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Mr. Hornaday's War

How a Peculiar Victorian Zookeeper Waged a Lonely Crusade for Wildlife That Changed the World

Stefan Bechtel

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Description

He was complex, quirky, pugnacious, and difficult. He seemed to create enemies wherever he went, even among his friends. A fireplug of a man who stood only five feet eight inches in his stocking feet, he had an outsized ambition to make his mark on the world. And he did. William Temple Hornaday (1854-1937) was probably the most famous conservationist of the nineteenth century, second only to his great friend and ally Theodore Roosevelt. Hornaday's great passion was protecting wild things and wild places, and he spent most of his adult life in a state of war on their behalf, as a taxidermist and museum collector; as the founder and first director of the National Zoo in Washington, DC; as director of the Bronx Zoo for thirty years; and as the author of nearly two dozen books on conservation and wildlife. But in Mr. Hornaday's War, the long-overdue biography of Hornaday by journalist Stefan Bechtel, the grinding contradictions of Hornaday's life also become clear. Though he is credited with saving the American bison from extinction, he began his career as a rifleman and trophy hunter who led "the last buffalo hunt" into the Montana Territory. And what happened in 1906 at the Bronx Zoo, when Hornaday displayed an African man in a cage, shows a side of him that is as baffling as it is repellent. This gripping new book takes an honest look at a fascinating and enigmatic man.

Publishers Weekly Review

Feb 20, 2012 – This brief, entertaining biography by Bechtel (a founding editor of Men’s Health and author of Tornado Hunter) traces William Hornaday’s (1854–1937) journey from big game hunter (he killed 43 orangutans in Borneo as a young man) to defender of wildlife, and his emergence as one of the 19th century’s most famous conservationists. Founder and first director of Washington, D.C.’s National Zoo, and first director of the Bronx Zoo, Hornaday’s life was riddled with paradox. For example, he is sometimes credited with singlehandedly saving the American buffalo. Once the most ubiquitous creature on the continent, the bison had been hunted to the brink of extinction, and in 1886, Hornaday had reason to believe that the “buffalo-hide hunters of the United States had practically finished their work.” In response, he organized his own buffalo hunt, with the goal of collecting specimens to taxidermy and display in the Smithsonian, “allowing people to see, up close, what he was asking them to save.” Though clearly fond of his subject, Bechtel does not gloss over Hornaday’s faults—such as the troubling incident in which Hornaday displayed a Congolese pygmy at the Bronx Zoo—and the resulting book offers a lively treatment of a singular life.
Mr. Hornaday's War
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  • $16.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Nature
  • Published: May 15, 2012
  • Publisher: Beacon Press
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 272 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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