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100 Years Ago: April 1920

This is the sixty-third entry in my series of brief recaps of National Geographic magazines that have reached the centennial of their being published.

The first article in this month’s issue is entitled “Peary as a Leader” and was written by Donald B. MacMillan. The article has an explanatory subtitle which reads, “Incidents from the Life of the Discoverer of the North Pole Told by One of His Lieutenants on the Expedition Which Reached the Goal”. At the time the article was written, Lt. MacMillan was an Arctic explorer in his own right. It contains twenty black-and-white photographs, eight of which are full-page in size. The article also contains a full-page map of the Arctic regions explored by Peary on page 297. This map, while black-and-white, is more than a mere sketch map and is rendered in great detail.

Map Courtesy of Philip Riviere

This article about Rear Admiral Robert E. Peary gives disjoined scenes from different expeditions to emphasis the Admiral’s character of leadership. At times I felt Peary was being nominated for Sainthood, if not Godhood. The goal of reaching the Pole had driven nations for over three hundred years. To succeed at this endeavor demanded great leadership. As the author observed, Peary persuaded the Eskimos to head into the great ser-mik-suah, the abode of evil spirits, and noted that his white men would have followed him to their death.

A key to the Admiral’s character was demonstrated when, upon being awarded the Hubbard Medal of the National Geographic Society by ex-President Roosevelt, Peary said: “The true explorer does his work not for hope of reward or honor, but because the thing which he has set himself to do is a part of his being and must be accomplished for the sake of accomplishment.” Here Lt. MacMillan saw the energy, purpose, determination, and love of country essential to being a great leader.

On July 15, 1886, at an altitude of 7,525 feet atop the Greenland ice-cap, Peary and a companion camped for two days while the “jealous gods of that great frozen Sahara… looked in wonder at these pioneers”. Five years later these gods saw Peary land on their shores with a broken leg and must have laughed, but when they saw the ship sail away leaving him alone, they realized that he “was a man against whom immediate warfare must be declared and their strongest forces united”. By the beginning of the long Arctic day, Peary was ready to trek across the ice-cap. On Independence Day 1892 the American flag was unfurled at Navy Cliffs, some six hundred miles away on the other side of Greenland. Weeks later he struggled back to base. Frostbitten, with dogs dying and food nearly gone, he looked up to heaven and declared, “man was not born to die beneath such a sky.”

Six years later he dared to harness his dogs and leave his ship frozen in the ice, and head northward in the middle of the big Arctic night. In temperatures of 50 to 60 degrees below zero and out of food he groped his way along the coast of Ellesmere Land searching for the headquarters of the Greely Expedition, abandoned sixteen years before. He stumbled through the door with both feet frozen. Toe after toe slough off. He was lashed to a sled and taken back to the ship two hundred miles away with a can of anesthetic that was brought to the Arctic by Greely in 1881. This aided with the amputation of the stumps of the eight toes he had lost. Now a cripple, within thirty-seven days he was heading north again, equipped with crutches. Passing through the Kennedy and Robeson channels to explore the great unknown.

Two years later Peary was encamped on the shores of Cape Sabine surrounded by his loyal Eskimos, preparing for another attempt to reach the pole. Every attack that Torgnak, the evil spirit of the North, had thrown at Peary had failed. He had endured bitter cold, cutting wind, blinding drift, thin ice, rough ice, pressure ridges, sickness among his dogs, frostbitten face, fingers and feet, and starvation; and yet his will was adamant, his body strong, and his purpose unshaken. On this season’s assault, Peary not only failed to reach the Pole, but also lost his six Eskimos. These were Peary’s darkest days. Four years he remained in the North, and returned scarred and temporarily beaten, but with knowledge of why he was beaten. This would lead to his final success.

In the fall of 1904, a new ship began to take shape in Maine, the sturdy Roosevelt, the first American-built Polar ship. In 1905, she steamed around Cape Sheridan and into the Polar Seas, farther north than any other ship had gone. On the northern shores of Grant Land, the ship was unloaded and a base was set up inland. By spring of 1906, Peary was ready for another attempt. All went well for a few days but then a six-day blizzard drove them 60 miles to the east. With no relief to the rear and all food supplies gone, Peary and his men headed toward their goal and set a record of “Farthest North”, 174 miles from the Pole. Weeks later, on the northern coast Greenland, they burned their last sled for fuel, ate one of the dogs, and set out on foot for Cape Sheridan.

Within two weeks of reaching the base Peary was heading west along the northern shores of Grant Land in a thousand-mile trip to the Northern Shores of Axel Heiberg Island. Such a journey immediately following an attempt to reach the Pole was thought impossible and doubted by many. Proof of this feat was documented in 1914 during the Donald B. MacMillan Arctic Expedition, 1913-1917. In late 1906 Peary arrived in America, reporting that he failed to reach the Pole, but declaring he would make another, and last attempt.

Not one man who signed a contract for the expedition expected to go to the Pole. They were there to do their part to see that Peary reached that distant goal. President Roosevelt’s parting words at Oyster Bay were “Peary, I believe in you, and if it is possible to get there, I know you’ll do it!” Peary’s men shared that faith. They steamed along the Labrador Coast and into the ice of Baffin Bay. Despite the stories of Peary as a tyrant, the crew found him able to get things done without issuing and order but with just a suggestion to get it done “sometime today”.

The first stop was at Etah, Meteorite Island in Melville Bay. Here the Eskimos greeted “Peary-ark-suah” (Big Peary) back again with glad cries. He was considered a great “Nalegak”, leader among men. Three weeks later, with decks filled with Eskimos and dogs, the Roosevelt steamed into the heavy ice of Smith Sound. Navigating this dangerous stretch was crucial to the success of the expedition. Robert Bartlett, the ship’s captain, did everything necessary to assure that success and drove the ship farther north than any ship had steamed.

Once at their winter quarters everything needed for reaching the Pole, and for a retreat southward if the ship was lost, was removed from the ship. Houses were built to shelter the group of seventy-five men, women, and children. They kept busy through the long Polar night sledding far into the interior of Grant Land, in quest of musk-oxen, caribou, and Arctic hare. These excursions kept the men healthy through exercise and by providing fresh meat to stave off scurvy. They instilled enthusiasm in the men and the men’s knowledge of Arctic matters increased day by day.

Peary developed a new stove for this expedition. Until then the best sled stove of his time was the Primus, which could convert cracked ice at 60 below zero into a gallon of tea in 20 minutes. His stove could do it in nine. This provided his men extra time sleep after a long march. Their clothing was that of the Eskimo and could not be improved upon. Peary’s plan for advance and attack of the Pole was based upon his 1906 attempt. Upon leaving Grant Land they had to depend on the food on the sleds to feed the men and dogs.

For Peary and his party to have enough food for the final dash to the Pole and the 500-mile return trip, a supply chain was formed comprised of supporting parties under the command of Henson, Bartlett, Marvin, Borup, Goodsell, and the author. Every five days, a white man and his Eskimos were to return to land with an amount of food equal to one-half consumed on the outward journey. Food was critical; every ounce translated into miles traveled. When the men heard the words, “you are to go back tomorrow”, they did it willingly knowing that it was in the best interest of the expedition. The author then posits the question: And the negro? That was referring to Henson, who was indispensable to Peary. Henson had years of experience in dog-driving; he was a master mechanic; he spoke to the Eskimos in their native tongue; and he was easily the most efficient of all Peary’s assistants.

Weeks later the little band of six returned, showing the strain of the rapid dash to land over ice fields which threatened to be broken by the high tides of the approaching full moon. Their retreat was done so quickly that some doubted that they reached the Pole at all. During the days of controversy that followed the facts ignored by the public included: Peary’s supporting parties placed him at nearly the 88th parallel; Peary had five well provision sleds, five of the best men of 25, 48 of the best dogs of 250, and only 120 miles to go; the trail to land was well marked; and all expeditions double-march and even triple-march on the return trip.

The issue of whether Peary reached the Pole or not was not the only controversy surrounding the feat. Another arctic explorer had recently returned and claimed to have reached the Pole. Upon arriving back at Etah to return the Eskimos home, Peary spoke with two dog drivers who were with Dr. Cook for nearly a year living down in Jones Sound and stated that he never went further north than Axel Heilberg Land, 500 miles from the Pole. Eager to sail south and set the record straight, Peary felt his first duty was to his Eskimos. They remained, killing walrus and supplying them with food for the winter.

Peary never mentioned Cook in his first telegrams upon reaching the Labrador coast. Steaming south from Indian Harbor, he arrived in Battle Harbor to a flood of telegrams. His one public telegram in answer to requests for comments read: “Dr. Cook has handed the people a gold brick. When he claims to have discovered the Pole over his own signature, I shall have something decidedly interesting to say.”

When they heard the whistles of Sydney, Nova Scotia and saw the line of craft circling out to escort them into the harbor, the author almost regretted Peary succeeding. He would never have the honor to serve under Peary again.

The second article in this month’s issue is entitled “Peary’s Exploration in the Far North” and was written by Gilbert Grosvenor, President of the National Geographic Society. It contains three black-and-white photographs, one of which is full page in size. The article is a short companion piece for the first article and extracted from a brief history of North Polar exploration written by Gilbert Grosvenor for the Forward of Admiral Peary’s book, “The North Pole”.

The struggle for the North Pole began nearly one hundred years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, being inaugurated in 1527 by Henry VIII of England. Scores of hardy navigators – British, French, Dutch, German, Scandinavian, and Russian – followed Davis, all seeking a way across the Pole and a short route to China. Lives and treasures were lost but from the time of Henry VIII until 1882 the British held the record for farthest north except for 1594-1606 when the Dutch held the record. In 1882 Lockwood and Brainard, of the Greely Expedition took the record of farthest north for the United States, which they held until Nansen’s voyage of 1896.

A brief summer excursion to Greenland in 1886 aroused Robert E. Peary’s interest in “the Polar problem”. He realized that the pole could only be reached by a new method of attack. First Peary studied Greenland to determine its insularity and the extent to which it projected north. At the beginning of his first expedition to Greenland, in 1891, Peary suffered an injury while still onboard his ship, the Kite. A cake of ice became wedged in the rudder, causing the wheel to jam Peary’s leg to the casement. The only way to extract him was by breaking both bones in the leg. Against his party’s wished he was landed at McCormick Bay, where he recuperated.

The following May he ascended the great ice-cap and pushed northward 500 miles where no one had ever tread, and in temperatures ranging from 10 to 50 degrees below zero. Upon descending into a little valley was surprised to find flowers growing, bees buzzing, and musk-oxen grazing. That sledding journey, and a second crossing three years later defined the northern extent of Greenland and proved it was an island instead of a continent extending to the pole. To appreciate the magnitude of Peary’s feat, one must consider that Nansen’s historic crossing of the island was below the Arctic Circle where Greenland was only 250 miles wide.

Peary then turned his attention to the Pole. His experience in Greenland convinced Peary that the only way of accomplish his dream was to adopt the manner of life, the food, the snow houses, and the clothing of the Eskimo. The Eskimo had learned the most effective method of combating the rigors of Arctic weather. Hunting reindeer, musk-ox, etc. provided fresh meat keeping the men fit and good-tempered through the depressing winter night. Peary’s first North Pole expedition lasted four years from 1898 to 1902. Dense ice packs blocked the passage to the Polar Ocean compelling him to set up camp 700 miles from the Pole. That was too great a distance to overcome. He explored and mapped thousands of miles of coast line of Greenland and of the islands west and north of Greenland. He never got closer than 343 miles from the Pole.

On the next attempt, Peary insured reaching the Polar Ocean by designing and constructing the Roosevelt. On its northern shores he made his march of 1906 to 87 degrees 6 minutes, a new record. Winds of unusual fury robbed him of the Pole, and almost his life. The last Peary expedition, 1908-1909, resulted in the discovery of the Pole and of the deep ocean surrounding it. The 396 miles from Greely’s farthest had been vanquished as follows: 1900, 30 miles; 1902, 23 miles; 1906, 169 miles, and 1909, 174 miles.

Peary had taken hundreds of men north with him on various expeditions and he brought them all back in good health with the exception of two, who lost their lives in accidents for which the leader was in no way responsible. This can be compared to the long list of fatalities from disease, frost, shipwreck, and starvation which has made the Arctic synonymous with tragedy and death. Thus, Peary crowned a life devoted to the exploration of the icy north and to the advancement of science by the hard-won discovery of the North Pole, the prize of four centuries of striving. Peary’s success was made possible by his experience, resourcefulness, tenacity, courage, and physical strength and endurance. He had become the peer of Hudson, Magellan, and Columbus.

Peary’s association with the National Geographic Society began in 1888, when he gave an address when the Society was only a few months old. He described an expedition he had led across Nicaragua. He was actively associated with its work since then. On his return from each expedition to the Far North, his first public address was to the National Geographic Society. At the time the article was written, Peary’s most recent public appearance was in January 1919 when he introduced to the Society Stefansson, who had just returned from the Canadian North. Peary was awarded the Hubbard Gold Medal by President Roosevelt at a Society meeting in 1907 and in 1909 he was awarded a Special Gold Medal for discovering the North Pole. He later became a member of the Society’s Board of Managers. The Society can take pride in the fact that the organization did its utmost to help Peary “nail the Stars and Stripes to the Pole”.

The third article this month is entitled “The Crow, Bird Citizen of Every Land” and was written by E. R. Kalmbach, Assistant Biologist, U. S. Biological Survey. It has the subtitle “A Feathered Rogue Who Has Many Fascinating Traits and Many Admirable Qualities Despite His Marauding Propensities”. The article contains eight black-and-white photographs, none of which are full-page in size. The article also contains two sketch charts on the crow’s eating habits.

The American crows comprised but a small contingent of the corvine hordes that were found in almost every inhabitable land except South America. Most species were black in plumage and had preserved their odd mannerisms through many ages. They had an ability to eke out a living it areas that most birds would starve. Be it a raven, or jackdaw, chough, rook, or crow, its corvine attributes are at once recognizable. While each species had peculiarities all its own, the characteristics common to all are the ones that appealed to most people.

Crows and ravens held a distinctive place in bird lore. Probably more had been written of crows and ravens than any other group of birds. From ancient myth and fable to the poetry and prose of modern times, literature was replete with allusions to them. In this article the author endeavored to present, in simple terms, some of the major findings of his study of the food habits of crows, the results of which were published as Department Bulletin 621 of the U. S. Department of Agriculture – “The Crow and its Relation to Man”.

The stomachs of more than 2,100 crows were examined in this study. These came from all parts of the bird’s range. This data was supplemented by observations of ornithologists and farmers. Examination of the stomachs took five years and used the best lab equipment available. It included the collecting of insects, crustaceans, mollusks, vertebrates, seeds, and other food items for comparison, and involved the collaboration of specialists in different groups.

To most people a crow was a crow, and few realized that within the borders of the United States there were no less than nine different forms of corvine birds. Three of these were ravens and six were crows. At least four of the six forms of crows were geographical races of one species, the common crow, differing chiefly in the size and shape of the wing, tail, and bill. A fifth group inhabiting the coastal regions of Alaska was considered by some another geographical race, but its food habits were quite distinctive. The combined range of these five races covered the United States and Canada to the Arctic Circle with the exception of the Rocky Mountains and the arid areas of the Southwest. The last form of crow, the fish-crow, lived along the South Atlantic and Gulf coasts and was quite distinct in its food habits.

The home life of crows was very orderly. They were model parents in the avian world. Nests were well concealed from below and placed at a height of 20 to 60 feet above the ground. Here were laid three to seven eggs. These were laid as early as February in the South to as late as July on the northern border. The voracious young remained in the nest for about three weeks and even after learned to fly were fed to some extent by the parents. Throughout July and August crow were found in family groups or in small flocks, living comfortably on a variety of insects and crop grain.

In September began the fall migration and the associated establishment of crow roosts. From September to March of each year the bulk of the crow population of North America comes together in two comparatively small areas. One of these nuclei was east of the Alleghanies centered in the lower Delaware Valley. The second was centered around the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The western group covers a much wider area, as far south as Oklahoma. In the Far West there was also a condensation of crow populations in winter months, especially along the Columbia River and near the coast, but this gathering pales in comparison to the eastern swarms.

These colonies started to form in August and September in northern climes but they didn’t appear in the D.C. area until early October. These roosts were massive; one near Arlington, Virginia had an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 crows gather nightly; another called the “Arbutus” roost, near Baltimore in 1888 contained 200,000 birds. Around the same time, one roost near St. Louis contained 70,000 to 90,000 crows, and Peru, Nebraska had a roost from 100,000 to 200,000 birds in size. Other roosts of 100,000 or more crows were formerly located at Hainesport, Merchantville, Bridgeboro, Centerton, NJ, and on Reedy Island in the Delaware River. While these roosts were impressive to see, the author noted that they had diminished in size in recent years. A roost near Woodridge, DC, apparently the successor to the Arlington roost, contained 270,000 birds in the winter of 1910-1911, while only 30,000 crows could be found in 1914. The roosts in parts of Oklahoma appeared to be growing due to an increased acreage of sorghum.

Crow roosts were usually located in sparsely settled sections. With man’s constant encroachment the birds were finding it increasingly difficult to find seclusion. In the winter of 1912-1913 a roost of several thousand bords was established in northwest Washington, a few hundred feet from Connecticut Avenue with trolley and automobile traffic passing by day and night. The former location of the Woodbridge roost was near a station on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Passing trains caused uproars in the roost during the day but were ignored at night. The present (for the author) location of the Woodbridge roost was more secluded. It was a tract of woodland just south of Bladensburg Road about one-third of a mile northeast of the Pennsylvania Railroad bridge.

The mortality was often high in the roosts. The great horned owl preyed at nights and the specter of disease at times stalked through their ranks. A malady termed “roup” left in its wake a certain toll every winter, and, when it appeared in virulent form, would virtually exterminate a large roost. This disease caused blindness and the hapless birds would starve. Thousands would die within the course of a few weeks. The battle for existence in the short days of January and February was indeed a cruel one for the crow. It was their perseverance that earned the crow the author’s admiration.

The relationship between the crow and man was adversarial, with the bird’s familiarity with crops and poultry breeding contempt, together with an appreciation of its resourcefulness. In the wild, crows constantly avoided man, but when captured as a nestling it would readily lend itself to domestication. A pet crow could be taught to utter a few words, but this required great patience. Curious and playful a crow, if given a few trinkets, would find no end of amusement. Above all, crows were notorious thieves and hoarders. They would establish numerous caches of treasure.

The author recalled a friend’s pet crow that watched its mistress weed an aster bed, neatly piling the refuse. When she was called away by the telephone, the bird finished the job by pulling up the flowers and placing them in a neat pile. Another crow whose plant-pulling proclivity was nearly obsessive when it came to a certain potted geranium. One day while grubbing for insects in the garden, it suddenly stopped and went hopping, and flying across the garden, up the back stairs, and to the doomed geranium, which it pulled up and placed next to its pot. The crow immediately returned to the garden to search for grubs.

Another story was about a crow and a farmer’s dog that grew up together. The crow observed the dog’s enjoyment of chasing sticks and devised a plan for mutual enjoyment. The crow would find a stick and approach the dog while it was sleeping. It would place the stick down near the dog then nip the dog on the heel to wake it up. The crow would then grab the stick and fly about four feet off the ground as the startled dog chased him across the field. This went on until they both tired and returned to their respective places of rest. One crow taught itself to play sliding board with a can cover down an inclined cellar door, while another plotted revenge by having a farmer’s dog chase it through, and destroy, a cabbage patch. Crows had been known to amuse themselves by pulling and the clothes-pins off the line just after the laundry had been put out.

Two factors made the crow an important bird, it was abundant and it was large. Birds, on a whole, require a volume of food in direct ratio to the size of their bodies. Even a minor food habit of a bird so voracious and numerous as the crow may have had important influences for good of harm. How could one know the food preferences of the crow? Ornithological literature was full of generalities and inaccuracies. A more scientific means was necessary. The method employed involved the examination of contents of the stomachs of thousands of crows. The law of averages produced results that were a close approximation of the truth. In this study 2,118 stomachs were collected from 39 States, DC, and some Canadian provinces. Of these, 778 stomachs were from nestling birds.

The crow was primarily a terrestrial feeder and a most resourceful one. More than 625 specifically different items were known to furnish it sustenance. This was the reason the crow could survive the rigor of winter, and provide for its young in what the author referred to as “avian opulence” in the spring. About 28% of the food of the adult crow was from the animal kingdom and from fully a dozen of groups in that kingdom. These include earthworms, crustaceans, insects, spiders, snails, and numerous vertebrates including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

It was consumption of certain of its animal food items that the crow rendered its greatest service to man. In this portion of its diet, the crow ate some of the worst pest with which the farmers had to contend – wireworms, cutworms, white grubs, and grasshoppers. From May through September, over a third of the crow’s food was derived from insects alone. No bird was equal to the crow in consumption of the May beetle. In May, one fifth of the crow’s diet consisted of these beetles. In August and September grasshoppers constituted nearly an equal portion.

Of 197 adult crows collected in May, 156 had fed on May beetles to some extent, and in several these pests formed more than 90% of the stomach contents. A brood of three nestlings from Wisconsin were fed nothing else. Another brood of five from DC subsisted to the extent that three-fourths of their food were these insects. Twelve nestlings from three broods in ate 301 May beetles as their last meal, with one eating 53. As for grasshoppers, one crow from southern Indiana ate 123, and four crows from Kansas ate 133, 106, 105, and 74 grasshoppers respectively. While grasshoppers were inflicting damage to American crops to the tune of $50,000,000 annually, there were other pests the crow helped control. The cotton worm, the army worm, the fall army worm, the tussock moth, the spring canker-worm, the tent caterpillar, the gypsy and brown-tail moths, and the chinch-bug all were kept partly in check by the crow.

Some experiments were made to determine the quantity of insects and other food required to sustain a crow. They found that the birds ate as much as eight ounces a day. A study with young crows found that they did not gain weight if feed less than eight ounces per day, but thrived if fed ten or more ounces. Another study of a group of captive crows showed that they ate an average of 4.83 ounces of animal matter per day. It was calculated that family of six crows, two adults and four nestlings, could eat 1,827 grasshoppers a day, or 38,367 in three weeks.

Bird-lovers and poultrymen were concerned about the crow due to the fact that it was a predatory bird. This was not a recently acquired skill. The egg-stealing and bird-killing crow was simply living true to its inherited instincts. The albumen of eggs and the soft bodies of nestling birds disappeared quickly in the powerful stomach acids of crows so much of the information for this food source was from observation and anecdotal evidence. Wild birds and their eggs constituted only about one-third of one percent of the food from the 1,340 adult crows examined. This resort to cannibalism occurred chiefly in May, June, and July, when the crows had to provide copious amounts of animal diet for their young. About 1 in every 28 adult crows, and 1 in every 11 nestlings from the study had eaten eggs and chicks. A distinction was made between the common crow and the fish-crow, which was notoriously a worse pilferer of nests.

Poultry furnished about the same amount of food for the crow as wild birds. Most of that loss could have been prevented by more careful housing. Chicken-stealing was largely a trait of individual birds, mainly due to proximity and availability. The killing of one or two engaged in the practice would usually put a stop to such raids. As a ravager of other animals, the crow exerted influences, some good and some bad. In feeding on fish and mollusks, there was no great economic impact. By eating the mainly insectivorous frogs, toads, and salamanders the crow was doing a disservice to the farmer, but when the crow consumed mice of various kinds the crow served the best interest of the farmer.

The crow and the corn crop were inseparable. Corn was the crow’s staff of life with corn forming 38% of the adult crow’s food. By far the largest portion was consumed from the middle of November to the end of March when there were no sprouting grain and when the year’s crow was securely stored. It appears that waste grain formed the greater portion of the crow’s corn diet. That fact did not absolve the crow from blame for the damage inflicted on spouting corn or on the crop before harvesting. While the large corn field in the Midwest the depreciations were insignificant, in smaller fields, like in New Jersey, the damage was often severe. Steps were being taken, however, to frustrate the crow’s intentions. The use of coal-tar applied to the seed grain brought relief from corn-pulling crows. The killing of a few birds, either by shooting or by the use of poisoned grain would usually secure immunity for small fields.

It was recommended that poison be used sparingly and judiciously, so as to not endanger other wildlife. Its efficacy was demonstrated in Klickitat County, Washington, where almond groves at Goodnoe Hills were being ravaged by a flock of about 10,000 crows. These birds roosted in the hilly country bordering the Columbian River. The loss to some growers was 100%. The flock would settle on a 15-acre grove and within a few hours of feasting would strip the trees. Scarecrows were useless and shooting only brought temporary relief. Finally, by feeding the marauders poisoned almonds that the crows were dissuaded. Only a few crows died, but their comrades witnessed their fall and the entire flock rose from the grove as a monstrous black cloud and noisily left Goodnoe Hills. Poison Almonds were still being used and the damages to crops have been reduced from 100% to about 2%.

America’s vast corn crop has greatly simplified the crow’s winter task of making a living. In pre-Columbian times, the hardened fruits of dogwood, sour-gum, greenbrier, smilax, Virginia creeper, sumac, poke-weed, acorns, and the wax-covered seeds of bayberry, poison ivy, and poison oak constituted the chief source of food for the North American crow. Crow’s still got a portion of their sustenance from these sources, and at their winter roosts were found heavy deposits of the indigestible portions of these fruits.

Legislation which permitted the killing of crows whenever they are doing damage was necessary. Such laws were enacted in all States where crows were numerous. On the other hand, bounty laws that result in the killing of crows in places and at times when they may have been doing great good were reactionary. Only in rare cases were drastic control measures for the protection of crop warranted. Misguided efforts for nationwide crow campaigns for near or complete extermination cannot be justified if all the evidence was fairly presented.

Aside from the economic considerations, the passing of the crow would leave a distinct void in our attractive bird life. Its crimes were many but its virtues must not be overlooked. The author considered crows as Robin Hoods, their lives checkered but with much that was admirable. There was much of human character in the crow – fear and boldness, affection and hate, ingenuity, perseverance, and revenge.

The fourth article this month was entitled “The National Geographic Society’s Notable Year”. It has no byline being an editorial touting the Society’s recent accomplishments and events. The article contains two full-page, black-and-white photographs.

At the time, the Society’s membership had grown to over 750,000 individuals. In appreciation of its grant which saved some of the Big Trees of the Sequoia National Park, California, from logging, James C. Horgan, of Los Angeles made a bequest of $8,000. Foremost among achievements during the past few months was the success of the sixth expedition to the Mount Katmai region and an exhaustive study of the famous “Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes”. One of the most significant accomplishments of the expedition was the discovery of a magnificent harbor near the entrance to the valley. It was christened Geographic Harbor. Findings were recorded by both motion pictures and color photography.

For adding more than 100,000 square miles to the mapped area of North America, the explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson was awarded the Hubbard Gold Medal, joining Polar explorers Admiral Peary and General Greely in being honor with this award. It was at that meeting that Admiral Peary made his last public appearance to pay tribute to a fellow explorer. Major General Greely likewise paid tribute to the Hubbard Gold Medalist. Texts of both addresses are included in the article. The three remaining survivors of the Greely expedition, advanced in years, were mention at the end of Greely’s address when he ended it with “the members of the Greely Expedition, who are about to die, salute him”.

Eight geographers were awarded Jane M. Smith Life Memberships – Rear Admiral Joseph Strauss, who laid and removed the North Sea mines; Edward W. Nelson of the U.S. Biological Survey for studies of the animal life of North America; Frank G. Carpenter, author of some admirable school geographies; Prof. Robert F. Griggs for services rendered while leading the expeditions to Mount Katmai; Walter T. Swingle for introducing Smyrna figs, date palm, pistachio nuts and other plants from Mediterranean origin into the United States; O. F. Cook was honored for his studies of Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas; William Henry Holmes, Head Curator of Anthropology, National Museum, for his original work in ethnology, archeology, and geology; and Stephen T. Mather, Director of the National Park Service, in recognition of his service in the upbuilding of the national park system.

Month by month the National Geographic Magazine had steadily increased in number of readers. It had been instrumental in diffusing geographic information in 750,000 homes by removing technicality from the most inclusive of all sciences. The Society had a warehouse full of map paper worth $50,000. As soon as the new frontiers of Europe, Asia, and Africa were finalized the Society planned to print a complete set of maps. Two recent issues had been especially noteworthy – the Dog Number, with color portraits of 73 species, and the Military Insignia Number, of interest to the 4,000,000 Americans who served in the World War and their families. The latter was a valuable sequel to the famous Flag Number of October 1917.

Through the columns of more than 550 newspapers, the Society’s daily Geographic News Bulletins were reaching twelve million readers. So important had these bulletins proved as an educational force, that this geographic information, in attractive illustrated form was now being issued weekly for classroom use. A further educational activity started in recent months was the Pictorial Geography. By means of a series of loose-leaf geographic text and pictures, the confusing maps and technical phraseology were deciphered into real places of living people and beautiful landscapes for millions of school children.

Sadly, during this most successful year the Society has lost three of its leading members – Brigadier-General John M. Wilson, Rear Admiral John E. Pillsbury, and Rear Admiral Robert E. Peary. General Wilson, a member of the Board of Managers for fourteen years had a distinguished military career. At one time he was Superintendent at West Point, he was the Army’s Chief of Engineers during the Spanish- American War, and the Washington Monument was completed under his direction.

Admiral Pillsbury died on December 30, 1919. He was the Society’s President. A naval officer during the Spanish-American War he commanded the dynamite cruiser Vesuvius during the siege of Santiago. It was his for study of the Gulf Stream that he will be most remembered. As commander of the Coastal Survey steamer Blake, he employed a device of his own invention to anchor the vessel in depths of more than two miles, and study currents there by means of contraptions also of his own making. After seven years of study, he established the axis of the Gulf Stream and determined many of the laws that governed its flow. A digest of his work in oceanography appeared in the August 1912 issue of National Geographic. An outline of the career of Rear Admiral Peary, who died February 19, 1920, can be found in the preceding pages of this issue.

Upon the death of Admiral Pillsbury, the Board of Managers elected Gilbert Grosvenor as his successor to the Presidency. He was the editor of The Geographic Magazine for twenty-one years and the Director of the Society. Under his direction, the membership of the Society grew from 900, in 1899, to more than 750,000. John Oliver La Gorce, Vice-Director of the Society and Associate Editor of the magazine was elected to succeed the place on the Board of Managers left vacant by Admiral Pillsbury’s death.

The National Geographic Society was a vast cooperative educational and scientific association that was unique in the world. It was not a commercial enterprise but an altruistic institution. The Society was one of the most effective forces in bringing about a better understanding among nations of the world. The Society had grown because it ministered to the basic desire of intelligent citizens to understand other people and to know better the earth from which they derived their livelihood.

The fifth article in this month’s issue is entitled “Around the World with the Salvation Army” and was written by Evangeline Booth, Commander, Salvation Army. It contains twenty-three black-and-white photographs, of which ten are full-page in size.

For more than half a century the historic banner of the Salvation Army had been raised over battered towers and broken gates of despairing, wounded humanity, but half the world never knew about it. It took the blood and agony of the great war to bring that banner to all nations. The Army was working in sixty-three countries and colonies, preaching the gospel in forty languages. Their periodicals, printed in thirty-nine languages, reached a circulation of 1,184,000 a week. More than 23,000 officers and cadets battled against the foes of poverty, sin, sickness, and despair. That was the reason they were called an army. Wherever there was an earthquake, a fire, a war, or any human need, the Salvation Army responded. It was not surprising that 105,000 Salvationists fought in different armies on the Allied fronts.

Few had even a remote idea of the extensive training given to all Salvation Army officers by their military system of education. That training covered all the tactics of the particular warfare to which they had consecrated their lives – the service of humanity. There were thirty-nine training schools, both for their missionary and home fields, providing practical training in the minutest details of their service. They were trained in the art of dealing ably with human life:
Trained to meet emergencies of every character.
• Trained to press every cost for the desired end.
• Trained to obey orders willingly, gladly, and wholly, not in part.
• Trained to give no quarter to the enemy no matter the form he presents himself.
• Trained in the art of the winsome, attractive coquetries of the round, brown doughnut.
• Trained, if needs-be, to seal their service with their life blood.

By imperial decree the Emperor of Japan recently granted an annual fund for the work of the Salvation Army in his kingdom. India had turned over to the Army management of its great criminal tribes and the problems of the poor. Seventy-one nationalities were now marshalled under the banner of blood and fire. Temples were being cleansed and turned into Christian meeting-places.

The work in India was mainly due to one man, F. de Latour Booth Tucker, the author’s father and founder of the Salvation Army. Tucker was a judge who resigned his government position to join the Salvation Army. As the first commissioner of the effort to manage the criminal tribes, he wore the flowery robes of the natives to extend the work to the very heart of the continent. [Note: the repeated references to “criminal tribes” in this article possibly refers to the “untouchables” just from the way they were described.] These tribes were criminal largely due to the caste system. They married and intermarried, and their children, born outcasts, were doomed to go through life branded as criminals.

General Booth met with Sir John Hewett, Lieutenant-Governor of the United (Indian) Provinces. The General told him that “you cannot make a man clean by washing his shirt”. His solution was to “give them religion”. His reasoning was that you could not deal with the body of a man when it was his soul that was the cause of all the troubles. Years passed and the work of the Salvation Army grew. “Boom marches”, where groups of four or five Salvationists in native dress would tramp the roads that lead into the interior and preach in heathen villages and towns, were a phase of the work being done in India.

Long before Christian missionaries went forth to preach the gospel, there existed the Chinese nation. At the time of this article, three and a half centuries had passed since Saint Francis Xavier, in his dying hour, exclaimed in an agony of despair over his supreme discouragement in trying to evangelize China, “Oh, rock, rock, when wilt thou open?” Years had passed since Napoleon, with different motives, looked on the ancient century-defying nation and said, “The giant is asleep. Do not awake him.” But now the rock was opened; the giant was awake.

For Years General Booth thought about, and discussed, the needs of the Chinese people. He made plans for them during the day, and dreamt about them at night. The current General’s deep and passionate interest in China was well known. During the War, the Army’s blood-and-fire flag was raised beside that of the new Chinese Republic. A new corps was recently opened in Peking in the northeastern part of the South City, in the busiest commercial district. The building, an old food shop, was remodeled to care for 250 people. Beyond the great wall, to the north of Tatungfu, was Fengchen. In this robber-infested district the Army made its first venture of faith into the interior of China. During the winter of 1918 the Army did trencher duty for flood sufferers at Tientsin.

Korean was now receiving assistance from Salvationists. After a poor rice harvest, the Army established a free meal department and a station where rice and fuel could be purchased cheaply. The Army started operations in Korea in 1908. By 1920 they had 69 corps and outposts in the country, 106 officers, cadets, and employees, and 175 local officers. At Seoul, in addition to the headquarters, there were a training garrison, citadel, and a school for girls. In the East the translation of Salvation Army was “Army to Save the World”.

The Salvation Army helped run leper colonies in Java. The men and women who go to these colonies could never come out. They laid down their lives for those they went to save. The institution maintained by the Army at Boegangan cared for more than 360 patients, all native Javanese. At Christmas they had a tree and they all received presents. Clothing was especially needed, as most only had one set. When they washed these few rags, they had to wait until they were dry before dressing. These were the poorest of the poor.

Even the Red Terror and Bolshevism could not keep the Salvation Army out of Russia. Within three months after opening their work twelve outposts had been established in various cities in Russia and several hundred soldiers and recruits, as well as thirty officers, were enlisted. A training center for officers was started, two homes for refugee women and children were established, and a shelter for aged women was opened. Unafraid of flying bullets, the Girl with the Tambourine sang and prayed in the midst of street-fighting in Russia. Travel was the biggest problem. Train service was unspeakable. Much of the traveling was done in winter by sled.

In the early days of the Army in Japan, Colonel Gunpei Yamamuro, a native Japanese, wrote a book entitled “The Common People’s Gospel”. It was printed in native characters and had a phenomenal circulation among the masses. An important accomplishment in the land of the cherry blossoms was the crusade against prostitution in Tokyo. In the ultra-conservative Orient, for years prostitution had been looked upon as a social necessity. When General Yamamuro understood what the Army had been doing for the protection of women around the world, he decided he would enlist its aid for the women of his own country. He made a special appeal to the moral sense of the community, distributed literature, and prepared homes for girls who wished to change their mode of living.

Relief work was organized by the Salvation Army in Switzerland and Italy for thousands of refugees fleeing the Austrian onslaught during the World War. Officers were dispatched to Serbia to conduct relief-work. The Army organized the care for interned prisoners of war in Holland. The Salvation Army recently started working in Portuguese East Africa and a new children’s home was opened in Bandoenig, Java. An endowment fund was raised by Commissioner Ogrim for the Memorial Training College in Sweden, with donation from the King and Prince. It was in 1883 that the Salvation Army first started operating in South Africa. By 1920 they were operating in Zambesi, Rhodesia and the island of St, Helena. Seven industrial homes for women were in operation in South Africa.

The story of the Salvation Army was a history of a worldwide organization. Their most recent international congress in Albert Hall, London drew 14,000 people from around the world. The Zulu was there, loins girded with the skin of some wild beast; there was the Chinaman, in the royal blue and dark yellow of his university; and there were East Indians in their scarlet cotton coats and yellow turbans. In the picturesque gathering there were a few from Java wearing snow-white garments. There were mountain-climbers from the Alps, as well as Germans, French, Italians, Scandinavians, South Americans, Canadians, British, and 850 Americans.

Delegates were in the hall who came from Celebes, Sumatra, Costa Rica, Argentina, Cuba, Malta, Uruguay, Panama, Chile, Peru, Saint Lucia, Finland, and Antigua. Out of that great mass of humanity the General called to the front six little girls from the Criminal Tribes of India. They stood before the vast audience and sang in broken English:

“Tell it again, tell it again,

Salvation’s story repeat o’er and o’er,

Till none can say of the children of men,

Nobody ever has told it before.”

The last article in this month’s issue is entitled “When the Father of Waters Goes on a Rampage” and was written by Hugh M. Smith, United States Commissioner of Fisheries. The article has the descriptive subtitle, “An Account of the Salvaging of Food-fishes from the Overflowed Lands of the Mississippi River”. The article contains eighteen black-and-white photographs from the Bureau of Fisheries. Four of those photos are full-page in size.

One of the most important of the varied functions of the United States Bureau of Fisheries was mitigating the damages done to food-fish by flooding in the Mississippi and its tributaries. Every year, and several times a year, the Father of Waters overflowed its banks and then subsided, leaving behind temporary pools, ponds, and lakes containing a myriad of young fishes whose destruction was inevitable unless human agency came to their aid. Inasmuch as these fishes represented a large part of the future adult supply of all the leading species, their rescue and return to the main stream was a matter of utmost importance.

For many years steps had been taken to repair some of that waste, but it wasn’t until 1919 that the operations assumed the scope and yielded the results that could be regarded as commensurate with the need. The annual freshet in the Mississippi River of greatest importance was the one known as the “June rise”, which usually occurred about the time when most of the river fishes were ready to spawn. It occurred later than the freshet caused by melting snow, but was usually of equal volume and represented surplus rainfall that was seeking a southern outlet.

In prehistoric times great glaciers, moving down from the north, cut a wide, deep valley through the upper reaches of the river. Through this passage frequent floods have brought down deposits of silt in such quantities that the main channel was crowded from it center over one of its banks. The remainder of what formerly constituted the river bed was now a low tableland with a gradual ascent towards the hills.

As the river rose it first submerged the adjacent lowlands, making ponds and lakes on the nearest levels; with its continued rise, lakes were formed at higher levels; and so on until the flood stage had been reached, when depressions were often filled quite remote from the main channel. Pursuing their natural instincts, the adult fishes left the main channel and sought quiet backwaters in which to deposit their eggs. With the recession of the flood waters, the adults returned to the safety of the channel, but the young failed to react promptly and a very large portion were cut off and became permanently landlocked.

The temporary pools, ponds, lakes, and canals left by the subsiding flood waters were of various shapes, sizes, and depths. Some of them became dry in a few days; others persisted for weeks or months while their water was gradually lost to evaporation and seepage; and a few lasted until winter, when they froze solid. All these fishes were doomed to die, either quickly in a small, drying pool or slowly as waters became reduced causing starvation and fatal heating by the sun. Cannibalism and predation by wading birds, snakes, turtles, mammals and other creatures from which there was no escape took an enormous toll. And any fish that survived until winter was doomed to freeze to death.

The work of salvaging food-fish was simple, direct, and effective. It consisted of netting the fish from their unfavorable position and depositing them in the open water of the Mississippi. It was accomplished by properly equipped rescue parties dispatched to the flooded districts from conveniently located bases or headquarters. A government fish rescue crew consisted of six to eight men, who employed a small launch in going to their field of operations and in returning to their base. The equipment was comprised of seines of various lengths, dip-nets, one-and-a-half-bushel washtubs, tin dippers, and a flat-bottom rowboat.

The seining crew began work as soon as the flooding subsided, usually in July. They would continue their work until early December when the waters started to freeze. The size and depth of the water determined whether the men set their seines by wading or by using the rowboat. Once the net was hauled in, the fish were sorted into tubs, then carried to the nearest point open water might be reached and there liberated. Some temporary ponds were several miles back from the river and sometimes teams and motor trucks were employed. Some of the landlocked waters were veritable lakes in which many seine hauls were required to get all or most of the fishes; others were so small that a single haul of a short seine was required; and others were so extensive at the time of first visit that they were left for future attention when they were reduced to a manageable size.

Records were kept of the rescue operation. The seining parties made a count of each species taken from each body of water. The count was done when the fish were lifted from the seine into the tubs with dip-nets. Throughout the entire length of the Mississippi from Minnesota and Wisconsin to Arkansas and Mississippi, except where levees of bluffs protect the banks, the annual floods left temporary lakes, ponds, and pools that contained food-fish that demanded rescue. Headquarters for rescuers were located at nine points along the river, with most concentrated in the northern half.

The record-making efforts of 1919 resulted in the saving of about 156,657,000 food-fish. All parts of the river were not equally productive with Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa yielding by far the largest returns. All the major and many of the minor food-fish were represented. Predominant they were the staple fishes – buffalo-fish, carp, catfish, pike, crappies, sunfish, and perch. Among the game fishes rescued included large-mouth black bass, rock bass, white bass, and various other fishes.

The young fishes that were salvaged and replanted grew rapidly. A few attained marketable sizes in a year, while the remainder reach that size in two to three years. Not all replanted fish survived to adulthood, but even the estimated 25% had an estimated prospective value of $6,527,000. On the other hand, the cost of the rescue work was surprisingly small. In 1914 it was calculated that the cost per thousand fish was $3.18. In 1919, owing partly to the magnitude of the effort, the cost per thousand fish rescued was reduced to 20 cents, and 75% to 80% of the fish were rescues at a cost of only 13 cents per thousand.

Throughout the Mississippi Valley there were Federal establishments known as pond-culture stations, at which are reared some of the same fishes that were rescued in the salvage operation, principally black bass, crappies, sunfish, and catfish. These stations differed from ordinary hatcheries in that the ripe eggs are not taken from the fishes but the fishes were allowed to spawn naturally. A Government pond station produced from 250,000 to 1,000,000 fishes a season. The output of six stations in 1919 was 2,725,000 at a cost of $5.50 per thousand. It would have taken 345 pond stations to produce the number of fishes rescued in 1919 at a cost of $860,000, over $2,860,000 if including maintenance and staffing. The construction of those pond stations was estimated to incur a one-time cost of $12,000,000. By comparison, the entire cost of the 1919 salvage operation was $31,000.

The fish supply in the Mississippi involved an important industry besides fishing. Investigations conducted for the Bureau of Fisheries showed a relationship between certain kinds of fishes and the mussels which yielded pearls and supported the pearl-button industry. This industry employed 20,000 people and had a product worth $5,000,000 to $6,000,000 annually. The young mussels, of microscopic size, needed to pass the first few weeks of their lives on the gills of fishes. If the fishes were not present at the proper time, the mussels could not survive.

The young of a particular kind of mussel required the gills of a particular kind of fish. The black bass hosted several sorts of mussels, the crappies for several others, and catfishes for others. The skip-jack, a kind of herring, was the only known host to the best of all mussels. Since that fish was by no means abundant, its maintenance was of prime importance. In 1919 more than one and a half million skip-jacks were rescued.

The Bureau of Fisheries had gone into the business of artificial propagation of pearly mussels. The spawning mussels, held in ponds, were at the proper time provided with the special fishes they needed for the attachment of their young. The fishes obtained in the rescue operations were turned into the ponds and became thickly inoculated. The fishes were then liberated in the open water and distributed themselves and the mussels throughout a wide stretch of the river. Thus, two important branches of the Bureau’s work went hand in hand. Each year, 2,000,000 to 3,000,000 young mussels were thus given a proper start in life, greatly aiding the maintenance of the mussel supply.

The Bureau also sent small numbers of salvaged fishes to waters more of less remote from the Mississippi. These fishes served the same purpose as those produced in hatcheries. They were intended to replenish depleted waters or stocking newly formed lakes and ponds. Fishes taken from landlocked waters were not in condition to stand distant shipping. It was necessary to subject them to a hardening process. There were small buildings containing tanks in which the fish were kept, without food, in cool, clear, running water for several days. The fish, then ready for shipment, were placed in large cans and placed in railway cars to make their journey safely and comfortably. The Bureau had developed all-steel distributing cars, the very latest in fish transportation. Less than six-tenths of 1% of the fishes rescued in 1919 were consigned to outside waters, chiefly catfish, sunfish, crappies, and bass.

The salvage operation performed by the Federal Government was of very great value, not only to the States of immediate concern, but also to distant parts of the country, for food-fishes of the Mississippi basin received a wide distribution in the trade. In most States bordering the river there was a growing public interest in, and demand for, continuation and expansion of this program. Along the Ohio, Missouri, and other tributaries where the same conditions prevailed this form of food conservation was being considered. There were also large stretches of the lower Mississippi where the yearly flooding was still causing a large sacrifice of food-fishes on which no attempt of rescue had been made.

Congress did not appropriate funds for this work, that money came from a general appropriation for fish culture. Persons and equipment for the rescue operations were temporarily drawn from other branches of the service. What was needed was special recognition by Congress through the providing of special funds and personnel, so the work would not be contingent on the necessities of other duly established activities.

Tom Wilson

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$3.00 a year. Time has gone by fast!

Regarding the vacancy from the passing of Admiral Pillsbury . . . when Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor was elevated to the Presidency upon Pillsbury's passing, the Society's Board of Managers neither filled nor kept the position of Director of the Society. The position simply ceased to exist, as it was created especially for Grosvenor in 1910 (showing as such in NGM's masthead starting w/ 1910's February issue). 

Grosvenor's billing as President of the Society commenced with the February, 1920 issue.

So "Wow" wasn't enough?   :- )

Interesting bit of history.



National Geographic from time to time would create temporary positions for staffers. In 1982, Richard Darley who was the Chief Cartographer became a Senior Associate Chief Cartographer for about 2 years when John B .Garver Jr. became chief cartographer.

well that's interesting. Kind of similar to when Melville Bell Grosvenor became Editor-in-Chief upon his retirement from the Editorship and Presidency . . . 



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