 Killed at different times of the year, the specimens in both groups represented anachronistic points in the co urse of a year, gaining and losing weight and fur in relationship to their breeding or rutting season. Mating pairs of bison were also typically only seen together during the rutting season, which took place between July and September. 52 p, the use of a topographically varied environment complete with footprints implied the bison exited in a shared time. Their engagement with each 50 Richardson to Jessup, December 19, 1888. Administrative Archives December 1888. American Museum of Natural History Archives. 51 52 See Barsness Heads, Hides, and Horns for details on bison behavior.


36 other, the viewer, and the ground reinforced this. Hornaday, through his own account and through the posing of his figures, also clearly intended the bison in his group to narrative; his foreground resembled earlier conventions in natural history illustration where an idealized gr ound is included to indicate where the depicted species could be found without showing a pronounced relationship between that species and the ground. This, in conjunction with the lack of relationship between the figures, allowed ddressed as individual examples without the same heavy pronounced because of the segregation of the bull from the calf and cow. This may in part be due to the fact that R a zoologist and the curator of mammals at the time, who wrote an influential and exhaustive text on the American bison, History of the American Bison and who would have been acutely aware of inac curacies. 53 bull was placed at the heart of group and was flanked by smaller bulls, emphasizing his d calm and, when taken together, could be seen as a herd (dominated by a male figure) as opposed to a family. Both Hornaday and Richardson also included a prominently placed bison nation of the 54 adding a historical element to both groups. 53 54


37 ability to create romance and cast the animals into anthropomorphized roles was in part what made his was significantly more static as the eye d id not naturally move from on e figure to the next but focused ed to earlier conven tions in museum display. His visually isolated figures placed in the same case in order to show visual difference between sex and age was reminiscent of earlier morphological displays.


38 CHAPTER 3 I NTELLECTUAL CONTEXT The Habitat Group Idea The distinction s between a morphological display and a habitat group were significant as they represented different scientific and museological philosophies. The habitat group has often been considered a transitional phase between the morphological series and diorama 1 and documents an epistemological shift in how existed both within this shift and within the institutional framework of a natural history museum, it is import ant to understand the changes affecting museums in order to better Hornaday is sometimes credited with pioneering the habitat group idea, although this is not entirely accurate. 2 The idea of placing taxidermy a nimals in life like poses, sometimes with contextual elements and painted background, had already been exhibitions. These displays were generally considered too sensational fo r museums. 3 y. 1 In this paper diorama refers to a museological display that shows taxider my animals assuming life like poses in detailed illusionistic environments with painted backgrounds. 2 See Wonders, Habitat Dioramas 109. 3 Wonders, Habitat Dioramas 34 40.


39 Figure 3 1 United States National Museum Mammal Hall with Bison Group and other exhibits. Note the cases on the right hand side of the image, both upper and lower, which show rows of mammals arranged for morphological comparison. Mammal Hall, U.S. National Museums 1902, photographer unknown, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 43, Folder 1.


40 Prior to the emergence of the habitat group, most natural history museums employed taxonomic or morphological displays within their zoology departments. 4 Typically these displays involved rows of specimens, usually stuffed animals, mounted skeletons, or animals preserved in alcohol, placed together for the purposes of comparison. Species were often arranged taxonomically, so members of the same family and genus could be compared and the viewer could better understand the distinction between species. These displays were constructed for public education and in an ideal situation books would be kept near by so that a viewer could engage in furt her study on the subject. 5 Unsurprisingly, many of the subtleties of morphology were lost on the laymen these exhibits were intended for and public interest in these types of displays was minimal. 6 In the 1870s and 1880s curators experimented with label te xt as a way of communicating the ideas represented by these exhibits, but this solution proved unsatisfactory. 7 With added labels, morphological exhibits became exercises in rote memorization and lost the element of active inquiry and critical thinking tha t comparison on the part of the viewer fostered. 8 In part, habitat groups were developed as more engaging exhibitions that invited viewers to develop critical thinking skills while still absorbing information about the natural world. 9 4 Frederic A. Lucas, The Story of Museum Groups New York, NY: American Museum of Natural History, 1922, 3 6. 5 G. Brown Goode, The Museums of the Future Washington, D.C: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1891, 432. 6 Lucas, The Story of Museum Groups ence, Professional Illusion and the Transformation of American Natural History Museums, 1870 (Doctoral Dissertation). Columbia University, 2007, 150. 7 146. 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid. 148.


41 This concern for eng aging and educational exhibits was a result of a larger concern with public education gaining momentum in the United States at the end of the nineteenth century. Museum historian Steven Conn has argued that following the Civil War natural history museums i 10 Goode, who served as the assistant Smithsonian s ecretary in charge of the United Hornaday dedicated his book Taxidermy and Zoological Collecting to Goode. o meet the needs of the people and are more intimately intertwined with the policy of national, 11 Goode furthermore adapted to the needs of the mechanic, the factory operator, the day laborer, the salesman, and pains must be spared in the presentation of the material in the exhibit 12 While own, had been already been moving towards these goals. American museums consciously distinguished themselves from their European counterparts by attempti ng to 10 Steven Conn, Museums and American Intellectual Life, 1876 1926 Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998, 43. 11 Goode, Museums of the Future 431. 12 Ibid. 432.


42 appeal to the public in order to be more democratic. 13 American natural history principle, which dictated that museums need two collections, one for research and th e other for exhibition and education and included public education at their core. 14 well documented commitment to public education as well as American Museum founder places these two institutions at the center of educational reform within American museums. 15 The United States National Museum in 1882 and the American Museum in 1885 created their own departments dedicated to taxidermy and exhibitions because administrat ors at both museums recognized the importance and impact of well crafted displays. 16 presented scientific ideas together in a synthesis that favored the types of displays constructed by Hornaday. 17 At the American Museum, many of the trustees had limited scientific background and similarly favored exhibits that were striking and engaging like habitat groups. 18 13 Conn, Museums and American Intellectual Life 56. 14 Wonders, Habitat Dioramas 106. 15 Wonders, Habitat Dioramas 109. 16 Ibid. 110. 17 Ibid. 109. 18 Ibid.


43 outside world. 19 This type of looking was considered integral to the structure of any observable ]. 20 While labels often accompanied habitat groups, this additional detail allowed visitors to make a guided scientific discovery on their own, recognizing what kind of food the animal ate without needing to be told. The visual learning promoted by these g roups also allowed education to transcend barriers of literacy and language, as many of the exhibits were targeted at the working class and immigrants. 21 models without completely di scarding old display conventions. The insistence of both Hornaday and Richardson on representing both genders and all age variations harkens back to the older morphological displays. By including at least one of example of each life stage of the bison, vie wers were able to make comparisons and better grasp the provided more space between each figure and allowed the figures to be compared more readily. Both groups were als o created specifically to educate laypeople about the life history of the American bison through a captivating narrative display, embracing the narrative trope, that of the family, may have proven more beneficial; by placing the figures in recognizable anthropomorphic positions (father, mother, child) a layperson 19 48. 20 Conn, Museums and American Intellectual Life 33. 21


44 would be more readily able to distinguish age and gender. 22 The choice on both extinction, as well as a cow and calf together to indicate how young bison are reared, observational skills. Bison, Museums, and Time The difference between the morphological display and the habitat group also demonstrated a shift in how museums represented and encoded time. The bison, imbued nostalgically as both mnemonic of the vanishing West as well as the American past, sha within the discourse of time. The museum as an institution also benefitted from the ideological authority derived from how it shaped time. Morphological displays additionally were unable to accommodate emerging Darwinian ideas that disrupted the orderly taxonomic systems represented. 23 The sometimes esoteric logic behind morphological displays, shifting from taxonomic to geographic to divergent structures, would have most likely alie nated the layperson and compromised the democratic mission of American institutions. Speaking primarily about British museums Tony Bennett has argued that the linear s 22 It is however worth noting that bulls have visible external genital that would have also made that distinction clear. 23 Conn, Museums and American Intellectual Life 25.


45 time as stratified accumulation. 24 Within these displays a narrative of hierarchal progress was presented as a series typically ordered from simple to complex. 25 Additionally, the m ore complex an object was the more time it could be seen to posses. This created a metanarrative in which the museum and its creators were the most complex thereby simultaneously justifying continued collecting. Under this logic, a display of weaponry shou ld progress from a club to a stone knife, to a metal knife, to a sword, to a musket, to a contemporary firearm. This display would have implied that the contemporary firearm was not only the most advanced, it also possessed and perfected the technology of all the previous objects. 26 These evolutionary displays conveyed a static sense of time, accumulated and difficult to duplicate. Most viewers understood the narrative of progress but placed all ideologies attached to objects as accumulations of time. This camouflaged any additional narratives embodied within the objects shown. It problematically limited the viewer. Thus, the layered narratives of the bison group, such as hierarchy and domesticity, would not have been clearly communicated in a morphologica l display. Domesticity was seen only in the highest organisms it would have been encoded as primitive but without basing domesticity in organisms like the bison, it would not have been naturalized. A new technology of time was therefore needed to convey the multiple and nuanced narratives of the bison groups and allow for multiple ideas, like ecology and federalism, to coalesce. 24 Bennett, Pasts Beyond Memory 2 4. 25 Ibid. 7. 26 Ibid.


46 Habitat groups, under the theory of time argued by Mark Leone, 27 allowed for a more dynamic time concept that afforded more ide ological projection, as these groups have no clear relationship to time. The ambiguous time seen in habitat groups, being neither truly past nor present, occupied what Leone has termed ured their own making (a common construction. The tripartite system of time desc ribed by Leone enforced a linear narrative of progress that assumed a continuous, evolutionary sweep and also assumed that time is ordered and systematic. 28 Within the morphological display described by Bennett, past and present are represented without th e ideological space of the transcendental world. By disrupting time the habitat group was able to more fundamentally reflect ideology. The bison could represent domesticity without undermining a carefully structured narrative of human superiority. The crea tion of the habitat group allowed the bison themselves to function outside of the linear narrative and allowed for a more dynamic interplay between components of the display. Thus, habitat groups and similar displays were a necessary component of the regul atory function of museums described by Bennett. They allowed museums to incorporate intersectional narratives like hierarchy and domesticity or 27 categorically constructed as past, present, and future, but that functionally only past and present are heaven or the future) exists where time does not and, as a destination or goal, allows for both the in American Archeology Social Archeology: Beyond Subsistence and Dating Studies in Archeology. New York: Academic Press, 1978: 25 36; 28 29, 34 35. 28 35.


47 ecology and federalism without privileging one over the other. 29 By utilizing the time based structure of the tra nscendental world, the museum also gained an authoritative position because the ideologies presented within the museum gained an ahistorical quality that automatically legitimized them. If domesticity, for example, was a naturally occurring structure witho ut historical roots, its legitimacy could be undisputed. existed as a liminal space in which to experience time. This structuring, as well as the educational mission adopted by museums in the late nineteenth century, benefited from the ideological power afforded by transcendental worlds. 30 Mieke Bal, in her analysis of goals in crafting habitat groups. 31 32 f natural history museums argued that museums in particular enabled evolutionary thinking because it simultaneously transcendental world. 33 The museum of natural history pres ented scientific information as timeless truth, using the authority of historical objects to impart moral lessons applicable to the present time. Past, present, and future were all experienced within the museum, through artifacts that connected the past wi th the present moment of the 29 Bennett, Pasts Beyond Memory 24. 30 44. 31 Critical Inquiry 18, no. 3 (Spring 1992): 556 594, 559. 32 546). 33


48 within the larger structure of the museum and embraced this understanding of time while using it to craft ideological narratives. Their displays also demonstrated how the transcendental space of the habitat could incorporate multiple narratives, including the ones embodied by morphological displays. The bison groups embodied much of the temporal tension that existed not only in constructs of the we stern frontier, but also in American society during the late nineteenth century and relied heavily on the concept of time described by Leone. Fears of urban decadence and degeneration, typically seen as regressive, were pitted against the rhetoric of progr ess. This simultaneously necessitated the destruction and preservation of constructed wilderness. The bison, initially seen as an impediment to progress and then later as key to it, always featured heavily into the temporally structured narrative of westwa rd settlement, where the existence or absence of the entire species was a marker of American progress. The bison needed to be destroyed for the expansion of civilization but preserving the bison represented (for many) the s group, through its use of recognizable social patterns and temporal structuring, reinforced the hierarchy of American society (at that time), bison to exist in a time drastically distanced from the viewer. Hornaday consciously altered time within the group, a fact admitted by Hornaday himself and noted by Hannah 34 In selecting specimens for any display, Hornaday advocated using 34


49 show the individual bison at their respective personal best. 35 Hornaday felt this deception was necessary in order 36 an alternative understandi the physical reality of the buffalo extermination he had witnessed (and participated in) 37 This lay as a historical monument, and not only a window on nature but also a window on the past. points in the year and like Hornaday, Richardson was also concerned with selecting specimens at their annual best. 38 differe nt moment which, when viewed together, created a surreal atmosphere conventions (showing representatives of each life phase of the bison in relative isolation within h is group display) also demonstrated that the group method allowed for competing and nuanced narratives. 35 Hornaday, Taxidermy and Zoological Collecting 20. 36 37 38 Richardson rejected one of the bulls offered to the museum because it died in the summer and lacked its best coat, see Richardson to Jessup, August 13, 1888. Administrative Archives August 1888, American Museum of Natural History Archives.


50 The time represented in both groups was not simply a frozen moment nor a bison skulls in the foregrounds of both displays disrupted how time was represented within the habitat group. The skulls invoked not the past but the present of bison, bringing their current plight to the fore. The peaceful scene and idyllic lan dscape indicated a time other than the present, however, as Hornaday and Allen both agreed the loss of the plains to settlement was an imminent threat to the bison. Hornaday advocated for bison preserves through the American Bison Society. 39 Thus, the skull s, within the pre settlement past, while the landscape prevented the groups from existing in the human dominated present, indicating that the groups existed as a utopian projection into the future. The bison groups were then transcendental worlds and as such embodied the discursive ideologies of the late nineteenth century. Natural History and Ecology The ability of museums to manipulate ideologies was aided by the fact that museums were increasingly becoming sites of cultural authority in the United States. 40 ideas in material evidence as well as their ability to adapt to and incorporate new material. 41 Following the Civil War, American universities were often seen as torpid, 39 Allen, The H istory of the American Bison 509 40 Conn, Museums and American Intellectual Life 54 59. 41 Ibid. 22, 38 40.


51 presenting only stale ideas while museums, thanks to their large collections, both produced and disseminated knowledge. 42 Natural history as a scientific field encompassed numerous subjects, such as geology, ethnology, zoology, and botany, which eventually became recognized as fields in their own right as science became more specialized. 43 Often what united these disparate subjects under natural history was the art of lookin g. Natural history was an observation based science that typically focused on visual characteristics in order to define the relationships between specimens. Natural history museums, with their dizzying array of visual specimens, were able to command an aut horitative position within the intellectual community because their collections provided the space for scientists to conduct research, often at the forefront of their fields. 44 American natural history museums were also relatively quick to embrace the idea s of Charles Darwin as they became successful incubators for proto ecological 45 Habitat groups (as well as dioramas), like Hornaday and Ri the values and principles of ecology, 46 although during this period ecology did not exist 42 Ibid. 15. 43 Conn, Museums and American Intellectual Life 68 73. 44 Mark Barrow has notable argued that museum collections enabled the study and understanding of extinction in 45 Conn Museums and American Intellectual Life 45 51. 46 Wonders, Habitat Dioramas 163 170.


52 as field of scientific study. 47 As scientific practice shifted from the field to the laboratory in t he twentieth century, ecology became one of the few scientific arenas where museums could still claim authority, as their extensive collections (previously used to study morphology) were instrumental in understanding ecological change. 48 Ecology also became heavily associated with environmental conservation as first field naturalists and then ecologists brought attention to habitat loss and extinction within the areas they studied. 49 In contextualizing the bison within a habitat, Hornaday and Richardson attem pted reasonably considered as proto and buffalo trail were indications that bison, instead of just existing on the lands cape, directly affected it. Hornaday, who had some scientific training, was familiar with and 50 This is especially significant as Tree 47 Ecology, traditionally perceived as study of the relationships between living organisms and their surroundings, can be traced back to popular scientific ideas, m century, natural history dictated that proto ecological study was based almost entirely in observation and the examination of organic and inorganic factors, including chemical and genetic relationships outside of the scope of nineteenth century natural history. Ecology als o became heavily associated with environmental conservation as ecologists brought attention to habitat loss and extinction within the areas they studied. For more on the history of ecology, see Donald Worster, San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1977. 48 A point most convincingly made by Barrow in 49 Worster, 353. 50 As cited in Wonders, Habitat Dioramas 115.


53 fensiveness and lack of courage almost leads one to doubt the wisdom of the economy of nat ure so far as it related to him 51 he seems to have been less familiar with these ideas than Hornaday because o f the visual environment in clear recognition of the effect place had on organisms, while the lack of ectively communicate this. 52 Both Hornaday and Richardson were explicit about the geographic location of their groups and the specific locations, the Montana buttes and Indian ar as nuanced a relationship between environment and organism his display was not completely devoid of it. environment was however only proto ecological. He recognized the significance but not the mutual dependence that emerged from twentieth century ecology. 53 Hornaday 51 52 Place was a signific Journal of the History of Biology 43, no. 3 (September 3, 2009): 493 528. 53 In 1904 German biologist Osc


54 breech 54 r ailroads. 55 extinction, these accounts fail to recognize the effect environmental change had on the bison. Environmental historian Andrew Isenberg has convincingly argued that drought, destr uction of the grassland environment by farmers and homesteaders, and the increased competition for food posed by cattle ranching contributed significantly to the 56 The scientific information available to Hornaday when he constructed his grou p had yet to incorporate the complexities posed by environment and explored proto ecological. Museum historians have described the habitat group as a precursor to the di orama. 57 Dioramas incorporated painted backgrounds but also often included more details and more inter specific interaction, focusing the representation of a single species to include a more nuanced depiction of an interdependent environment. Dioramas, and by extension habitat groups, have also been treated as a way of teaching ecology. 58 In the United States, dioramas emerged in the early 1900s but gained widespread use and recognition in the 1920s and 1930s, 59 parallel to the emergence of ecology as a recogn ized and professionalized science. Dioramas were 54 465. 55 Allen, History of t he American Bison, 56 Isenberg, The Destruction of the Bison 6. 57 Ie. Wonders, Habitat Dioramas 58 84. Wonder, Habitat Diorama 17. 59 Wonders, Habitat Dioram as 106 107.


55 then to ecology as habitat groups were to proto ecology and what makes habitat groups significantly different from dioramas is not the painted background but instead the vestiges of natural history and ninet eenth century science found within habitat groups. The Systematic View Despite their important differences, habitat groups and dioramas shared a museological and conceptual lineage. Part of this lineage was the educational 60 Natural history as a science promoted a symbolic understanding of nature, which converted the universe into a readable text that would become legible through training and close observation. 61 Habitat groups and dioramas emerged entirely from the perspective of public education and, in addition to the information supplied about individual species, habitat groups and dioramas invited visitors to step into the perspective of the naturalist, guiding them through the art of looking. 62 Writing about habitat groups in the 1920s, Frederic Lucas described museum understand habitat groups as visual exercises. 63 Goode in particular advocated that 64 Bennett has argued that the late nineteenth century drive to re organize many museum exhibits emerged from the pressing influence of liberalism, which e ncouraged 60 16. 61 Ibid. 15. 62 Wonders, Habitat Dioramas 10. As artistic reconstructions of nature they did not serve a research purpose. 63 64 Goode, Museums of the Future 434.


56 individual self regulation by disciplining the eye. 65 at or into objects specifically about the 66 Within a morphological exhibit, the relationship between objects would have been of the utmost importance because that was what gave the objects their meaning; birds of different species plac ed together became scientifically more meaningful when the differences between them represented divergence, while early taxonomic classifications were often based on visual difference. Natural history embedded nature with symbolic meaning while the discip lining of the eye taught in museums taught individuals to recognize the meaning of differences and similarities between objects, essentially creating a structure for reading museums displays. it utilized a recognizable pattern, which in many cases became monotonous. The morphological display directed the gaze in single direction typically in order to create a rote narrative of progress and often displayed the relationships between objects in a linear fashion, such as left to right or bottom to top as opposed to a spherical arrangement for example. The relationship between objects within the habitat group or diorama however was significantly less linear. a variety of non linear structures. Looking left to right or top to bottom would not give 65 Bennett, Pasts Beyond Memory 3. 66 Ibid. 39.


57 you the entire meaning of the group and multiple vantage points were needed in order to recognize the layered narratives. 67 Th e nature of the relationship between objects also changed within the habitat group and diorama as the relationship between objects British anthropological displays, the sel f regulation promoted by liberalism through museums ensured that individuals sought to be at the conclusion of a linear narrative and effectively at the top of a hierarchal scheme. 68 This desire, often achieved through effectively drove self regulation by defining an individual based on their relationship to demarcated and static hierarchy t hat Bennett argues was based on the accumulated 69 By extension, visual linear sequences outside of anthropology would have successfully naturalized this type of logic and reinforced the importance of hierarchy. The habitat group and di orama, as previously mentioned, were not linear and required a different type of looking. This new looking, which I will call the systematic view, required viewers to recognize multiple competing relationships that existed simultaneously, although these re lationships were still privileged and placed into hierarchies. Within the habitat group, these relationships were relatively simple. In 67 Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science New York: Routledge, 1989, 30. 68 Bennett, Pasts Beyond Memory 175 176. 69 Ibid. 36 38.


58 grassy habitat (which was a larg dependence on grass, making the exhibit more conceptually circular than the linear produced alkali pools through the i mplied action of wallowing again creating a visual loop that problematized the strictly hierarchal relationship between consumer and producer that would have existed within a hierarchal display. Dioramas often complicated these relationships further, addin g inter specific interaction outside of a predator prey relationship; in the 1942 bison diorama that eventually replaced addition to a grassy plains environment. The systematic view created a visual language that allowed viewers to recognize a more nuanced network of organisms that defined the less charismatic components of the display (such as grass) as necessary. Within the context of the late nineteenth United States the systematic view was especially crucial as liberalism took the form of neoclassical liberalism based in corporate capitalism. Corporate capitalism required the support of producers, suppliers, and laborer s, and many of those individuals formed the target audience of these exhibits. Thus, within the narrative of the bison group, the humblest blade of grass is needed in order for the majestic bison to flourish. The bison was however still the subject, suppor ted by the grass, and still maintained the importance of hierarchy. The systematic view also naturalized a vision of the United States rooted in the nationalistic ideology that placed citizens as hierarchal members of


59 an inextricably interconnected body th at was gaining dominance during this period. It is, however, important to note that these exhibits and this unified nationalism both emerged from Eastern metropolises and projected a world view that benefitted Eastern hegemony. The systematic view epitomiz ed a new way of understanding and as such should not be seen as a particular physical vantage point, such as a birds eye view. It is important to clarify that the term view conveys not only a way of seeing but also a way perceiving. The systematic view inc orporated both of these meanings. The habitat group showed animals from a new, semi illusionistic perspective that contextualized animals but also invited a new visual understanding of interaction and interdependency. The bison groups showed a new physical way of looking at the bison for many, particularly those who had never gone west, but also presented a new conceptual perspective on bison by showing the interface between bison and their environment. As habitat groups gave way to dioramas however the fi eld of vision substantially narrowed and visitors were given a single perspective instead of the ability to view specimens in the round. In order to create more convincing illusionistic displays, diorama builders had to better control where a visitor stood and from what angle they could look. 70 While the same interdependencies and relationships between organisms existed in dioramas, they came to increasingly reflect a much stricter vision that limited the usefulness of these displays. Habitat groups and dior amas eventually fell out of 70 Wonders, Habitat Dioramas 207 208.


60 favor and were often replaced with cost effective theaters for viewing nature films, 71 transforming the visual par adigm of the museum once again. 71


61 CHAPTER 4 POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC CONTEXT Ecology and Economy in the Habitat Group Both bison groups drew on proto ecological thought in order to create their narratives and justify their new exhibition strategies. Hornaday in particular was well informed on emerging biological and environmental ideas and incorporated them into his museum work. Nineteenth century proto ecological thought was profoundly work. 1 Th e economy of nature was not a value free concept, and in fact was predicated on prevailing understanding of teleology and hierarchy based in the great chain of being. The economy of nature dictated that [n]ature had to be understood as a rational, self equ ilibrating order in which each species subsists in a relationship of mutual dependence with other species and, by pursuing its own interests, contributes to the well being of the whole. The remarkable efficiency and stability of this natural order testifie d to the infinite wisdom of its divine creator 2 Enmeshed within this concept were cultural values, including Christian theology, rationality, regulation, and the idea of collective good. Donald Worster has argued that, in its initial meaning, economy (an d later ecology) was derived from a Christian epistemology that perceived the earth as 1 496. 2 American Economies 103 120. American Studies volume 219. Heidelbe rg: Universittsverlag Winter, 2012, 107.


62 as m 3 depended on patriarchal dominance in a clearly defined hierarchy, where an omnipotent figure controlled the primary means of income and directed the flow of money and goods through the use of produ ctive workers. The household model of economics can in fact emergence of a capitalist economy in Europe. 4 chain of consumption (insects eat plants, birds eat insects, etc.) summarizing the entire chain by 5 This type of economy, while seeming ly generic, shares key components with the ideologies associated with capitalist economies. 6 The cha in of weaker organisms consumed by stronger ones and characterized by an antagonistic individuals reflected some of the ideological values of capitalism, in which privileged co The economic model outlined by Linnaeus would have been particularly appealing in 3 Worster 192. 4 Hunt, Property and Prophets 5 10. 5 Carl Linnaeus, Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Natural History and Physick to Which Is Added a Calendar of Flora. Edited by Benjamin Still ingfleet. 3rd ed. London, 1752, 114. 6 Linnaeus, Miscellaneous Tracts 113 114. The belief that the strongest species are the most successful species was also an erroneous component of social Darwinism. Darwin in fact felt the fittest (which typically mean t the most adaptable) survived and this still did not entail domination


63 the nineteenth centu ry as industrialization in the United States and Europe instigated the rise of corporate capitalism. 7 divergence requi red the preexisting concept of the economy of nature in order to be articulated. 8 The dialogical relationship between social ideology and scientific theory was fairly common. Social Darwinism, the broad and sometimes erroneous application of loosely Darwi nian ideas (such as survival of the fittest) on human social behavior which were in turn shaped by the concepts of Malthusian population dynamics and theories. 9 There was, for example, a strong movement during States National Museum and the American Museum. 10 Economic exhibits showed the applied uses of natural mate rials as well as the evolution of the technology used to harvest and process those same materials, communicating to visitors the economic value of scientific study. 11 Habitat groups similarly expressed the relationship between economics and science but thr ough less direct means. The economy of nature represented by these 7 Hunt, Property and Prophets 101. 8 9 There has been substantial scholarship dedicated to the role economic theory, and in particular liberal economic theory, played in shaping Darwinian thought for example see Robert Young, Darwin's Metaphor: Nature's Place in Victorian Culture. Cambridge Un iversity Press, 1985, Margaret Schabas, The Natural Origins of Economics University of Chicago Press, 2005 among others. 10 42. 11 Ibid.


64 groups, which often depicted animals eating and drinking, showed the value of all created under specific economic, political, and social conditions that shaped their construction. Neoclassical Liberalism and the Gilded Age In the last quarter of the nineteenth century the United States experienced dramatic and diverse economic and political change. The period from roughly the mid Gilded Age. Recent historical scholarship has argued against both the simplification of change during this period as well as a singular evolutionary narrative leading into the Progressive Era. 12 The Search For Order which traced in very general terms the transition from Reconstructio n through the Progressive Era, has been criticized for failing to reflect these multiple narratives. 13 however describe the dominant political and economic view of the era, which based its authority in the hegemonic influence of eastern ind which follows the rise of the urban middle class in the United States, can be used to understand the development of museums during this period. Museums as institutions shared in the dominant ideologies projected by t he urban middle class, who were often directly involved in museum administration and practice. 14 Thus while a multiplicity of 12 n, Society, and Poltics, 1873 The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 5, no. 3 (July 2006): 189 224. 13 195. 14


65 historic experiences effected the Gilded Age, museums often reflected dominant ideologies that projected national consensus. Follow ing Recons truction, corporate capitalism dominated the national economy. 15 This development was not unilateral but arose primarily in the industrialized East, which came to be economically dominant following the Civil War. 16 Eastern cities also became the na tional centers of finance housing newly formed national banks as well as controlling significant amounts of capital. 17 Reconstruction politics favored Eastern ascendency while encouraging the development of national markets with power centers based in East ern metropolises like Washington, New York, and Philadelphia. 18 Eastern markets also heavily controlled western expansion, which relied on railroads and economic infrastructure provided by the East in order to become profitable and economically sustainable. 19 The rise of national markets was a significant departure from the previous economic structure of the United States, which was more heterogeneous and was 20 Under this framework, the United States power and focused on inward growth. 21 The development of national markets bound 15 Hunt, Property and Prophets 103. 16 Robert H. Wiebe, The Search for Order, 1877 1920 Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1980, 49 50. 17 Wiebe, The Search for Order 24 25. 18 Richard White, Norman; London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993, 247. 19 White, 236 237. 20 Wiebe, The Search for Order 44. 21 Ibid. 4.


66 these communities to an increasingly powerful network but also made these communities reliant on these markets, creating a system of interdependency. The growth of national markets was fostered in part by industrialization, which benefited from consolidation in order to accumulate capital. 22 In the United States, consolidation took the form of federally supported c orporations which through aggressive competition absorbed large portions of single industries, creating monopolies like the railroads, steel, and oil corporations of the late nineteenth century. 23 cal creed that rejected the state, or government, as an evil to be tolerated only when it was the sole means of 24 Liberalism, in its most basic form, felt the government was necessary only to ensure the enforcement of contracts, pres erve internal order, and create public works that facilitated business, including maintaining currency, building roads, and operating postal systems used for communication. Many liberals maintained a laissez faire philosophy. 25 This created a structure pred icated on a paternalistic hierarchy where those at the peak of the hierarchy provided services to those at the bottom for the supposed benefit of the recipient. More often, these services ensured the perpetuation of the system. The classical liberal laisse z faire philosophy was however very paradoxical and self serving, as many liberals supported the interference of the government in economic affairs as long as it directly benefited them. 26 22 Hunt, Property and Prophets 103. 23 Ibid. 104 5. 24 Hunt, Property and Prophets 44. 25 Ibid. 45. 26 Ibid.


67 Within Gilded Age America, liberalism took the particular form of ne oclassical liberalism in order to adjust for the size of corporations. This defeated the model of many small competing firms as promoted by classical liberalism. 27 Neoclassical liberalism incorporated social Darwinism in order to justify the increased size of corporate entities created by a specious laissez faire policy and also adopted a new advocating for broader public works, including hospitals, schools, libraries, and museums. 28 By its attachment to popular education, neoclassical liberalism was able to ensure its own dominance as an ideology. Museums both existed within and supported this ideology. By its mere existence, the American Museum endorsed the benevolence of corporations as it ran predominantly on private donations and had many captains of industry on its board of trustees. 29 The United States National Museum existed because of the liberal ideology that governments should provide such services. Both institution s also benefitted from were financially aided by free and reduced transportation costs via the major U.S. ny years. 30 27 Ibid. 105. 28 Ibid. 113 114. 29 Natural History, 1868 30 Hornaday rece ived free transportation on the Pennsylvania, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and requested free transportation passes from Jessup, indicating their use by e xpeditions, see Richardson to Jessup, August 7, 1889. Administrative Archive August 1889, American Museum of Natural History


68 Economic and political change was important to Hornaday, who was well economic leanings informed his museum work. In Extermination of the Bison Hornaday proposed several potential financial measures for protecting the bison, including a railroad tax. 31 Extermination also documented legislation involving bison protection and Hornaday repeatedly called for federal intervention and protection for the bison cla 32 neoclassical liberal ideology. He wanted the government to provide a service which the market was unwilling to. In 1918 Hornaday published a book encouraging American participation in World War I titled Awake! America It included passages decrying the evils of socialism and bolshevism, advocating for stronger educational reform, and argued against imm igration 33 continued connection to the industrial elite throughout his career, 34 overlapped with the ideologies of the dominant class that formed many museum builders and administrators. Federalism and the H abitat Group Neoclassical liberalism posed a serious problem for the political ideology favored by many in the United States: that of a small federal government. Federalism was a so undermined 31 32 Ibid. 513. 33 See William Temple Hornaday, Awake! America New York: Moffat, Yard & Company, 1918. 34 He was lifelong friends with Carnegie as well as Theodore Roosevelt and frequently petitioned wealthy Easterners to donate to the A merican Bison Society.


69 the nature of a representative government. 35 By advocating for increased public services as well as increased regulation over the emerging national economic market, neoclassical liberalism demanded the expansion of the federal government, a p rocess already well underway in the Gilded Age. Following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, federal authority rapidly expanded, particularly in economic matters where federal intervention was seen as necessary for economic growth. 36 The Civil War radically re government during Reconstruction was incorporated into national memory and identity. 37 Western Expansion saw the formulation of the Department of the interior, the Land Offic e, and the Bureau of the American Indian (among others) within a relatively short period of time in order to facilitate the colonization of the newly annexed western territories. 38 The federal government also exercised increased authority over the state gov ernments during this period. 39 Justification for this expansion took the rhetoric of public good but was also met with popular resistance in the face of the perceived 40 David Blight, in Race and Reunion: The Civil War in Public Memory has argued that public memory in the fifty years following the Civil War sublimated the political and 35 White, 62 63. 36 Ibid. 62 63. 37 Ibid. 171 174. 38 Ibid. 58. 39 White, 57 60. 40 David W. Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001, 138 139.


70 economic causes of the war for a narrative revolving around race and unity. 41 analysis, these narratives evolved primarily from public gatherings and holidays (such fiction and fiction writing about the war. While Blight does not explicitly mention museums, museums can also be treated as organs of public memory that a lso shaped how events were remembered and forgotten. Much of the public memory surrounding the Civil War focused on narratives of redemption based in reconciliation and unity, promoting a national identity of fraternity in order to forget the factionalism of the war. 42 increasingly focused on uniting island communities into a national body. Federalism represented much of what united these com munities, creating the legal and economic structures that connected them. Because of the inherent contradiction of federalism in American identity an alternative public memory needed to be formed. A narrative of social unity, like that discussed by Blight, in part attempted to camouflage the controversy of federalism, replacing tyranny with economic growth, and federalism with Americanism. the land, and redemption comes from nature, not so much from the people or their 43 The history of the bison was intimately tied to that of western expansion, development, and 41 See Blight, Race and Reunion 42 Blight, Race and Reunion 89, 94 95. 43 Blight, Race and Reunion 30.


71 by extension, federalism. F or many the bison did not represent the federal government undermined the romanticized vision of the American West, which in reality was not the Wild West but the heavily r egulated one. 44 In attempting to create a public memory of westward expansion, museums excluded an explicit narrative on federalism and regulation in favor of exploration, freedom, and self discovery, embodied by the images of wilderness projected west. Na self ignoring the bureaucratic developments that made expansion possible. 45 These narratives cl osely mimicked those espoused by neoclassical liberalism, which similarly prided itself as an all conquering and self reliant force, while conveniently forgetting its dependence on the state. In some ways the romanticized vision of the settlement of the We st was the same ideological narrative promoted by the neoclassical liberalism translated into a nature based allegory especially appealing to Eastern audiences. The Eastern fascination and nostalgia with Western settlement materialized at the end of the ni neteenth century and actively shaped how the bison was remembered. 46 Eastern natural history museums capitalized on this fascination by creating large displays focused on North American wildlife as well as on the nature and indigenous people of the American West. 44 White, 613 626. 45 Ibid, 57. 46


72 Expansion that both sublimated and supported the role of the federal government. The role of settlement, the railroad, and expansion were all gone from the bison groups desp present an implied horizon that extends into the open plain where the only memento of crucial element which perpetuated the romantic unregulated vision of the West. This erased the presence of the government in the West, while inviting its future in volvement to salvage the few remaining bison. Federalism and the justification for federal control were legitimized by the paternalistic ethic that saw the government as providing services that would otherwise not be provided by private industry. 47 Paternalism also allowed federalism to shift from the realm of tyranny to that positive and necessary support. Looking at Hornaday and layered narrative of paternalism. The bison groups fit into a meta narrativ e of paternalism where white Eastern scientists and conservationists rescued the bison from oblivion and the wantonness of the West. Hornaday in particular set out to hunt what he believed to be some of the last bison in existence for posterity, espousing 48 The skulls would have denoted this idea, implying 47 Hunt, Property and Prophets 113 116. 48


73 the loss of the bison and fashioning the group s into memorials. As bison conservation became more successful, the groups would have then represented the success of paternal guidance and federal intervention. The groups also included an internalized narrative of paternalism. Both groups were dominated by a large male figure. Hornaday explicitly stated the bull was the focus are turnin g their heads in the same direction apparently, as if alarmed by something younger bison. 49 contact with and h eld the gaze of the viewer. When juxtaposed with the skulls that 50 This was a conscious decision on the part of Hornaday and Richardson as herds with cows are typically matriarchal. 51 The romanticized bison, particularly the majestic image of the bison projected by Hornaday and Richardson that appeared in the late nineteenth century, also carried strong paternal associations. In Extermination Hornaday quoted a Kansas City Times 52 King or monarch of the plains was 49 50 Haraway argues the gaze of male animals in di oramas was often intended as a challenge to the masculinity of the viewer, see Haraway, Primate Visions 26 58. 51 Except during breeding season. 52


74 a popular moniker for the bison and implied a paternal dominance rooted in the nostalgic past. Num erous works of art depicting bison and titled Monarch of the Plains By employing the recognizable structure of paternalism, H ornaday and While they did not explicitly depict federal intervention or the merits of a federal government, both utilized the same logic that guided the rise of federal ism. The bison as a subject also in many ways implied positive federalism because of their strong bison using federal intervention. The systematic view discussed previo usly would have also greatly complemented a pro federal stance. For many anti federalists, the government was merely a parasite that fed on its citizens. 53 Within a systematic view that emphasized interconnectedness, the government ceased to be a parasite a nd instead became a necessary member of an interconnected network. The systematic view recognized the federal government as well as national economic markets as necessary structures within a larger national system, and would have also enabled their accepta nce by binding the structure of federalism to natural science. It is important recognize that federalism greatly benefitted Eastern industrial hegemony. Before gaining statehood, many of the western territories exercised relatively little power on a nati onal scale and were intentionally economically and 53 White, 56 59.


75 politically dependent on the East. 54 The Civil War also drastically altered the economic practices of the South and influenced the development of industry there. 55 Neoclassical liberalism as an ideology affe cted the United States as a whole but directly benefitted the East by ensuring the dominance of the economic practices found there. The systematic view promoted an idealized vision of the United States that advanced Eastern interests. A large united system connected by national markets benefitted the concentrations of capital found in the East. Within habitat groups, federalism and proto ecology dovetailed as federalism benefitted from the both the economic qualities of proto ecology and the shared systema tic view that privileged thinking in terms of networks. The bison was an ideal subject for this type of narrative as it carried significant social associations and narrative meaning. 54 Ibid. 155. 55 Wiebe, The Search for Order 146 148.


76 CHAPTER 5 SOCIAL CONTEXT The Bison Groups and Domesticity The paternalism employed by federalism, implied by the household model of justifying political and economic structures rooted in liberalism, also carried important social mean domestic scene. and posing of the figures. The symmetrical placement of the bull and cow with the cow in the subordinate left e bison conformed to the taxidermic principles Hornaday laid out in Taxidermy and Zoological Collecting e of 1 his group clearly depicted a domestic scene. of the exhibit and drawing the eye, created a gender based hierarchy with adult male figures Cody) were the second most important figures, as multiple details of the cow and calf 1 Hornaday 1887, 416.


77 Figure 5 F. Cody), date and creator unknown, negative number 17339, American Museum of Natural History Photographic Archives.


78 isola ted from the group wer e created. It was this detail that Lucas chose to use for his demonstrated a domestic ideal that would have appealed to Victorian sensibilities. Richardson was particularly aware of th e popularity of baby animals and intentionally pleasing specimens in his other displays. 2 Museums also figured prominently into the discourse on domesticity in the Gilded Age. The middle class American culture that dominated museums was characterized by objects. 3 Collecting, and the display of collections, was considered an appropriate pastime for women as well as a form of conspicuous consumption that demarcated class. 4 5 6 By constructing domestic scen es in habitat groups, Hornaday and Richardson grounded the ideology of domesticity in material fact and legitimized it by connecting the domestic to nature. Within the larger context of museums, habitat groups became one that en abled the working class and immigrant audiences at whom many exhibits were targeted, to emulate the domestic values of the middle 2 Richardson to Jessup July 23, 1888. Administrative Archives July 1888, American Museum of Natural History Archives. 3 Conn, Museums and American Intellectual Life, 13. 4 Ibid. 13 15. 5 Montiesor as quoted in Conn, Museums and American Intellectual Life, 14. 6 Ibid. 14.


79 class. 7 Hornaday normalized Victorian gender roles an 8 Building on this analysis, the familial grouping not only communicated prevailing notions of gender, but also inculcated the beneficial forces of domestication and the importance of order and regulation. The Victorian family existed as a recognizable patt ern that informed not only social ideologies but also political and economic ones, which, during the nineteenth century, often relied on (familial) structures suited for ideolo gical scaffolding, and imbricated the bison in the interconnected discourses of gender, race, and class. Middle class domesticity was a privileged goal that ensured the hegemony of white, Christian males and at the end of the nineteenth century Eastern mid dle class and elite values dominated definitions of Americana. Based in the Christian paternal ethic, domesticity both projected and policed what constituted an acceptable, civilized home while forcing others to adopt the values of domesticity in order to be recognized as civilized and therefore citizens. Anti immigration writing, like that created by Hornaday, often criticized immigrants as unable to adopt American values. 9 Similar logic was used against Native Americans and freed blacks following the civi l war. Public education was often targeted at assimilating immigrants while justifying suspended 10 7 Ibid. 4. 8 9 Wiebe, The Search for Order, 53 55. 10 Its Your M 109 110; Blight, Race and Reunion 333 334.


80 (assistant secretary at the Smithsonian) museum of the future impl icitly included education for immigrants while his eulogists emphasized the importance Goode placed on educating the freedman. 11 groups did not openly espouse the merits of being middle class, white, Christian, or male, their use of domesticity perpetuated these structures. These structures were also important components of neoclassical liberalism, which required a hierarchal paternalism to function and favored the dominance of an industrial capitalist class that (during this period) was predominantly Eastern, white, Christian, and male. 12 The museum also created the connections needed to build national networks. In referring to colonial museums, Bennett described the transmissions of specimens from distant places to a sing ular center which structured a powered relationship between the metropolis and the colony. 13 This type of logic can be applied to the relationship between the rural island communities of the United States and the urban centers that later came to dominate p olitics and economics. Victoria Cain has further argued that correspondence between major metropolitan museums and people in rural areas communities would send specimens and letters to the nearest metropolitan museum, creating a regional network of exchange. 14 These exchanges created social networks 11 A Memorial of George Brown Goode Together With a Selection of His Papers on M uesums and on the History of Science in America Washington, D.C: Government Printing Office, 1901, 14. 12 Neoclassical liberalism requires an uneven distribution of wealth, where surplus capital can accumulate in order for corporations and other major ind ustrial entities to flourish. Because of this a hierarchy emerges where those with the most capital control a significant portion of the market while those with little to no capital exercise little to no power, see Hunt, Property and Prophets 103 113. 13 Bennett, Pasts Beyond Memory 21. 14 105.


81 predicated in natural history that allowed museums to strengthen a sense of nationalism. Domesticity and the West Domestication in reference to agriculture, livestock, and Native Americans, typified the national policy towards the western territories and was seen as the ideal outcome of westward expansion, using technology and regulation to create productive centers for extractive ind ustries. 15 Western Expansion included the transformation of arid and semi arid areas into profitable agricultural land, while mining and lumber razed the hostile wilderness into something more tame. 16 West stemmed from a desi base while facilitating trade by opening up more ports and industrial centers. 17 By projecting the Eastern values of domesticity westward the government ensured profitability by rendering the land an d people of the West into productive units. The most important topographic features (emphasized by Hornaday in his y contributing to the domestication of 18 behavior was imbued with Euro American thinking (as well as the logic of settler colonialism) which valued agriculture in defining land ownership, and in particular the 15 61 118. 16 Ibid. 57 59. 17 Ibid. 63. 18 Hornaday 1887, 417.


82 ability of agriculture to demarcate land and indicate property. 19 effect on land was seen as pragmatic ally valuable, at least in popular folklore, 20 within American notions of ownership. communicated the Euro American family model. In addition to representing gender roles this model also represented the idyllic productive unit used to structure much Western veyed the household structure, with the old bull intentionally positioned as the dominant figure on landscape carved and shaped by his ancestors and surrounded by his offspring. By deliberately choosing this arrangement despite its biological inaccuracy (a s bison do not form families), Hornaday not only conveyed Victorian moral values but also naturalized the contrived structure that formed the basis for Euro American society. Domestication also characterized the American policy towards Native Americans. Th e reservation system as well reform schools were created in order to assimilate and domesticate Native Americans, in order to make them productive components of the United States. These policies were particularly aggressive on the Great Plains. 21 Bison shar ed an important relationship with the Plains Indians and Isenberg has argued that lack of federal protection for bison was a part of an intentional strategy deployed against 19 White, 139. 20 In reality, buffalo trails were destructive to covered wagon wheels, while the alkali deposits left in the pools were detrimental to agriculture, see Barsness, Heads, Hid es, and Horns 2 and 149. 21 White, 109 111; Isenberg, The Destruction of the Bison 155.


83 Native Americans. 22 By allowing the exterminati on of the bison, a significant compo nent of the plains ecosystem, the United States government enacted a war of attrition against the Plains Indians by denying them an important source of food and forcing them to become reliant on reservation cattle. 23 Bison also figured prominently into Plai ns cultures and their destruction negatively impacted bison based religious and social traditions. 24 The association of bison with the Plains Indians was significant and formed part of the frontier nostalgia emerging concurrently with Hornaday and Richardso actors to create a romanticized image of the West appealing to Eastern sensibilities. 25 These types of performances connected the Indian to the bison in American consciousness but did not allow the bison to become a metonymy for the Indian. Bison were still treated with more affection and concern than many Native groups who were 26 Hornaday expressed significant animosity towards Native Americans in Extermination of the Bison 27 His later conservation efforts also benefitted directly from the oppressive policies directed at 22 Isenberg, The Destruction of the Bison, 148. 23 Ibid. 155 156. 24 Ibid. 130. 25 26 White, 115. 27


84 Native Americans as several bison preserves were created from land gained throug h the practice of allotment. 28 The late nineteenth century American infatuation with the bison stemmed from the narrative of triumph surrounding the conquest of the bison. After their efficient near total extermination bison were reintroduced to the domesti cated West. Domestication was applied literally to the bison; using bison as livestock was treated as a viable conservation tactic. 29 Hornaday touted the commercial value of bison as livestock and worked with bison ranchers during his later conservation wor k, buying members of the last remaining private herds to build the public herds he fought for. 30 As a literal and figurative ideal, domestication appealed to Hornaday and other conservationists because it allowed the bison to be tailored into the idealized future of the west, serving a productive role while affirming social values. Unlike the Native American, the bison experienced by many at the end of the nineteenth century was no t the feral bison of the past, but a new domesticated one. 31 were in some ways precursors of the literally domesticated bison of the future, showing the idyllic peace domestication would bring. The Preservatio n of the Bison s his early death prevented him from making a larger impact on museum practice and 28 29 Ibid. 451 464. 30 183 186. 31


85 conservation, although his ideas were spread and modified by his assistant John Rowley. 32 Richa significant example of the art of taxidermy. 33 Hornaday left the United States National Museum in 1896 to work at the New York Zoological Park. 34 In 1905, he founded the American Bison Society, whose sole mission was the preservation of the bison and today Hornaday is often remembered most for his conservation work. 35 The American Bison Society under Ho rnaday succes sfully fought for protective legislation for animals including the bison, and through the donation of wealthy patrons was able to undertake the first animal reintroduction in the United States, releasing bison into the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in 1907. 36 The American Bison Society created three public herds and two refuges, and in 1936 the group disbanded after believing they had successfully saved the bison. 37 bison group remained on display until 1957. A curatorial assistant disassembli ng the exhibit discovered a small metal box imbedded inside the exhibit with 32 Rowley was a well known taxidermist and group maker, considered on par with Hornaday and Carl Akeley. 33 15. 34 scandal involving his decision to exhibit an African man, Ota Benga, in the monkey house. 35 36 Ibid. 182. 37


86 as well informa 38 placed in storage until the 1996 when it was painstakingly reassembled at the Montana Agricultural Museum, where it remains to this day. 39 The majority of bison in existence today are a part of private commercial herds. Bison meat and leather are still very marketable in the United States. 40 dedication to the bison were substantial. Bison preservation was a part of a larg e complex network of historic events, including the end of the Indian Wars, the increased economic value of bison, and the nostalgia for the vanishing West. 41 The federal success of domesticity but also the increased federal government. Hornaday and public awareness about the bison, contributing to their eventual preservation. real pla nts, and real places capitalized on the object base epistemology of both the museum and 38 39 Ibid. 107. 40 Barsness, Heads, Hides, and Horns 1 3. 41


87 Figure 5 2 William Temple Hornaday and Sandy, the bison, in Washington, D.C. After Hornaday with Baby Bison at Smithsonian, 1886, Unknown creator. Smithson Institution Archives, Record U nit 95, Box 13, Folder 39.


88 42 This in effect allowed the object to become a place or time that was Immediately inaccessible to the museum visitor. However, when the logic is reversed the presence becomes an absence, defining t he past or the place depicted objects, drove this understanding of the bison and the West as the last of their kind, creating a forlorn finality that drove the nostalgic crusa de to save both. Conclusion epistemologies. They were first and foremost bound to the logic of the habitat group, which itself was tied to the context of the late nineteenth centu ry American natural history museum. These museums derived their authority and organizing principles from the logic of natural history and science that was increasingly influenced by proto ecological thought. These museums also existed in and responded to t he political and economic changes affecting the United States in the Gilded Age and shared with proto ecology the systematic view. The bison groups bore a complex relationship to these events. Positioned within museums, they both documented and enforced t he changes happening around them without being the primary cause. Because of the unique relationship museums had with time, placing an idea within a museum historicized and legitimized it. Although museums reflected the collaborative work of many individu als they also materialized ideas already a part of the dominant culture. 42 Bennet t, Pasts Beyond Memory, 22.


89 The scarcity and significance of the bison in the late nineteenth century allowed it to become a protean symbol and take on the values surrounding it. The bison was well suited for t he narratives of ecology and federalism as bison conservationists openly called for federal intervention and regulation in preserving them, citing bison as necessary members of the plains environment and contributing to national wealth. 43 The inability to i nitially pass legislation protecting the bison, despite attempts that started in 1870s, 44 also demonstrated the important role the bison groups played in shaping public sentiment. Legislation prohibiting hunting was antithetical to early understandings of A merican identity, especially as it related to the democratic relationship between every American citizen and nature. 45 Despite this, bison protection was enacted in 1894, nation, as protecting the bison included open cries for federal intervention. Federalism and ecology developed under a shared epistemology advocating for paternalistic hierarchies and regulation. The systematic view instructed viewers in how to recognize these systems while also acknowledging their necessity despite the fact that both were predicated on value laden ideologies that ensured the dominance of the federalism and ec ology because, as habitat groups and museum displays, they possessed a unique combination of auth ority and ambiguity. Through their presence as 43 Hornaday 1887, 521 522. 44 Hornaday 1887, 514 520. 45 Hunting was seen as democratic while early attempts to implement bag limits and game seasons were seen as elitist and antithetical to American identity, which defined itsel f as distinct from European Montana: The Magazine of Western History 55, no. 3 (Autumn 2005): 22 33.


90 both a visual object and museological display, the bison groups were able to draw on existing ideologies while s ubtly modifying them.


91 LIST OF REFERENCES Allen, Joel Asaph. History of the American Bison, Bison Americanus Washington, D.C: Government Printing Office, 1877. American Museum of Natural History, Annual Report 1886 1887, New York, NY, 1887. American Museum of Natural History, Annual Report 1887 1888, New York, NY, 1888. Establishment Transformed Wildlife Display in American Natural History Museums And Fought to Save En (Doctoral Dissertation). University of Minnesota, 2006, Critical Inquiry 18, no. 3 (Spring 1992): 556 594. Barrow Mark. Age of Ecology Chicago ; London: The University of Chicago Press, 2009. Barsness, Larry. Heads, Hides & Horns: The Complete Buffalo Book Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1985. Bennett, Tony. Pasts Beyond Memory: Evolution, Museums, Colonial ism Routledge, 2004. American Economies 103 120. American Studies volume 219. Heidelberg: Universittsverlag Winter, 2012. Blight, David W. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001. Transformation of American Natural H istory Museums, 1870 (Doctoral Disertation). Columbia University, 2007. Conn, Steven. Museums and American Intellectual Life, 1876 1926 Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. Geist, Valerius. Buffalo Nation: History and Legend of the North Ame rican Bison Stillwater, MN: Voyageur Press, 1996. Goode, G. Brown. The Museums of the Future Washington, D.C: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1891.


92 Haraway, Donna Jeanne. Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science New York: Routledge, 1989. Montana: The Magazine of Western History 55, no. 3 (Autumn 2005): 22 33. Report of the United States National Museum Under the Direction of the Smithsonian Institution 1887 369 548. Washington, D.C: United States Government Printing Office, 1887. --------. Taxidermy and Zoological Collecting; a Complete Handbook for the Amateur Taxidermist, Collector, Osteologist, Museum bui lder, Sportsman, and Traveller Hunt, E. K. Property and Prophets: The Evolution of Economic Institutions and Ideologies 7th ed. The HarperCollins Series in Economics. New York: Harper Collins College Publishers, 1995. Isenberg, Andrew C. The Destruction of the Bison: An Environmental History, 1750 1920 Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000. --------Environmental History 2, no. 2 (April 1997): 179 196. Knight, Charles R. Charles R. Knight: Autobiography of an Artist Ann Arbor [Mich.]: G.T. Labs, 2005. Social Archeology: Beyond Subsistence and Dating Studies in Archeology. New York: Academic Press, 1978: 25 36. Linnaeus, Carl. Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Natural History and Physick to Which Is Added a Calendar of Flora. Edited by Benjamin Stillingfleet. 3rd ed. London, Englang, 1752. Lucas, Frederic A. The Story of Museum Groups New Yor k, NY: American Museum of Natural History, 1922. Darwin and the Economy of Journal of the History of Biology 43, no. 3 (September 3, 2009): 493 528. zing the Gilded Age: Capital Accumulation, Society, and Poltics, 1873 The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 5, no. 3 (July 2006): 189 224.


93 Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences 55, no. Supplement 1, No. 5 (October 18, 2004). White, Richard. American West Norman; London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993. Wiebe, Robert H. The Search for Order, 1877 1920 Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1980. A Memorial of George Brown Goode Together With a Selection of His Papers on Muesums and on the History of Science in America Washington, D.C: Government Printing Office, 1901. Wonders, Karen. Habitat Dioramas: Illusions of Wilderness in Museums of Natural History Act a Universitatis Upsaliensis nova ser. 25. Uppsala: s.n., 1993. Worster, Donald. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1977.


94 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH E. Bennett Jones graduated in spring of 2014 fr om the Coll ege of Fine Art s with a Master of Arts in Museology. Bennett completed this degree with a disciplinary focus in history and a strong interest in curation and museum exhibit design. Bennett also worked for the University Gallery, curating several shows while at University of Florida.

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