100 Years Ago: December 1920
This is the 71st installment of my series of reviews for National Geographic magazines reaching their one hundredth anniversary of publication.
The first article this month is entitled “Falconry, the Sport of Kings”. It was written by Louis Agassiz Fuertes, whose color drawing have graced the pages of numerous NGM issues in, what I like to call, field guides (including this article and continued in the next). The article contains “23 Illustrations” of which six are black-and-white photographs, three of which are full-page in size. The remainder of the illustrations include the “Twelve Pages of Illustrations in Full Color” documented on the cover (each a full-page color painting); two black-and-white paintings (one full-page in size); and five sketch drawings (one full-page in size). That totals twenty-five illustrations, not twenty-three as stated on the cover.
The art of falconry, or hawking, goes back to the remote, unwritten past. It appears in early Egyptian and Persian frescoes and sculptures. Since then, it has been used in every age in some part of the world or another. More recently it was practiced in England, Holland, France, Italy, Spain, China, Japan, and Russia. In the distant past, the sport had been followed in India and Northern Africa. The ancient Greeks knew nothing of falconry, but by 560 the Lombards of Northern Italy practiced it, and by 850 the sport had spread through western Europe, including Saxon England. The crusaders brought falcons and trainers back with them from the Orient. The gun delivered a serious blow to the art by providing a quicker and surer way to get meat. Still, the devotees were never greatly affected by the device. As a general practice, falconry in Europe ceased after the rebellion in England and the French Revolution. It was kept going as a sport thanks to half a dozen hawking clubs including the Falconers’ Club, the High Ash Club, and the Loo Club in Holland. There were thirty to forty private establishments in England in 1914, but the World War took a heavy toll on both the personnel and the support of the sport. Since 1900 there had been a renascence of amateur falconry among the English and some successful attempts in America, particularly in the Genesee Valley of New York. It was expensive to maintain the birds due to the scarcity of experienced trainers and catchers. In most of the eastern U. S., the settled conditions made it impossible to achieve any real success. There were several common game-birds that would make good quarry for the peregrine, notably the quail and the sharp-tailed grouse. The native wild goshawk was the chief problem of all the grouse of our northern wooded section.
In training animals, one took advantage of the creature’s natural proclivity, but in hawking, those birds were taught to go almost directly against their instincts. Being wild and shy they were taught that man was not their enemy, but their friend. After that the rest became easier. Different types of game were hunted at different times requiring the same hawk to be trained and then retrained or that two different hawks be used for the different prey. Of the hundreds of kinds of hawks, only a few possessed the qualities suited for the sport. It required fierceness, the ability to adapt to its new climate, strength, and swiftness. This allowed it to overtake and strike down its quarry. It had to be intelligent enough to unlearn its native knowledge. Those qualities were found in only a dozen species belonging to two groups – the true Falcon (genus Falco), or long-winged hawks, and the short-winged group of forest-hawks known as “Accipiters”. Only two of the latter group were suited for hawking, the goshawk and the European sparrowhawk. The peregrine was the only falcon proper found all over the world. Its range was from nearly the Arctic to the Antarctic circles throughout the entire globe. It was the falcon of falcons, known to all ages of man. It helped man in his search for food long before it became the sport of the privileged classes.
A peculiar set of traditions and a picturesque language had become inseparably attached to falconry. The Scotch, who were responsible for the colorful language of golf, were given credit for preserving the romantic terminology of falconry. It was in Scotland that the art was perpetuated after it had languished over most of Europe. From ancient history through medieval times up to the sixteenth and seventeenth century, literature abounds with passages concerning the sport. The language of the day was so tinctured with the jargon of the hawkers, that it was fair to conclude that, before gunpowder, hawking was generally practice as the principal means of obtaining wild game. According to the “Boke of St. Albans” (1486), the kinds of hawks used by the various elements of English society were:
Falcons of the same kind differed so in performance and character, according to their experience before capture, that there were separate names for each type:
One who trained and hunted long-wings only was a true falconer, while the user of goshawks and sparrowhawks was an Austringer, from the Latin Astru, the name of those hawks. The falconer had special names for every part of his hawk and for everything he did. Falcons taken from the nest (eyess hawks) were the ones usually trained over most of Europe. They were much gentler and more easily trained, but lacked the dash and style of wild-caught birds (haggards). In India and Africa, the eyess were virtually unknown, as hawks were always trapped adult.
In the training of eyesses the procedure of the authors time differed only slightly from that of the Middle Ages. Modern falconers used the same quaint medicines and nostrums and had the same names for falconine troubles as were so picturesquely described by Bert in his “Treatise of Hawks and Hawking” published 300 years prior. The young hawks were left until nearly all the down had been replaced by brown feathers. Their removal from the nest took place toward the evening, when they were put in a hamper and sent to the falconer. It was desirable that their journey be made at night. At their destination, they were placed in a roughly made nest and fed on chopped beef and egg. Later they were fed fresh bird, rabbit, rat, or squirrel. The birds were “at hack” until they learned to fly. All food was tied to a board in a given place, to force the young hawk, who was free except for leg-straps (jesses), to come to the same place for food. They were left entirely alone, for the wilder they become the better. If they associated food with man’s presence, they would start clamoring every time they saw a man – a most undesirable trick. If properly “hacked”, the young birds soon learned to make long flights into the surrounding country, returning at regular intervals to be fed from the shelf, or feeding-board. They were left in that state of virtual freedom for some three weeks, until they began to catch prey for themselves. Then they were “caught up”. It was time to catch them when they began to be absent at the regular feeding time. A bow-net was used in the trapping. It was a light twine net fastened to a stick bent into a half circle. The free side was pegged down and the ends of the stick swiveled to the pegs in the ground. The net was folded back and a light cord, about fifty yards long was tied to the middle of the bow. The trap was baited with a tempting morsel, also pegged to the ground. The bird was trapped when it came to feed. Immediately a soft leather hood, known as a “rufter” was placed over his eyes, and a leash was tied to the jesses. The bird was put down on soft grass with a block to sit on and left for a few hours to calm down.
It was ready for training to endure the presence of strangers, or “manning”. It was carried on a gloved hand for several hours each day, spoken to, and softly stroked until it lost its nervousness. The bird was ready to be fed. Once it ate without hesitation, the hood could be removed during feeding, first by candlelight then later in daylight. The hood was put back on before the meal was finished so the bird would not associate the hood with the end of feeding time. Once that phase of manning was accomplished, the bird should be accustomed to the presence of men, children, and dogs ordinarily frightful to it. This usually took a few days. The next step was the hardest part of manning – the breaking to the hood. Thus far the hawk had been fed from the hack-board or the fist; now the lure was brought out and used. It was a padded weight with wings of teal or pigeon attached. It had a string for attaching food and a long string by which it could be dragged. The hawk was given a bite or two from it and then it was thrown to the ground where the meal was finished. For a time, the bird was fed only from the lure. As soon as the hawk recognized the lure immediately and flew to it for food, it was given, hooded, to an assistant. When the hood was removed, the falconer swung the lure some 200 yards distant. The bird recognized the lure and flew to it. The lure was twitched just as the hawk went to grasp it. At the second attempt, the food attached to the lure was given as a reward. After a few repetitions, the bird would seldom be far from its master when he had the lure with him. Next, the bird was taught to kill for itself. A fledgling pigeon was used. If properly trained to the lure, there was little danger the hawk “carrying” (flying off with the prey). After a few “easy” birds, a capable old pigeon was flown. The hawk usually missed it, but while still high in the air, it was thrown an easy bird; then well fed and petted. It learned from this that to succeed it must be above its quarry. After this was learned, the hawk may be flown at wild game.
Hawks were caught anywhere within their range, but by far the most famous place was in South Brabant, in Holland. There, near the little village of Valkenswaarde, was a great open moor, where thousands of passenger pigeons went by in the autumn, followed by the falcons that preyed on them. As far back as the middle ages, falcons have been trapped and trained there for the nobility of all Europe. In the heyday of the sport, emissaries from each duchy and principality gathered there after the trapping and bought for their masters the product of the season’s catch. The old cult of falcon catching and training had never languished at Valkenswaarde, and the family Mollens had, for many generations led he industry. They were known as the most skillful and expert trappers and trainers. In capturing the “passage hawks”, the trapper concealed himself in a sod hut, from which extended long strings to operate the net and decoys. He used a shrike, or butcher-bird as an “announcer”. It could detect a falcon from a great distance. Attached to a perch on a little sod mound with a retreat into which it may die to safety, the shrike chattered and scolded in fear, getting more and more excited as the falcon approached. This gave the trapper ample time to prepare. A tethered “lure pigeon” was pulled out of a box near the trap, flapping its wings. When the hawk got closer the pigeon was allowed to dive back into its shelter and a “bait pigeon” was dragged out to the center of the trap. When the falcon struck the trap was sprung. The falconer quickly fastened jesses to the hawk’s legs and put a sock over the bird’s head and body. The hawk was brought to the hut and laid on its back, then all was made ready for another attempt.
The training of a haggard hawk was similar to that of an eyess, but with one vast difference – the hawk taken from the nest had no fear or hatred of man, while the older bird had to be won over with patience and kindness. The trainer took his new hawk to the loft, removed the sock, and replaced it with a soft rufter hood. About two weeks was needed to train the bird to be accustom to its new condition. It was then gradually allowed more light and more ease, and rewarded with food as its docility progressed. In some respects, it was easier to train the haggard to hunt than the eyess. It had long killed for itself while the nestling had been fed by its master. The eyesses were more tractable, but the haggards had vastly more dash and style than their house-bred loft-mates.
The style of action and the methods of hunting were different with the long-winged hawks and their short-winged cousins. The long-wings, or falcons proper, by nature struck their prey in the air, killing it with a clean by a direct blow they delivered at the end of their “stoop”. They battled for position in the air, attaining their “pitch”, or position above their quarry, by circling or “ringing”, then dashing down headlong, hitting their prey with a resounding blow, often heard at a long distance. They would follow the quarry down, striking again if necessary, but never “binding” to it, and never striking a quarry that was sitting on the ground. Falcons proper were always hunted in open ground. Quarry was either located or flushed with dogs or beaters, and the hawk flown from the falconer’s wrist. On large game, like heron, falcons were flown in “casts”, or pairs, and took turns stooping in rapid succession until the quarry was killed.
In the past, many kinds of falcons were used. In Iceland, gyrfalcons were caught and trained. They were esteemed for their size, style, and beauty, but did not thrive in England and the continent due to the warmer climes. The sacre, a “desert falcon”, nearly as large and heavy as the gyrfalcon, was used in India to hunt kite. The sacre was also used to hunt gazelle and bustards. When hunting gazelle, three, five, or more hawks were cast when the quarry was started. Some hawks were impaled upon the horns of their quarry. The Houbara bustard, the size of a turkey, did not fly but ran quickly. The hawks, three or more in a cast, pursued and worried the bird for miles over the desert, only striking the fatal blow once the bustard was near exhaustion. The peregrine, the falcon of falcons, was neither as large or as strong as the gers or sacre, but had all the qualities that made a good hawk – gentleness, teachability, courage, dash, willingness to “wait on” at great heights, and, most importantly, availability, for it had a worldwide range. It preyed almost exclusively on birds. Its common name in America was the duck-hawk. Among the smaller falcons the merlin, hobby, and kestrel were still used.
The “Old Hawking Club”, organized in England in 1864, kept careful records of individual performances. Between August 12 and September 14 on year, the club’s prize bird, “Parachute”, killed 57 grouse, 76 partridges, 5 pheasant, three hares, and 5 birds of miscellaneous species. “General”, a falcon belonging to the Duke of Leeds, killed in 1832, 129 out of 132 flights, mostly partridges. “Vesta” was flown in Scotland in nine successive years, averaging 33 grouse a season. That was an unusually long life of activity. The records of clubs and private owners reveled many interesting and romantic names such as the falcons “Lady Jane Grey”, “Empress”, “Buccaneer”, “Black Lady”, “Comet”, “Destiny”, and “Will o’ the Wisp”; tiercels “Druid”, “Butcherboy”, “Mosstrooper”, and “Vanquisher”; merlins “Tagrag”, “She”, and “Ruy Lopez”; sparrowhawks “Blanche”, “Lady Macbeth”, and “Faerie”; and goshawks “Enid”, “Isault”, “Geraint”, “Tostin”, “Sir Tristram”, “Gaiety Gal”, and “Shadow o’ Death”. The author goes into great detail about the flight of one haggard falcon of fine quality, “Bois-le-duc”.
While the falcons, with their long, narrow wings and compact bodies, were adapted to chase in the open, the short-winged hawks, with their “broad-fingered” wings and long, sweeping train, were beautifully adapted to work in tangles and forests, where they naturally lived. These birds seldom came out into open country unless tempted by some poultry yard or game preserve. Then the farmer or warden found no peace until the marauder was brought to earth. Goshawks and horned owls were generally to be feared in cold winters on game covers in the U. S. They wreaked havoc upon the work of years once they had infested the reserve. The goshawk was a very different creature from the falcon. By its nature and style of hunting it was suited for entirely different work. It did not strike its prey in the air and return to it, but pursues it and binds to it at once, in the air or, preferable, on the ground. These hawks had a curious habit of covering their quarry with outstretched wings and tail until it ceased to struggle. The feet of the goshawk were veritable engines of death, with enormous talons and great strength. While the falcon’s foot was more like a fist delivering a terrible blow, the short-wing’s feet were like great ice-tongs with curved claws nearly an inch long. These took the life of most birds almost instantly and a rat or a hare in a matter of seconds. These hawks were worked along hedgerows or in woods, only being used in open ground on hares, rabbits, or pheasants. In thick cover they perched nearby, watching for the instant the quarry was put out by dogs or beaters. The short-wings were much more intent on their game than were the falcons. While they struck hard, the chase was short and did not result in exhaustion like the long flights of falcons. Thus, they were flown many times in a day. “Gaiety Gal” was flown at 17 hares in one morning, killing all but one. Sir Henry Boynton’s “Red Queen” killed 24 rabbits in one day.
The sparrowhawk was reclaimed and trained in much the same manner as other hawks, and her tactics were almost exactly those of her big relative. The sparrowhawk had many enthusiastic supporters, and for many reasons was the best fit for the amateur falconer. These birds were not costly and could be used on almost all small game and brush birds. They had been used successfully on partridges. In England, however, they were used chiefly on blackbirds and starlings. Even the tiny male, or “musket”, was used. The American miniature of the sparrowhawk was called the sharp-shin. The author witnessed one chasing a sparrow into a lilac clump. It struck at the bush several times with talons extended, flying near and completely ignoring Mr. Fuertes.
Falconry had risen through man’s early necessity, in central Asia, where it thrived almost without interruption. Later it became the sport of the more privileged classes, and attained great popularity in the medieval times. It had since fallen due to several contributing causes, to the point where it was costly and difficult to maintain. However, there would always be those who had the means and desire to keep alive one of the most beautiful and romantic sports that man had ever devised. There was plenty of colorful literature on the subject from the days of chivalry and there were several practical books by later-day devotees of the art. The author felt that after the war there would be a revival in falconry.
The second article is entitled “American Birds of Prey – A Review of Their Value”. It is an addendum to the first article and, combined with it, makes a field guide out of the plates embedded in the first article. It was written by Louis Agassiz Fuertes, the author of the first article and painter of the color portraits and sketches displayed in that article. The article contains three black-and-white photographs, none full-page in size, and one full-page, black-and-white painting by the author complimenting the plates in the first article. The cover documents “6 Illustrations”, not four. One could speculate that two of the photographs had been moved to the larger first article to keep this one from being overcrowded.
It was difficult to attach a value to any given bird or animal, and that difficulty became much greater as the element of prejudice complicated the verdict which dispassionate research determined for any given species. The prejudice against all birds of prey was so general that it was almost impossible to convince anyone who had seen a hawk steal a chicken that only a few kinds have that habit, and that the rest deserved the most careful protection. That fact was admirably put forth by Dr. A. K. Fisher in his book “Hawks and Owls of the United States” which was published in 1893 by the Bureau of Biological Survey. Much of the information for the article was drawn from that authoritative source. For many years the field agents of the Biological Survey had been instructed to send to the Bureau the crops and stomachs of all birds and animals they collected, so their food habits could be studied without favor or prejudice. As a result of that study, the balance in favor of the American birds of prey had been shown to be an overwhelming one. No natural check existed against the hordes of destructive and rapidly multiplying fieldmice, gophers, woodrats, ground squirrels, and moles. Many persecuted species fed their ravenous young almost exclusively on those pests of our grazing and grain regions, the grasshopper, locusts, and mole-crickets. It could not be denied that certain hawks and owls were villainous destroyers of poultry, game, and beneficial birds, however, man’s own self-introduced pet, the cat, killed as many little chickens and vastly more beneficial and desirable birds than do all of the birds of prey in America, many times over. Virtually all the damage by birds of prey was done by five kinds of hawk and one owl. The number of birds and fowl killed by the remaining eleven common hawks and five owls was insignificant. The purpose of this study was not to cover in detail the performance of the entire list of American raptorial birds, and not more than two-thirds of the species were mentioned. Those that were rare or lived in remote or uninhabited regions were omitted. Still, the injustice and folly of persecuting a valuable family of birds for the misdeeds of less than a fourth of its number was preposterous.
Among hawks, the guilt for poultry, game, and bird slaughter practically fell on two rather small groups, most members of both groups being among the comparatively rare hawks. The whole genus Accipiter, consisting of the goshawk, Cooper’s hawk, and sharp-shinned hawk, were savage, bloodthirsty, and coldhearted slaughterers, and were responsible for the hatred bestowed on all hawks. Of those, the goshawk (A. atricapillus) was the largest and most destructive. It inhabited only the northern wooded portions of America, coming south in the winter to a line extending from Virginia to central California, and further south in the mountains. It was a forest hawk and was seldom seen far from the cover of woods. It mainly fed on birds with rabbits as its second choice. It was a great nuisance to game reserves. The Cooper’s hawk (A. cooperi) was the most important species as a destroyer of game and poultry. It was a common species everywhere in North America, living in the woods. It made short, swift sallies, returning immediately with its prey. It was a bold, cunning, and destructive hawk. More than any other species, it was responsible for giving all hawks a bad name. It took its toll on young chickens, ducks and pigeons, but too small to tackle the full-grown birds. It was almost the exact counterpoint of the smaller sharp-shin, whose habits were equally destructive, but its quarry was smaller, in keeping with the size of the bird.
The long-winged true falcons included the duck hawk, or peregrine, prairie falcon, and pigeon falcon, as well as the powerful gyrfalcons of the far north. They were all great bird-killers, and fortunately were nowhere common. Those splendid birds all kill on the wing, ignoring sitting prey. They did much damage on game covers and preserves appearing in great numbers when game becomes abundant. The gyrfalcons were too rare to be economically important, but the duck falcon was found in small numbers all over America and was considered an undesirable bird. It took care of itself, rarely falling to the gun and avoiding traps with uncanny skill. In the more arid regions and in the mountains of the West the pale-brown prairie falcon was not rare. That species was less partial to water and fed extensively on desert quail, jays, and other birds. The pigeon hawk was really much like a tiny peregrine. It could catch the fleet and elusive sandpipers and plovers along the shore and followed the migrating flocks in spring and fall. That little falcon varied its diet and improved its record by consuming large numbers of crickets, grasshoppers, and beetles. Unfortunately, it fed on song birds when they abounded. Among owls, the great horned, or cat owl, did practically all the damage for the family. Big, powerful, aggressive, and fearless, he found no difficulty in helping himself to the farmer’s poultry whenever he felt like it. These were the real culprits, if placed on a profit-and-loss basis. The beneficial species outnumber those on the “black list”.
By far the most important group of rodent-killing birds was the very group to which had been mistakenly given the common name of “hen hawk” or “chicken hawk”, a most unfortunate error and one most difficult to undo. They were not the ones to be blamed for our losses, but the ones to be thanked for holding in check the vast army of fieldmice and other destructive mammals. Those pests were difficult and very expensive to fight by artificial means, and the soaring hawks are their one great and efficient enemy. Next came all the owls except for the great horned, which must be given some credit, as he too killed his full share, but in addition to a diet of valuable prey. Of the Buteos, or “soaring hawks”, the big redtail was the most common and most widely diffused, and consequently the most important. Almost universally dubbed “hen-hawk”, that species was universally persecuted and shot on sight. Dr. Fisher’s examination of 562 stomachs of redtails had 89 as empty leaving 473 which carried evidence. Of those 54 contained poultry or game, 278 contained mice, 131 other mammals (28 species of destructive mammals), 37 batrachians or reptiles, 47 insects, 8 crabs, and 13 offal. If a redtail was caught in the act, it should be shot as it “had the habit”. The above record showed plainly the preponderance of evidence was vastly in favor of the species. All over the West another large and conspicuous hawk was found, which was a great killer of vermin, particularly small rodents. That was the “Swainson’s hawk, whose record is absolutely clean. It fed equally on small mammals and insects.
Another very common and widely distributed “hen-hawk” was the red-shoulder. That bird had an even better record than the redtail. Some 200 examined revealed only 3 which had eaten poultry, 12 small birds, 142 mice and other mammals, 92 insects, and a number with miscellaneous food. The broad-wing, the small member of this group, did not fall into the hands of farmers or gunners as it was a forest hawk that seldom left the shade and shelter of the woods. Its value was in the fact that it ate the caterpillars of large moths that defoliated the forest trees. It also consumed fieldmice, voles, shrews, and small snakes. The two roughlegs fed exclusively on mice. The eastern roughleg only came to the northern States, and only in winter. Of 45 stomachs of that species, 40 contained field mice and 5 other small mammals. Over all the western U. S. the ferruginous roughleg, or “squirrel hawk”, was a fairly common and very important species. With large areas of irrigation, the ground squirrel had multiplied enormously. That pest had cost the region millions of dollars in lost grain and produce, and its burrowing damaged irrigation dikes causing flooding. The squirrel hawk had responded to the abundance of food and become the principal check upon the increased numbers of that pest. The osprey, or fish hawk, as its name implied, fed exclusively upon fish. It was our largest hawk, being almost as impressive as the eagle. It fed almost wholly on sluggish fish, such as carp and suckers, and it was in no sense a competitor of the angler or the commercial fisherman.
The white-headed, or American, eagle had been placed on the black list in Alaska. It was charged with interfering with the salmon fisheries and killing young deer, sheep, and goats. A bounty of 50 cents a head was placed on it. As a result, by January 1920, some 5,000 eagles had been killed. The author felt that it should be protected all over America, and not be left to local interests to decide its fate. The marsh hawk had not quite so clean of a record as most of the birds discussed. Out of 115 stomachs 41 contained bird remains, of which 7 were game or poultry; 79 contained small mammals, mostly meadow-mice. While it was mainly beneficial, it did kill a proportion of feathered food. The little sparrowhawk, although small was abundant and widely distributed. The American sparrowhawk was a little falcon, related to the kestrel of Europe. It was unlike the European sparrowhawk which was a bird-killer, related to our sharp-shin. Our little falcon was the most ornate and beautiful of American hawks. It had a fondness for grasshoppers. Occasionally he caught a bird, but a third of his diet was mice, and by far the largest part was insects. During summers, the young were feed over their weight daily on grasshoppers.
The service rendered by owls was even less appreciated than that of the hawks, because they were mostly nocturnal, and hence were seldom heard and almost never seen. They were as expert mousers and ratters as the diurnal birds of prey. The great horned was the only one which deserved a bad reputation. The barred owl lived almost exclusively on field and white-footed mice, with chipmunks, squirrels, crawfish, and insects to vary the menu. The barn owl, common all over the warmer parts of America, was exclusively a rodent feeder. The long-ear species foraged in an around the margins of wooded areas while the short-ear frequented the wet meadows and marshes for voles, shrews, and mice. The commonest owl was the little screech owl. He was the one owl that survived with the taming of the land. He thrived in thickly settled farming regions, nesting in orchards and village parks, and in the suburbs of large cities. No bird of prey had a more varied diet that this smallest of our common owls. Of 212 stomachs examined, 39 contained feathers, 112 small mammals, 100 insects, 2 lizards, 4 batrachians, 1 fish, 5 spiders, 9 crawfish, 2 scorpions, 2 earthworms, and 7 “miscellaneous”. The beautiful snowy owl, which came in winter to the northern portion of the U. S. It was on the list of unprotected “vermin”, but out of 26 examinations 20 revealed injurious mammals while only 11 had feathers among their contents. The author felt it deserved protection.
The author ended this pair of articles with a plea for better understanding and more protection for our birds of prey. He lamented the shortsightedness in destroying the greatest natural check on the worst enemies of our agricultural and natural resources. Proving the point that birds of prey did even a little more harm than good, he felt, justified their complete protection. But it was easy to show that they were, all in all, of very vast value to our rural interests, and their benefits would multiply in proportion to their increase under adequate protection. The problem was our unwillingness to give up an idea once it had lodged in our minds, coupled with the complicated problem of “which is which” that had made the valuable species suffer from the misdeeds of the noxious ones. The situation in many places had become critical. The time was not far off when one of two things would occur: Either proper and adequate protection must be granted and enforced covering all birds of prey except the six destructive species, or it would be too late, and we would need to find new, costly, and far less effective means to protect our rural interests from the hoards of rapidly multiplying enemies waging war upon our agriculture.
The third article in this month’s issue is entitled “A Little-Known Marvel of the Western Hemisphere” and was written by Major G. H. Osterhout, Jr., USMC. It has the subtitle “Christophe’s Citadel, a Monument to the Tyranny and Genius of Haiti’s King of Slaves”. It contains thirteen black-and-white photographs taken by the author, of which five are full-page in size. It is the first of three articles about Haiti and references a sketch map which appears in the next article.
About twenty miles south of the town of Cape Haitien, in the north of the island of Haiti [Hispaniola], there stood, on the top of a precipitous mountain, one of the wonders of the Western Hemisphere. Its existence was scarcely known and its full history would never be written. A visit to Christophe’s Citadel was necessary to fully appreciate its massiveness, its intricate and elaborate construction, and its remote situation. Few had the opportunity to visit the site, and even fewer had the physique needed to make the arduous journey. Little was known of the citadel given the fact that Haiti itself was so little known, even though it was only a few hundred miles from the U. S. The island was cataloged as one to be avoided due to the frequent domestic upheavals, revolutions, and general uncertainty there. Conditions had changed recently. Under the guidance of the U. S., the islands government had been stabilized. It was discovered on December 6, 1492 by Christopher Columbus at Mole St. Nicholas. It had a delightful climate and a wealth of virgin soil and forest. The author felt that in a few years, tourist would be flocking to the island to see that vast citadel on Bonnet a L’Eveque. Eight miles away, in the town of Milot stood another architectural pile, the ornate palace of “Sans Souci”. Both were built more than a century prior by an untutored negro.
Sir Spenser St. John, KCMG (British minister resident and consular general in Haiti, 1863-1875), in his book, “Hayti, or The Black Republic” wrote interesting comments on the citadel and the palace: “The most striking objects near Cap Haitien are the remains of Sans Souci, and of the citadel constructed by King Christophe, called La Ferriere. It requires a visit to induce one to believe that so elaborate, and, I may add, so handsome a structure, could exist in such a place as Haiti, or that a fortification such as the citadel could ever have been constructed on the summit of a lofty mountain, five thousand feet, I believe, above the level of the sea.” Later, he states “What energy did this black king possess to rear so great a monument? But the reverse of the medal states that every stone in that wonderful building cost a human life.” A Frenchman, Edgar La Salve, in his book, “La Republique d’Haiti”, says: “Nowhere in France, England, or in the United States have I seen anything more imposing. The citadel of La Ferriere is truly a marvelous thing.”
A brief sketch of the life and career of Henri Christophe was necessary in order to explain the why and wherefore of his citadel and palace. His origin and early life were shrouded in mystery. It was generally accepted that he was born in 1769 on the island of St. Christopher. Prior to the first general uprising of slaves against their French masters, Christophe worked as a waiter in Cap Francaise (now Cape Haitien), where he picked up some English and formed the acquaintance of English naval officers. He quickly achieved a place as one of the trusted lieutenants of Toussaint L’Ouverture, the strategist who rose from slavery to a position of importance in Haiti and who successfully led the slaves in their revolt against the French, prior to the independence of the island republic. L’Ouverture was captured and taken to Fort de Joux, in France, where he died in prison in 1803. His successor was Dessalines, who became the successful leader of the Haitians against what was left of the army of 30,000 men Napoleon had sent to Haiti in 1801, under his brother-in-law, General Leclerc. The struggle lasted two years, during which time Leclerc died of yellow fever. The revolt was successful, and Haiti gained independence on January 1, 1804.
Throughout all the strife, Christophe was prominent, so when Dessalines was assassinated, in 1805, the former was elected President, but under a constitution drafted by one Petion. It contained restrictions distasteful to the new leader. Instead of accepting the honor bestowed upon him, Christophe marched on Port au Prince and attacked Petion’s troops without success. He returned to Cap Francaise and wrote a constitution to his liking. His operations were confined to the north, while Petion held sway in the south. Christophe’s iron rule soon bore results. His portion of the country began to produce enormous crops of coffee, cocoa, sugar, indigo, and cotton. A large part of the resulting wealth was spent in building up the country. Christophe proclaimed himself king in 1811, with the title of “Henri I”. He established a titled nobility and a rigid court etiquette, which he maintained with much pomp. He even changed the name of Cap Francaise to Cap Henri. When, in 1804, Dessalines assigned his military leaders to various parts of the country, he instructed them to build strong forts at inaccessible points, where arms and supplies could be stored, and where Haitian forces could hold out against the French, if the latter should try to retake the island. Christophe was assigned the northern department, and at once set about building the citadel on Bonnet a L’Eveque (Bishop’s Hat), which was called “La Ferriere”, then “Citadelle Henri”, and finally “Christophe’s Citadel”. The zeal and product of the labor of the commander of the northern department aroused suspicion that from the first he contemplated not only resisting the French but also overthrowing Dessalines.
It was not known how long it took to build the citadel, but evidently it was finished some time prior to Christophe’s death in 1820. It was estimated that its construction cost the lives of ten to twenty thousand laborers. It was believed that the planning for the structure, as well as the supervision of its construction were performed by two captured French officers. When work was completed it was said that Christophe and two men made a thorough inspection of the structure and, upon reaching the top, he had the men thrown to their deaths to safeguard its secrets. Legend has it that he had an entire company of mutinous soldiers driven off the same spot. It was his favorite method of dispatching those who incurred his wrath. The citadel was ideally located. Occupying the entire top of the mountain, the citadel commanded every neighboring peak and approach, while a spring beneath and inside of the building furnished an abundant supply of water, the primary necessity in withstanding a long siege. The building had a prow formation, pointing toward the magnetic north, the entire eastern face was in that line. On the eastward side, which was the longest, was located the main battery of heavy guns. That gave absolute command of the most dangerous approach, that from the Grande Riviere. An army with enough guns and equipment to successfully attack the stronghold would have to come from that direction. Guns in the prow commanded the nearer and steeper approaches, both from the direction of Grande Riviere and of Milot. Other guns along the southern and western sides commanded adequately all other points of approach. Numerous loopholes were especially prepared for the use of sharpshooters.
The elevation at the base of the citadel had been given as from 3,000 to 5,000 feet, but careful reading of a compensated aneroid barometer recorded 2,600 feet. To that must be added the height of the different walls to ascertain the elevation of the top of the building. The highest place on the walls, measured to the ground was 140 feet. The highest wall was the prow, which had a drop of 130 feet. Other walls ranged from 80 to 110 feet. On the west face, there was a terrace 40 feet high. The difficulty in reaching the citadel was due not to its elevation, but the fact that to reach it one must cross at least eight miles of mountainous country, and the approaches were very steep. Although large blocks of granite were found in many places throughout the building, most of it was built of red firebricks of different sizes. The average brick was fifteen inches long, six inches wide, and two inches thick. Those bricks were apparently manufactured on the site of the building. The mountains for long distances in all directions showed signs of traces of titanic labor in getting out building materials. The average number of floors was four, the longest being on the east face, where the main battery was located. It had a length of 270 feet in one stretch. The main battery gallery was 30 feet wide, and each gun compartment had a vaulted ceiling 20 feet high. Each gun compartment was separated by thick masonry walls, connected by low passageways. This was to minimize the effect of local explosions and possible hits. Behind each gun there were still neat piles of canon balls ready for use, while in chambers just to the rear of some of the guns were heaps of decomposed black powder mingled with the remains of wooden powder cases. A vast pile of similar debris was also found in the large powder magazine.
The largest guns were 11 feet 6 inches long, caliber 6 inches, 1 foot 10 inches thick at the breech and 1 foot 3¾ inches at the muzzle. Dated 1786, they were made of bronze with enormous hardwood mounts, moving in train over a large metal arc set in the floor, and on small wheels of a strong make. Those guns came mostly from the English, some from captured French forts, and others, judging from the corrosion, came from war vessels wreaked along the treacherous coast. Similar guns were mounted in the upper gallery on the southern face and in the lower gallery to the northwest. Others were lying in the court and along the eastern parapet. At least a dozen large mortars were piled up outside. It was a source of mystery how those guns were brought up the mountain trail to their present location. There was a story that Christophe would assign a certain distance a give force of men would move a gun each day, and upon their failing to do so killing every tenth man of the detachment. The surface of the rocks along the trails leading to the citadel was worn in ruts and was as smooth as glass from the heavy weights over them. Those traces were especially conspicuous along the steep trail down the slope west of the low prow. That was a steeper trail than the more gradual, but longer one, at the front and zigzagging up to the main entrance.
It was a good three-hour climb either from Milot or Grande Riviere to the citadel, the grade from the latter was far easier. The trip could be made on horseback when the trails were dry, but from Milot it was difficult for the animal, from Grande Riviere not so bad. A person could climb on foot about as fast as the horse, but even in good shape, a man would be thoroughly exhausted on reaching the top. Even so, large parties, including ladies, made picnic trips to the place, sending food and bedding in advance. On such trips the visitors would spend the night, making a leisurely return the next day. There were only two entrances to the citadel. One was used for cannonballs stored by size on the sloping terrace to the south; the other only admitted to the prow. They were both closed by massive, bolted and loopholed wooden doors. The entire structure was well preserved, except the floors in the prow which were shaken down by an earthquake in 1842. That quake laid the town of Cape Haitien in ruins. The top of the prow had three large fissures as a result of the same shock. The west side was covered by bright red lichen that gave the appearance of it being painted. The structures on the extreme top, resembling a roof garden, were also badly shaken. The author was puzzled by the fact that Sir Spenser St. John wrote: “Years of the labour of toiling thousands were spent to prepare the citadel, which the trembling earth laid in ruins in a few minutes”; for only a comparatively small interior portion was in ruin, and to an extent easily repaired with little labor. On the night of his death, Christophe’s body was placed in lime in the main tomb of the citadel. The tomb inside a nearby room was supposed to contain the remains of some of his family. The latter was unmarked.
Considerable digging had been done in many parts of the citadel with the hope of finding an enormous treasure reported to be buried there. Badly rusted and completely wreaked money-chest were still there but empty. The treasure, if any, had long since been removed. Many stories were told by the native guides to scare the tourists. In one, a masonry chute was said to be a “death slide” for hurling victims to their doom. In fact, the chute was designed for refuse and ended just twenty feet above the terrace. The ruins of Sans Souci Palace at Milot, while elaborate, did not compare with the citadel in interest or as a source of speculation; yet the remains of such grandeur at that location made a profound impression. The French origin of the architecture was apparent. The site had a commanding view of the fertile valley of Milot. At the front were the remains of a series of terraced gardens, while to the rear were the ruins of many masonry houses. The name given to that palace showed Christophe’s barbaric nature. In the war against the French slaveholders, he had one rival for control of the northern section, Sans Souci. After Toussaint L’Ouverture was exiled, Dessalines persuaded Sans Souci to join his cause. Christophe lured Sans Souci to the plantation of Grand-pre and there murdered him. The name of the palace reminded Christophe of the affair.
Christophe’s downfall and death came suddenly. While attending church at Limonade, twelve miles from Cape Haitien and fourteen miles from Melot, he suffered a stroke. He was eventually moved to Sans Souci, but the news of his illness spread and many of his followers deserted him. In October of that year (1820), the towns of Saint Marc and Cape Haitien deserted his cause. On October 8th he sent his remaining army to crush the rebellion. As soon as his army was out of sight, they went over to the other side. Upon hearing the news, he realized that he was done for and his only escape was suicide. He made provisions for the safety and welfare for his wife and family, then, after bathing and dressing in a spotless suit of white, he grasped a pistol and shot himself in the heart. His remains were carried that night to the citadel, the most impressive monument to a tyrant in our hemisphere. It would preserve his name for centuries, while his contemporaries and successors sank into oblivion.
The fourth article this month is entitled “Haiti, the Home of Twin Republics” and was written by Sir Harry Johnston. The article contains eleven black-and-white photographs, three of which are full-page in size. The article also contains a sketch map of the island on page 489, which is referenced by not only this article, but the preceding and next articles as well.
Sketch Map courtesy of Philip Riviere
The best name for the second largest of the Greater Antilles was that which Columbus gave to it after its discovery in 1492 – Hispaniola. He christened his first settlement there, San [or Santo] Domingo because it was discovered on a Sunday. Spanish colonization of the island proceeded from that fortified town, now the capital of the Dominican Republic. San Domingo, for a time, was used as the name of the island replacing Hispaniola (Espanola). French pirates generally called the island “Saint Domingue”. The aborigines who lived in the northwestern part of the island called their country Haiti. Eventually the French pirates were replaced by French colonists, under the reign of Louis XIV, and an arrangement was made with Spain for the Western third of the island. The eastern two-thirds of the island was almost forsaken by the Spanish for their vast empire in Central and South America. The French continued to use the name Domingue until the negro revolt was victorious in 1804. The French-speaking victors revived the name Haiti for the whole island. When the Spanish element in the east shook itself free of negro domination in 1844, it became the Republic of Santo Domingo, or the Dominican Republic. The 28,249 square-mile island was divided into two states – the Republic of Haiti in the west and the Dominican Republic in the east. The Dominicans spoke Spanish, either classical Castilian or a variation, while the Haitians had French as its official language but most spoke a creole language.
The scenery of Haiti was beautiful and delectable. The climate, though hot, was healthful, and for six months of the year delightful. Everywhere above 2,000 feet in altitude was ideally temperate all year round. Haiti was extraordinarily mountainous, though not as high as some peaks in Santo Domingo, where the highest peak, Loma de la Tina, exceeded 10,000 feet. The highest point in Haiti, the Saddle Mountains, or Mont de la Sella, was about 8,920 feet. The range of the Cibao Mountains, which extended from the northeast to the southwest, was really the spine of the island. Its highest peaks were in the Dominican section. It included the mountains of Entre-los-Rios, Yaque, and Tina were all just under or just over 10,000 feet. The greatest altitudes in Haiti were in the southern part of the Republic. Between the southern and northern mountains of Haiti were two intermediate ranges on either side of the valley of the Artibonite River. Between the southern Artibonite range and the sierra of southern Haiti was a narrow plain which the French called the Cul de Sac. It ran from Port au Prince, on the Gulf of Gonaives, to the Bay of Neiba, in southern Santo Domingo. Millions of years ago, it was a strait which cut off southern Haiti from the rest of the island.
That plain contained several lakes: Lake Limon was fresh, Lake Azuey was very salty, and Lake Enriquillo, the largest, was brackish. Lake Azuey was almost entirely in Haitian territory, but the eastern end was Dominican. All of them had beautiful scenery. The mountains on the south shore of Lake Azuey rose nearly 9,000 feet, while the ones on the north shore reached at least 4,000 feet. All those mountains were covered by forests of Georgian pines. Logging by British concessioners and by the Haitians themselves were rapidly destroying those forests. The lower slopes of the Haitian mountains had dense forests of lignumvitae, fan palms, royal palms, mahogany, logwood, and mimosas. The water of Lake Azuey was very blue, and that arose from the limestone bottom. The surface formations of Haiti had a great deal of limestone, yet a good deal of the surface in parts was covered with a red clay. The flat portions of the shores of Lake Azuey had a thorny growth of mimosa and “Cashaw” trees, together with arboreal cacti. There were also Yuccas which grew at sea-level as well as at 7,000 feet. There were woodpeckers of black with yellow spots and with red heads and rumps, golden-yellow starlings, quits of blue and orange, and black-green hummingbirds. The eastern end of Lake Azuey had colonies of scarlet American flamingo. There were iguanas basking on the rocky islands along the northern shore of that lake. They had been hunted almost to extermination for food in the rest of Haiti.
The eastern end of Lake Azuey was in Santo Domingo, so along its northern shore a customs station was established along the road which passed between the two republics. There the author met an American who had introduced amenities to that wild region. In addition to a neat and clean fortified station, he had built a little bungalow near the waters of the lake. He had a gramophone with the latest records. That gramophone made him popular among Haitians and Dominicans alike. The Dominican frontier guards were handsome men, with a pale-olive complexion, a mixture of Spanish and American Indian. There were thousands of blacks in Santo Domingo but they hadn’t interbred like the French-speaking ones of Haiti. In the middle of Lake Enriquillo, in Dominican territory, there was an island which was bought by British concessionaires. It produced rock salt for commercial purposes. There were caverns there with wall paintings of heads, figures, and other things. Those caverns were known as “Las Caritas”, or “Little Faces”.
While the lowlands of the island were attractive with their vegetation and birds, the author felt the highlands were earthly paradises. Even where the trees had been recklessly cleared, there was beauty in those great open spaces which were covered with turf, ferns, shrubs, and flowers. Sir Johnston was entranced by the beauty of the landscape, the temperate clime, and the sunshine. The relief of the surface – tremendous gorges, wall-like mountainsides, crumbling peaks, white-stoned streams, clusters of pines, candelabra of yucca, and the many-colored flowers, were all elements of remarkable landscape beauty. One of the elements of delight in the mountain country of Haiti was the odor exhaled from the forests of Georgian pines, an odor that never seemed to be altogether absent from the air. Most of the mountainous region was fairly well inhabited, with little villages of black peasants wherever the land was flat enough for cultivation. Their steep-thatched houses were surrounded by banana groves, for the banana will flourish up to 5,000 feet.
The author lamented that the black peasants did not revert to the African custom of wearing very little clothing, for he felt they were a very attractive people. The men wore trousers and a smock-frock, or discarded military uniforms. Their heads were covered with broad-rimmed, straw hats. The women usually wore long-skirted blue robes. A bright-colored handkerchief was wound tightly round the hair. Over that, for journeying, was poised a broad-brimmed hat, held on by a strap under the chin. In the country towns of Haiti there was always a great central square, in the middle of which was a rostrum of brick or masonry, sometimes stuccoed, and gaudily painted in blue and red (the national colors). They were used for public proclamations. Churches were not numerous, but where they were supervised by French priest they were well maintained.
Peacocks were numerous on the island which added to the beauty of the landscape. There were no vultures in Haiti like there were in Cuba and Jamaica. The only scavengers on the island were pigs. They were introduced to the island by the Spanish or the French, and had run wild and developed into small wild boar. The domestic pig in Haiti was hampered by a large wooden collar which prevented it from straying too far afield. The same collar was used on goats. The cattle were a Dutch type introduced from northern France. The sheep still had wool, unlike the hairy kind from Africa found in Cuba. The little horses were a useful type, and horse breeding could be carried out in Haiti to a great extend due to the climate and feeding. Donkeys were less used than mules for transportation.
The capital of Haiti, Port au Prince, looked comely when approached by sea, with its Cathedral and houses of pink and white interspersed with handsome trees. The city, with a population of 120,000, was at the head of a gulf between the northern and southern arms of Haiti. The access to the city was guarded by the great island of Gonave. The city had an admirable water supply from the mountains based on a system of pipes and aqueducts. The roads were fairly passable since the arrival of the Marines. Before that there were great muck heaps and occasional dead donkeys on the side streets. Before the American occupation, there were few sidewalks so people walked in the streets blocking traffic. The houses were, for the most part, comely, and Port au Prince compared well to the other large towns of the West Indies. There were three or four newspapers with excellent service of foreign cablegrams. There were only two motels, but both were quite tolerable. The native cuisine was superior to that of the Spanish cooking of Cuba; it was French colonial and most appetizing. Haiti was well supplied with fresh provisions – excellent vegetables, good beef and mutton, splendid seafood, and delicious fruit; moreover, the cost of living was far cheaper than in the U. S. or Cuba.
A railway runs through the city and extends southwestward to the pretty little town of Leogane, passing through the lovely suburb Diquiny, an earthly paradise. The railway extends eastward to the shores of Lake Azuey. The President’s palace in Port au Prince was blown up in the revolution of 1912. Some handsome buildings formerly existed north of the palace but were deliberately burned down under the rule of Nord Alexis, acts which destroyed a third of the capital. To the east and north of the palace was the great open space of the Champ de Mars. In the middle of that open space was a statue of Dessalines. Port au Prince possessed a magnificent central market. Every morning between six and eight, hundreds of country women rode into town on horses and mules with their produce. Much of the marketing went on in the open air. Fish were sold, as well as, turkeys, fowls, geese, ducks, sheep, goats, parrots, and pigeons. Large quantities of maize, beans, chili peppers, avocados, pumpkins, ocroes, and aubergines were sold as well. Also, firewood, charcoal, and forage for town-kept horses were traded.
The crowd was good-humored and noisy, requiring little intervention by the few policemen present. In the old days the crowd was permeated by soldiers. The reason why women predominated the market was that for generations the country men who came to town would be pressed into military service. The military had been the curse of Haiti. Formerly, from early morning till dewy eve the streets were paraded by noisy military bands; soldiers in and out of uniform begged from the passersby; officers dash up and down the streets on horses disregarding pedestrians; and the air was rent by salvos of artillery or of target practice.
The fifth article this month, and the third one about Haiti, is entitled “Haiti and Its Regeneration by the United States”. It has no byline being an editorial piece. It contains ten black-and-white photographs, three of which are full-page in size. It also references the sketch map embedded in the previous article.
Haiti’s problem was not one that could be dismissed with a word or cleared up with the stroke of a pen. It was made up of the sum of all the accumulated evils and abuses of more than a hundred years – years cursed with tyranny and bloodshed; years of sedition, conspiracy, rebellion, plague, pestilence, famine, battle, murder, and sudden death. According to the editor “the natives rapidly forgot their thin veneer of Christian civilization and reverted to utter, unthinkable animalism, swayed only by the fear of local bandit chiefs and the black magic of voodoo.” (See “Haiti, A Degenerating Island”, by Rear Admiral Colby M. Chester, in the National Geographic Magazine, March, 1908.) While the peasants took to the bush, the middle- and upper-class Haitians gravitated to the seacoast towns, where they exploited the peasants of the interior.
Haitian geography was as follows. Physically blessed with unstinted wealth, she occupied, with her sister republic of Santo Domingo, the second largest island of the Greater Antilles, once known as Hispaniola (“Little Spain”). Haiti was situated about 500 miles southeast of Key West, while Cuba was about 50 miles across the Windward Passage to her west. The republic’s eastern boundary was made up of a series of rivers and hills. Beyond that was Santo Domingo, while further to the east was the third island of the group, Puerto Rico. Haiti had an area of 10,400 square miles, and Santo Domingo was about twice that size. Situated in the tropics, Haiti possessed every natural advantage; in her valleys and plains rich alluvial soil bore crops of wonderful bounty. Sugar-cane, cotton, and cocoa were produced in abundance. Haitian coffee was world renowned. Tropical fruits grew wild, and more than seventy-five food-plants flourished there. High in the hilly country, on plateaus, grew wheat, rye, and barley, among other temperate crops. In the mountains grew timber. Coal, iron, copper, and other minerals were found in quantities worth exploiting. Spain had extracted much gold and silver in the days of the Conquistador, $30,000,000 worth in one year.
Haitian history had been dramatic. There Columbus first landed, and in what became Santo Domingo City he was imprisoned, and upon his death his bones were brought for burial. Pizarro and Cortez stop there on their way to conquest. Then came the English buccaneers, who plundered the Spanish Main. With them came the French freebooters who formed a settlement on the island of Tortuga, just of the coast of norther Haiti. From there they erupted, in 1630, driving the Spanish out of what became the republic of Haiti, and from most of the rest of the island. In 1775 the entire island was ceded to France. Under French rule, the island prospered. Roads were built in agricultural regions, and beautiful homes were built. On the downside, the Indians “completely disappeared” in Haiti, and the number of negro slaves rose dramatically. The revolution in France lead to disorder on the island. The blacks arose and wiped out almost the entire white population. In the midst of the Napoleonic wars, France could only watch in horror. The few troops she could spare were no match for the rebels who were granted independence. A republic was proclaimed and a president elected. His first act was to declare himself emperor in Port au Prince. Not to be outdone, another leader in the north declared himself King in Cape Haitien, and set up a system of nobility with eight dukes, thirty-seven barons, and other lights, all relatives of the monarch. [See the preceding story.]
From that point on, retrogression followed in natural steps. Social disintegration continued. All semblance of order in the interior vanished. Armed bands pillaged and burned the countryside. The magnificent homes and palatial villas of the former French land-owners were looted and burned. This left nothing of value. The gangs then turned on their own people. The farmers, after repeated robberies fled to the coastal cities. Abandoned by their owners, the comfortable homed were left to rack and ruin. Weeds overgrew cultivated lands and fertile fields lapsed into jungles. Trees grew on once famous roads. The bandit bands thrived and grew. When it became difficult to recruit, all male natives, when found, were pressed into service. This led to all peaceful males keeping out of sight and women performing nearly all work and barter. The slaughter of males by war and feud, also kept down the number of men. Cannibalism and voodoo were revived, and the sacrifice of children and of animals was practiced. Four-fifths of the people were either believers of, or feared the spells of the witch doctor.
In the cities of the coast another condition prevailed. Here, a middle-class of educated mulattos and blacks kept up the forms of government and maintained order. They traded between the hinterland and the nations of Europe and North America, and many got rich in the process. Coalitions of such families would get together and “elect” a president who would rifle the treasury, float loans, and appoint supporters to public office. The president would become unpopular; he would be removed from office, either banished or killed; and the cycle would start all over again. Of the twenty-five presidents of Haiti from the founding of the republic until 1903, fifteen were driven from office by revolution. Of those, thirteen were banished and the other two were allowed to stay in Haiti. Three were assassinated and three died from causes unknown. One died of wounds received from rebels and one committed suicide. Only one completed his term and retired, lived long and died peacefully in bed. Of those twenty-five presidents, few could read or write, most were close to the voodoo priests, and many were accused of practicing it. Only two were known to be cannibals, but many others were accused. The human victims of those rites were known as “the goat without horns”. After 1903, it only got worse. It was open season on presidents and almost constant revolution.
In July of 1915 American forces landed in Port au Prince with the task of bringing law and order, and peace to the country. At the time, disease ravaged both the interior and the coast of the island. Yellow fever and smallpox decimated the lowlands, while malaria was everywhere. An estimated 87% of the population was infected with contagious diseases, and only 3% could read and write, almost all of whom live in coastal cities. Banking institutions had ceased to function and business was at a standstill. The editor states that many details were omitted which were not suitable for publication in the U. S. After slight skirmishes, the marines and bluejackets established order in Port au Prince. Marines landed at other cities quickly establishing law and order along the coast. Meetings of the Haitian Congress were held and a president, Dartiguenave, was elected. He was still president in 1920. In November, 1915, both houses of the Haitian Congress ratified a treaty making Haiti a virtual protectorate of the U. S. The treaty was unanimously approved by the U. S. Senate and ratified by the President in March 1916. The Haitian president offered amnesty to all political offenders who would give up their arms and return to peace and industry. A special appeal was made to the bandit leaders to dismiss their bands. A number of them did so and received full pardons. A vigorous campaign was organized against those who refused to come in. A force of about a thousand marines was busily engaged for several months, at the end of which, the leader of the bandits, Dr. Blbo, was driven out of Haiti and all the large bands were dispersed as well as a majority of the smaller ones. Thousands of sabers and guns, from muzzle-loaded flintlocks of Spanish days to modern models supplied by German conspirators, were captured and dumped into the bay. To ensure order, a gendarmerie was formed, more or less a police force. It was made up of native Haitians officered by American marines. It proved a useful and efficient force in maintaining peace. The gendarmerie took on another function; its members were made the official paymasters of all of Haiti, thus eliminating the graft which had plagued Haiti for generations. Since the original campaign, in which revolutionaries were put down and the bands broken up, there had been several occasions where bandits had popped up locally. Much difficulty occurred when the U. S. entered the war with Germany. Haiti declared war on the Central Powers. All Germans in Haiti were interned and prevented from conducting business. The Germans held much influence and, in their anger, did everything in their power to create disorder. They supplied arms to the bandits and used propaganda to demoralize our troops in Haiti.
In addition to establishing law and order, the U. S. forces had cleaned up the island in matters of sanitation. Quarantines were established thus rendering plagues impossible. Yellow fever and smallpox had been wiped out and malaria greatly reduced. The marines were educating the people along the lines of modern sanitation. Roads had been built from one end of the island to the other, and new roads were being built. The ports of Port au Prince and Cape Haitien had been cleaned and made into modern harbors capable of handling the trade of the country. Street-cleaning had been undertaken in all towns, sewage plants installed, water plants put into operation, and sanitary regulations put into force. A force of Haitian trained nurses had been developed by American sanitary authorities, and men trained to be health and sanitary inspectors. Hospitals had been built and public works of all sorts undertaken. The Haitian prison system was reformed. Formerly a chamber of horrors, prisons were now clean and sanitary. Many prisoners liked the new conditions so much that they would commit minor offenses so they could stay.
As much as had been done, there was still more to be accomplished. To make Haiti self-sufficient, first required popular education for the average Haitian. Language made this difficult because the language of Haiti was not a written language. It descended orally from its Africa roots. That language was called creole by the French. It contained a few French words, but a Frenchman understood it as well as an American could. In addition, it varied much in different districts and Haitians from one section had great difficulty understanding the inhabitants of another. Only a small percentage of Haitians spoke French and even fewer spoke English. Either an alphabet and way of writing for the native tongue must be developed, or the entire population must be taught to speak in French or English. Either of those tasks were extremely difficult, but one must be done before substantial progress could be made. The editor proposed that the U. S. appropriate funds to send American teachers to Haiti, and have Haitians trained in the U. S. Such a campaign was done in the Philippines successfully. The editor felt it would work for Haiti, and within a few short years English would be the language of the Haitians.
The sixth and final article in this month’s issue is entitled “Glimpes of Siberia, the Russian “Wild East””. It was written by Cody Marsh, Ex-Captain A. R. C. with the A. E. F. in Siberia. The article contains twenty-six black-and-white photographs, ten of which are full-page in size.
The spotlight of public interest was undoubtedly on Russia. The war was over and the world was in the throes of reconstruction. The greatest obstacle to reconstruction was Russia, because of Bolshevism. Probably Bolshevism was the most sinister and far-reaching menaces of all history. The world knew very little about the country that gave birth to such a weird philosophy of government. Less was known about Siberia than European Russia, in spite of the fact that an American expedition was in Siberia at the time this article was written. Siberia might have been called the “Wild East”, in many respects similar to the American “Wild West” of the 1800s. European Russians, before the war, who wanted to get away, go pioneering, or needed room to breathe moved to Siberia. Also, the Tsar exiled dissidents and criminals there. This included a large group of intellectuals whose crime was to think for themselves, out loud. Siberia, in the American imagination, was a land full of prisons. A woodcut in the author’s geography text pictured a poor, fur-wrapped creature in a “troika”, or three-horse sleigh, plodding through ten feet of snow, chased by wolves. Just as an Englishman expected to see Indians in New York City, Americans expected to see exiles, criminals, and wolves in Vladivostok. The author saw none of them, nor pine trees, and what little snow he saw was only a few inches thick. He had heard that furs were very cheap in Siberia and was asked to buy enough sable for a coat. He selected five small pelts, enough for one sleeve, and was told that it would be $1,200, about $200 less than in New York.
Capt. Marsh had no illusions about the Siberian winter. American soldiers said, “Siberia has two seasons – July and winter.” There was practically no spring; Foliage appeared in June; July was hot; the brief fall was beautiful; and the winter was long and intensely cold, minus sixty to seventy degrees in some places. Everyone dressed and prepared for the cold. The author found Siberian winter more comfortable than the changeable winter in the States. He was impressed by the wild flowers – the wild rose that grew in sturdy bushes, and the mauve and gold “Mary and John”. Every week during summer and fall new wild flowers would bloom giving an everchanging background. Siberia was an oriental country; the landscape was full of color, from volcanos of rubies down through a kaleidoscope of hues. All the peoples of the Orient were present – Chinese, Japanese, Tatars, Manchus, Korean – men and women of every color and condition. For the most part, the Russians had Russianized the country, but still Capt. Marsh heard many languages and thought of the Tower of Babel. In Vladivostok, motorboats shared the waterways with sampans and dambes, and automobiles shared the roads with camel and oxen. The Captain had been evacuated to Manila along with more than a thousand U. S. troops. In spite of the typhus and cholera, and in spite of the hunger and the cold, many men were heard longing for “dear old ‘Vladi’”.
Siberia was rich in agricultural potential, in spite of the short growing season. But the most alluring opportunity of the country was its mineral wealth – gold, silver, and precious stones. Vladivostok had one of the finest harbors in the world, and the railroad connecting it to Petrograd was the longest in the world. Its roads, on the other hand, were in poor shape. The Russian word for road was “doroga”, which literally meant “bad road”. The cities of Russia’s “Wild East” were not particularly populous, but each had the beautiful churches and office buildings. First was Vladivostok, a combination of Gotham and Chicago. At the other end of the country was Omsk, the capital. In between were Tomsk, Ekaterinburg, Cheliabinsk, Chita, Xabarosk, Irkutsk, Harbin, and Nikolsk. As beautiful as those cities were, the author found their filth and the attendant odors quite objectionable. Tomsk had a beautiful cathedral and a great university. Vladivostok was the largest. When Russia lost Port Arthur, the Tsar’s interest in that more northern seaport increased, to the city’s advantage. The one disadvantage for the port was that the harbor was frozen for several months of the year. With its strategic position, Vladivostok was well defended. Batteries of large gums and concrete emplacement guard the mouth of the harbor. From the water front to several miles inland, there were numerous lines of defense. As in all the other Siberian cities, barracks were everywhere in Vladivostok. There were numbers of institutions of learning in Vladivostok, notably the Oriental Institute, and the Commercial School. The city skirted the harbor with one main avenue running the entire length. The city had buildings for everything – religion, education, amusement, hotels, homes, military, and two department stores.
The author went into details of the rough and tumble of the “Wild East” town – a brawl at a brothel; a dead, naked women lying in the mud; a purse snatching; a dead baby; and a kidnapping of an American soldier that didn’t end well. The city market place was an interesting spot. It was sectioned into Russian, Japanese, and Chinese. Then there was the section known as “The Thieves’ Market”. It was all that the name implied. The night life of a Russian city was never dull. One cabaret in Vladivostok didn’t open until one a.m. Vladivostok normally had a population of sixty thousand people, but at one point, there were more than half a million due to an influx of refugees from all over Russia and Siberia. They lived in squalor. House were built out of tin cans, packing crates, and mud. Many hoped to reach America. In addition, refugees lived in freight cars, or had no home at all. Capt. Marsh saw families huddled in doorways to keep warm. Vladivostok was key to Siberia for it was the start of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. The only other gateway was through Manchuria to Harbin. A large percentage of Russians knew some German and most educated Russians spoke French. The Russians were good linguists. The author noted that Russians learned English faster than we could learn Russian. He was able to pick up some Russian for transactions, a child’s vocabulary and no grammar. The alphabet had thirty-five letters, and instead of many tenses, there were “aspects”, many declensions, and intricate prepositions.
Life was not easy in Russia under the Bolshevists, but the people remained polite. The author knew Bolshevist Russian, as red as could be, who were as gentle as anyone he knew. Even the poorest peasant was courteous. The Russian housewife was an excellent cook. The Siberians, when they could, ate raw fish, caviar, salads, and a delicious crab which gave the author indigestion. The best dish was chicken made into a “ham”. It was very tender. Russians were meat-eaters, due to the abundance of game. Pheasant was cheaper than chicken, and in some places, venison was cheaper than steak. Russian architecture was unmistakable. From the cathedral down to a plain shed, the touch of the Slav was present. That was most noticeable in the doors and windows. A few men worked in machine-shops and some worked for the railroad, a few others were soldiers, but the majority were unemployed. Under the Tsar most men were farmers. But with civil strife, no one wanted to risk putting in a crop. Cow were disappearing to an extent where almost everyone used canned milk. The Siberians were learning about tractors and other farming equipment and were ready to get back to work. Russian women wore a platok, a colorful handkerchief, on her head, and white shoes and stockings on her feet. Men wore a robashka, a heavily embroidered shirt wore outside the trousers. Russians in Siberia wanted all things American – clothes, shoes, cars, and all types of machinery.
The Russian Church had a hard time during the revolution. Most of the priests went into hiding, but it was not nearly as bad in Siberia as it had been in European Russia. The Church’s calendar had an astonishing number of holy days. Even the godless still kept them. A few people played tennis, but almost everybody swam, and swam well. Siberians were strong and brave; their strength and stamina was balanced by their gentleness of nature. Siberia hadn’t tasted the bitterness of red Bolshevism. That extreme element never got into full swing. Siberia’s was never more than pink, and it was becoming paler every day. The Siberians wondered why Moscow hadn’t approached them with a trade agreement. The allied armies failed because they hurt the Siberian’s pride by their very presences. Because of faulty sanitation, Siberia was ravaged by typhus and cholera. One nurse at a hospital treating the sick met the author. Her name was Tania. Her whole family was dead, but she was brave and determined. The author was not surprised that 500 of the 7,500 American soldiers married Siberian women.
While visiting a plague-stricken city, the author visited 6,000 German, Austrian, and Hungarian prisoners of war. He brought them flour and medical supplies. When the “pink” Bolshevist, or Social Democrats, got control of Siberia in January 1920, one of their first acts was to release all of those prisoners. The Czechoslovak prisoners organized an army which fought for their erstwhile captors. When the Bolshevist specter came, that little army went from Samara to Vladivostok and swept Siberia clean of the Bolshevist menace for the time being. Siberia owed that army much, for it had been spare the cruelties and exaggerations of red Bolshevism. The Czechoslovak Republic owed that army thanks as well, for it inspired the country to strive for independence. The American Expedition laid a foundation for friendship between America and Siberia. They did not gain favor by force of arms, but by minding their own business. While many of them never knew why they were over there, they knew they left with the good will of the Siberian people.
I love how you sprinkle images throughout your reviews Tom !