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100 Years Ago: December 1923

 

This is the 107th entry in my series of short reviews of National Geographic Magazines that have reached their one-hundredth anniversary of publication.

 

 

The first article in this month’s issue is entitled “Fish and Fisheries of Our North Atlantic Seaboard” and was written by John Oliver La Gorce, author of “A Battle-Ground of Nature,” “Pennsylvania, the Industrial Titan of America,” “Devil-Fishing in the Gulf Stream,” “Treasure-House of the Gulf Strem.” “The Fight at the Timber-Line,” etc., in the National Geographic Magazine.  The article contains thirty-five black-and-white photographs, of which fifteen are full-page in size.

The world annually levied a tribute upon the seven seas of half a billion dollars’ worth of fish, of which Europe collected half, the U. S. nearly a third, and the remainder of mankind the other sixth.  In terms of weight, the portion collected by the U. S. amounted to 2,600,000,000 pounds, including shellfish.  Three-fourths of that annual harvest reached the markets in fresh condition; the remainder went to the consumer as canned, salted, and smoked fish.  The North Atlantic fisheries of the American seaboard reached from the Newfoundland Banks to the Delaware River, and represented the major sea fisheries of the Atlantic coast, producing some seven hundred million pounds of seafood annually.  In those waters there were upward of fifty different kinds of fish and shellfish called for by fish-eating citizens.  Eighteen kinds had more than two million pounds each to their credit in the national larder.  The first species the author examined were the Flatfish – Flounders and Halibuts – with their changing form and migrating eyes.  The left eye of species inhabiting cold water migrated to the right side of their heads, white the right eyes of species inhabiting warm water journeyed to the left.  No one knew why.  When they were hatched, all Flatfish were of orthodox symmetrical shape, with conventional placed mouth and eyes.  After they swam around in ordinary fashion for a little while, Flatfish exhibited a tendency to turn to the one side or the other.  Immediately after that desire began to develop, the eye of the lower side seemed to acquire a wanderlust.  In the case of the Winter Flounder, three-fourths of the 120-degree migration took place in three days.  The extent of the eye migration and of the flatness of the species was closely related to its habits.  The Sole and the shore Flounder, which kept close to the bottom, were more twisted than the Halibut, the Sand Dab, and the Summer Flounder, which were given to free swimming.

Some species that helped constitute the fisheries of the North Atlantic were anadromous – that is, they spent most of their lives in the sea, but came into fresh water to spawn.  Among those were the Salmon, the Shad, the Alewife, the Sturgeon, and the Striped Bass.  On the Pacific coast the most striking instance of that was the Chinook Salmon, which ascended the Columbia River for a Thousand miles, and the Yukon for two thousand, to find its spawning ground.  Sometimes anadromous fishes as the Branch Herring and the Salmon, getting into waters out of which they were unable to find their way, so changed their habits in the course of time that variations from their ancestors set in, which marked the beginnings of the formation of new species.  Other fish of commercial importance in North Atlantic waters had spawning habits directly opposite to the anadromous species, and they are called catadromous fishes.  The true Eel was the most striking example of that class of fish.  Their spawning ground was located between Bermuda and the Leeward Islands, where the water reached a depth of a mile.  Although they were nearly alike, and their breeding grounds overlapped, the European and American species neither crossed nor visited one another’s shore.  The eggs were laid at a depth of 650 feet and the larvae continued to rise toward the surface as they grew.  The only difference found between the European and American species was that the European had a few more vertebrae.  Both species started out over a route neither had traveled before.  But when it came to the parting of the ways, the European Elver, with a three years’ journey ahead, said goodbye to its American cousin, which had only a year’s swim to get to its future home.  By what means that unerring homing instinct was transferred from its parents, which never returned, to the offspring, that must travel a road they had never been over, was a mystery that would probably long await a solution.

The spawning habits of fishes differed as greatly in other respects as in those just mentioned.  Some eggs were laid at the surface and left to their fate, with no responsibilities of any kind for the parents; others were heavy enough to sink to the bottom.  Some fishes, like the King Salmon, laid their eggs on the stream bed, and the male covered them with gravel.  Some species, like the Sticklebacks and the Lumpfish, guarded their eggs until they were hatched.  The males of other species, including some of the common Catfishes, carried the eggs in their mouths until they hatched.  The females of still other species glued their eggs to the undersurface of their bodies.  The male Sea Horse opened up a little pocket beneath its body, took in the eggs from its mate, and carried them in a tiny pouch until they hatched.  Not all fishes were oviparous.  Some were viviparous, such as most Sharks, the Sawfishes, the Rosefishes, the Rockfishes, and the Surf Fishes.  The number of eggs laid varied widely in different species.  The Herring laid about 25,000 eggs, the Sturgeon about 635,000, the Halibut as many as 3,500,000, while the Cod had been known to lay more than 9,000,000.  Chances of survival were slim.  If all the eggs of a single female Herring were to produce similarly productive generations, in ten years the oceans would be overflowing in Herring, and all other creatures of the sea would be crowded out of existence.  If only three eggs from each female of each species developed into adult fish similarly productive, fish life would multiple so rapidly that the seas would soon become vastly overcrowded.  What did happen was that less than one egg in two million in the Cod produced a reproductive Cod, and, even in the Herring, less than one in ten thousand successfully ran the gamut of existence.  Nature’s need for females in many species exceeded the requirements for males.  In the case of the Conger Eel, the ratio was nineteen females to every male, and in that of the Herring, three females to every male.

The perils fish had to face were innumerable.  Huxley estimated that only 5% of the Herring destroyed annually were at the hands of man.  The other 95% were the victims of whales, the porpoise family, seals, and other mammals; Cod Haddock, Mackerels, Sharks, and other fishes; gulls, gannets, and other birds; and the thousands of enemies that lurked in their wake at every stage, from the newly spawned egg to the adult fish.  Man’s annual catch was nearly eleven billion Herring.  On that basis the author concluded that over two hundred billion Herring annually fell victim to their enemies in the sea.  Huxley called mankind an association of Herring catchers, and, if the fish that we ate which fed on Herring, he probably had not missed that mark much.  He also reminded us that single schools covering half a dozen square miles contained more than three million Herring; yet many schools had been recorded that covered an area of 20 square miles.  The migrations of fishes were fascinating.  We saw how the Shad, the Salmon, and other species spent their adult lives in the sea and sought fresh water in which to spawn; how others, such as the Eels, spent their lives in rivers and lakes and sought sea water at spawning time.  The Mackerel and the Flying Fish families wandered wide from their usual haunts at spawning time.  Other species followed the great schools of Menhaden about the seas, following the food.  However, for the most part, keeping a complete check on the movement of the fishes in the seas was a problem still awaiting solution.  The exact winter home of the common Mackerel was unknown.  For a long time, it was supposed that the Hickory Shad spawned in the Chesapeake Bay, but investigations failed to find a single member of the species under six inches long in those waters.  Likewise, the spawning ground of the Red Tunney had never been discovered.  So also, was it with the Weakfish.  The migratory movements of Herring were so complex that a solution had not been found.

During the summer of 1923, the U. S. Bureau of Fisheries decided to make a careful study of the migration of the Cod, the Pollock, and the Haddock.  It tagged 10,000 of those fish – about 85% cod, 15% Pollock, and 5% Haddock – and turned them loose, in hopes that the fishermen of the water they inhabited would return the tags of those caught, with information about the locality in which they were taken, a record of the date, and of their size.  For each tag returned, the fisherman received 25 cents and the thanks of the Bureau of Fisheries.  In the tagging operation the fish were caught with hook and line at a depth of not more than 20 fathoms.  The uninjured fish was laid on a wet board, measured, and length recorded.  A metal tag stamped U. S. B. F. was then secured to the upper part of the tail near the base, and the fish was released and all pertinent information recorded.  It was hoped that many fishermen would go to the trouble to assist the Government in that effort.  A study of the anatomy of fishes and the evolution of their organs threw light on life in the ocean.  In order to see underwater, the eyes of the fish were constructed differently from those of land animals; the crystalline lens was almost a perfect sphere instead of the somewhat flattened lens of land animals.  The fish’s hearing was decidedly muffled, and it was believed that what was known as the ears were solely organs of equilibrium, as they were partially in man.  The sense of taste appeared to be wanting in fish.  They swallowed their food whole and quickly.  Air dissolved in water offered fish what little oxygen they needed.  A man used thousands of times as much oxygen as a fish.  Air bladders, or swim bladders, helped them solve the problems of hydrostatics.  Bottom fishes had small ones and species that ranged between the surface and the bottom had relatively large ones.  The air bladder evolved from a lung.  In primitive fish a tube connected it to the throat.  Gills evolved to furnish oxygen.

The major fins of fishes corresponded strikingly to the limbs of land mammals.  Those back of the gills were known as pectoral fins and corresponded to the arms of humans.  Below the pectoral fins were the ventral fins, which corresponded to the hind legs of quadrupeds.  The dorsal fin on the back, the caudal fin at the root of the tail, and the anal fin beneath the body were used to maintain equilibrium or direction.  Nowhere was the art of camouflage more strikingly employed than in marine life.  Nature provided methods of eliminating the unfit from reproduction.  One method was by tests of brute strength; another was by elimination of the sluggards.  A thousand and one methods were available.  None was more nearly certain among fishes than which removes those failing to make proper use of the art of camouflage.  The Flounder, the Halibut, or the Sand Dab, lying on the sand, had harmonizing blotches imprinted all over the upper part of its body, imitating the various types of sand on which it lied.  While not a fish, the Lobster supported one of the most important fisheries of the American shores of the North Atlantic.  The Lobster, biologically, was a closer relative to the spider than of the fish.  The problem of saving the Lobster fisheries from utter depletion was one of the most difficult with which the fish culturists had to deal.  The American Lobster was found only on the eastern coast of the U. S.  It known range covered a strip of ocean reaching from Labrador to North Carolina, with Maine and lower Canada as the region of greatest concentration.  The strip of water was from 30 to 50 miles wide and from 6 to 60 feet deep.  From the close of its early free pelagic life to its old age the Lobster never left the sea bottom of its own accord.  Its external world was the sea floor, and it was content to stay there.  Having considerable power of locomotion, it wandered around as winter approached, from the shallow inshore waters to the deeper ones of the 100-fathom line, searching for food and comfortable waters.

It walked over the sea floor on its slender legs, which were provided with brushes of sensitive hairs.  It kept its “feelers” waving back and forth to detect danger or food.  The buoyancy of the water made the Lobster light on its feet.  When hungry, it would burrow in the sand rooting for grubs.  The Lobster was a cannibal by nature, preying on its weaker brethren.  Lobsters had been observed dragging dead prey to some secret spot and burying it, and then standing guard over it.  They often fought each other over food.  In the American Museum of Natural History in New York, a giant Lobster was preserved whose living weight was 34 pounds.  The Smithsonian had one whose living weight was 25 pounds.  Few living creatures had such striking habits of changing their clothes as the Lobster.  It began to molt, or discard, its outgrown clothes the second day after hatching, and continued to do so with decreasing frequency until it had ceased to grow at all.  When the old shell became too small a new skin began to grow underneath it.  When that growth neared completion the Lobster became a “shedder.”  It cast off not only its old shell, but even the lining of its esophagus, stomach, and intestines.  There came a break where the tail joined the shell.  The Lobster then turned on its side and bent itself into a “V,” with the break at the apex.  Once its old mail was cast off, the new shell was soft.  From six weeks to three months were required for the shell to harden.  Lobsters had many enemies, but beside man, the Codfish ranked as its worst enemy.  It had a particular taste for young Lobsters from two to four inches in size.  Though only a few parasites of Lobsters were known, it had many hitchhikers – Barnacles, Mussels, Tunicata, Annelida, Bryozoa, and various forms of algae – attached themselves to their host.  The Lobster chewed its food before passing it into its mouth.  One Lobster claw was a large, crushing type of pincer and the other a grabbing type.  Lobsters regenerated the claws when lost.  The female laid from 5,000 to 75,000 eggs depending on the Lobster’s size.

While the ocean teemed with life, man took little advantage of it.  The list of fishes fit for food was much longer than the list of food fishes.  Even on the floor of the deepest trench of the sea bottom, where no rays of light ever reached, where Stygian darkness was perpetual, where all but freezing temperatures never ceased, and where inconceivable pressures prevailed, the miracle of life still went on!  In size, the denizens of the deep sea ranged from microscopic to mammoth creatures.  The area of the sea was three times that of the land.  Its average depth was more than two miles.  The sea had 138 times as much territory 12,000 below sea-level as the land had 12,000 feet above.  While man commanded 57,000,000 square miles of land, marine fauna had 140,000,000 square miles of sea, with scores of depth zones over most of that area, each with its own characteristic forms of life.  With the great existing disproportion in area between land and sea, it was evident that man, with his seemingly insatiable mass appetite, would have to look more and more to the sea for his food.  And yet on every hand one already saw the results of overfishing on many of the species now entering the fish markets.  The Shad and the Salmon were growing scarcer and higher-priced with each passing year.  Between overfishing and pollution, the fresh and brackish coastal waters were seeing their fisheries depleted rapidly toward the vanishing point.  The Atlantic Salmon had disappeared from many rivers.  The supply of Shad in the Potomac and the Susquehanna was gradually declining.  Similar alarming conditions occurred among other species.  The Smelt had disappeared from the Naugatuck, and the Striped Bass from the lower Hudson and East River.  Twenty years ago, Weakfish were caught off New Jersey shores in a week as were now [in 1923] taken in a season.  The same conditions prevailed in the shellfish fisheries.  Oysters were disappearing from beds where once they were plentiful.

The story of the constant yearly depletion of the Lobster fishery was told in every area where the fishery existed.  In colonial times, Lobsters were so plentiful that even the poorest of the people might feast to their heart’s content on that succulent crustacean.  Even as late as 1889 the catch in the U. S. reached a total of 30,000,000 pounds which sold for $80,000 – less than three cents a pound.  Ten years later, the catch was only half as large, while the price had more than doubled.  The catch of Maine alone, in 1880, was greater than the total catch from the Delaware Bay to the Canadian shores in 1922.  Radical protective action was needed to protect stream from pollution.  A pound of bark to 30 gallons of water would kill Bass in a day.  A pound of wood chips to seven gallons of water was fatal to Salmon fry.  If such simple pollutions destroyed fish by the wholesale, what destruction was wrought by oil and tar, sludge and bilge!  Overfishing might be combatted in two ways – by artificial propagation and by restricting the catch, either as to season or as to size.  Artificial propagation had proved its value in the case of fresh-water and anadromous fishes.  The Shad and Salmon fisheries continued only because of the U. S. Bureau of Fisheries had preserved them through artificial propagation.  In the first few weeks of a fishling’s life constituted a high mortality period, in which thousands died where one survived.  If an artificial method could be devised to bring the fry past the critical period, their chances of survival would be vastly improved.  Plankton was needed as food for the fry.  The scarcity or abundance of plankton was found to depend upon sunlight and temperature.  The examination of scales of fish revealed that in any school of adults there was a great preponderance of some particular age.  Figuring back, that class coincided with a year most favorable to the development of plankton.  That line of investigation showed how important the study of marine life was.

To meet the alarming decline of the Lobster fishery, several States interested in its protection had enacted various laws.  Some had provisions for a closed season.  Laws prohibiting the destruction of female Lobsters “in berry” – that is, carrying eggs – had also been enacted.  In addition, attempts had been made to propagate them artificially by hatching and liberating fry.  Existing policies had not, however, checked the decline.  More was needed to be done.  When a fish died, it was immediately devoured, it rarely leaves a trace.  Once in a great while, a tooth or a fin spine was fossilized in clay.  Few traces of the earliest fishes of the geologic past had been found.  The oldest fish remains came down from the Lower Silurian age, a time before any land animal had appeared.  From early geologic times many things had played important roles in determining the distribution of the various species of fish.  In New England waters there were few Bluefish, while there were plenty in Delaware Bay.  In the case of Cod, the situation was reversed.  There were practically no Croakers in New England, but plenty off the New Jersey shore.  There were few Herring between Long Island Sound and Delaware Bay, while the Menhaden were most abundant there.  Temperature was regarded as the principal influence in separating the fishes.  There were some species that were equally at home in warm and cool waters – the Alewife, the Butter-fish, the Summer Flounder, and the Scup.  Boston was the fishing capital of the New World, and yielded only to Grimsby, England, as the worlds leading fishing port.  In the North Atlantic fisheries, Canada had 43,000 men employed against 76,000 for New England and the Middle Atlantic States.  In the U. S. fisheries north of Delaware Bay, the Menhaden took first rank in weight of the catch, 256 million pounds.  Next came the Herring (98 million pounds), the Haddock (89 mil), The Cod (86 mil), the Pollock (25 mil), the Flounder (22 mil), the Hake (21 mil), and the Whiting (20 mil).

The Mackerel was next with 17 million pounds with the Weakfish and the Scup just behind that weight.  The Alewife (5 million pounds), the Butter-fish (4.6 mil), the Croaker (4.2 mil), the Bluefish (3.4 mil), and the Cusk and Bonito (2 mil each) round out the North Atlantic annual haul.  The Lobster fishery yielded over 12 million pounds annually, nearly half from Maine.  Being a wealthy country, the people in the U. S. selected their food, from land and sea, more for flavor than nourishment.  They were slow to adopt new salt-water fishes into their diet.  Not to long ago [in 1923], the Pollock and the Tuna were in small demand.  The Flounder, likewise, was eaten only by a few.  So, it had been with the Haddock and the minor Salmons.  Sea Mussels and Tilefish showed how the public taste could be trained under proper guidance, and as the population of the country grew, we should follow Europe in the utilization of marine resources to supplement our land crops.  In 1923, we ate a third as much fish per capita as the people of Europe.  We had overfished a few of our species, but the great majority had barely been touched.  Three basic handicaps – perishability of the product, unevenness or uncertainty of supply, and unsteady consumer demand – had kept the fresh-fish industry from developing as it should.  Other products had one or two of those handicaps.  Lately, ways were being discovered to overcome the perishability of fish.  Fish could be frozen, as soon as taken, in low-temperature brine.  A fish bought in a market stall was seldom as fresh as a frozen fish pre-cooled when caught.  Once that type of frozen fish became widely available, the author predicted the zone in which marine fish were eaten fresh would reach much further back from the coast than it did in 1923.  A Canadian fisherman had tried shipping live Lake Trout to New York, with striking success.  He sent in one shipment 6,000 pounds of Trout.  Fish from the sea would help solve America’s food problem.  Salmon had more nutrients than round steak, and Shad, more than chicken.

There were six million farms in the U. S.  As demand for food grew more pressing, each would probably have their own fish pond.  Assuming each farm produced three pounds of fish per week, more than a billion pounds would be available, releasing a nearly equivalent amount of other meat for urban consumption.  The U. S. Bureau of Fisheries foresaw the day when exact knowledge of the marine and fresh-water conditions that made for an abundant fish supply would be one of our major concerns.  The Bureau’s work in introducing the Shad into Pacific waters had been a service of the first order.  Its success in saving the Atlantic Salmon and the Shad from extermination in eastern rivers was another instance of its unusual value to the nation.  Its rescue of the Seal fishery from destruction and its protection of the Alaska Salmon fishery had earned for it a universal appreciation.  Yet those activities were but a prelude to the things remaining to be done.  Ichthyology in 1923 stood at a point where a correct appraisal had been made possible of the problems remaining to be solved in order to develop for mankind all the potential treasures of the sea.  It was an interesting coincidence that most of the game fishes of salt water habitat belonged to those species that were favorites as food fishes.  Angling with rod and reel for salt-water fishes was of comparatively recent origin.  The Tuna, the Black Sea Bass, the Weakfish, the Striped Bass, the Bluefish, the Tautog, and the Sheepshead all offered sport as did the Tarpon.  One authority had called the Tarpon, Tuna, and Black Sea Bass the lion, tiger, and elephant trinity of the angling world.  The Tuna was an inhabitant of many seas.  In the North Atlantic it was known as the Horse Mackerel, in the North Sea as the Tunny, in the Mediterranean as the Great Albacore, and off California and Florida as the Tuna.  Such a fine fighter needed special tackle.  Special boats were required for Tuna fishing.  They were broad-beamed launches equipped with a 3- to 5-horsepower engine.

The Tarpon was not classed as a food fish, but was to Atlantic waters all that the Tuna was to Pacific, the acme in sea sport fishing.  The vast schools of Mullet upon which the Tarpon preyed formed the magnet that drew him to the various feeding grounds in the Gulf and Florida waters.  Ordinarily, one did not think of the Weakfish as offering much in the way of sport, but when angled for with appropriate tackle, it could give the fisherman thrills that left nothing to be desired.  Its abundance and willingness to bite made it popular with anglers who want action.  It was a handsome member of the finny tribe.  The Cape Cod fishermen called it the “drummer: because of the peculiar noise it made when traveling in schools.  All anglers agreed that the fisherman who hooked a Striped Bass with proper tackle had a run for his money.  Loving brackish waters, the Striped Bass brought the sport of the philosophers a considerable distance inland.  Usually, we thought of the Bluefish as one of the dependables of the bill of fare, but it had some excitement to offer the angler who preferred the rod and reel.  One angler had described the hooked Bluefish as a wild tiger, with all the strength, courage, and deviltry.  Lobster tails, shredded Crabs, live Killies, or small Herring were tempting tidbits to the voracious Bluefish, which was called the glutton of the sea.  The Bluefish, like the Striped Bass, brought the joy of salt-water game fishing into many of the Atlantic coast rivers, notably the Hudson, the lower Potomac, and Hampton Roads.  Some deep-water food fishes offered good sport for the angler.  One of those was the Sea Bass, a rather sluggish citizen of the sea, but a ready biter and interesting game.  Sometimes, the Black Sea Bass broke water like its river cousin, and made vicious leaps and contortions in its effort to free itself.  The Kingfish was, perhaps, the gamest for its size of all the bottom-feeding fishes.  The treasures of the sea were many, but none are more certain to delight the true sportsman than the game fish that inhabit its waters.

 

 

The second item listed on this month’s cover is entitled “The North Atlantic Food Fishes” and has Hashime Murayama on the byline.  It is not an article but “Sixteen Pages of Illustrations in Full Color” as headlined on the cover.  Mr. Murayama is not an author, but the artist who painted the “16 Full-Page Illustrations in Color.”  The set of color plates are numbered in Roman numerals from I to XVI representing pages 613 to 628 in the issue.  These color plates, together with the first article and a series of descriptive entries comprise another field guide that recurringly appear in these older issues.  The article makes repeated references to the descriptions and plates, while each plate is linked to one or more descriptions depending on how many fish species are represented in the painting.  Each entry in this field guide has a Heading comprised of the fish’s common name followed by the Latin genus and species; a link to its color plate, and a description of the fish, its habits, its range, and its consumption.

I have decided to list the entries’ headings in the field guide since several may share a color plate.  The plate number is also listed (note: Flounders were listed as one entry):

  • Pollock (Pollachius virens) – I.
  • Codfish (Gadus callarias) – I.
  • Haddock (Melanogrammus aglifinus) – I.
  • Winter Flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus) – II.
  • Summer Flounder (Paralichthys dentatus) – II.
  • Halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) – III.
  • Common Sturgeon (Acipenser sturio) – IV.
  • Squirrel Hake (Urophycis chuss) – V.
  • Cusk (Brosmius brosme) – V.
  • Whiting (Merluccius bilinearis) – V.
  • Mackerel (Scomber scombrus) – VI.
  • Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) – VII.
  • Shad (Alosa sapidissima) – VIII.
  • Alewife (Pomolobus pseudoharengus) – IX.
  • Herring (Clupea harengus) – IX.
  • Tautog (Tautoga onitis) – X.
  • Butter-Fish (Poronotus triacanthus) – XI.
  • Scup (Stenotomus chrysops) – XI.
  • Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) – XII.
  • Swordfish (Xiphias gladius) – XIII. [Note: Plate reference mislabeled VIII.]
  • Smelt (Osmerus mordax) – XIV.
  • Tilefish (Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps) – XV.
  • American Lobster (Homarus americanus) – XVI.

 

 

The second article (third item) listed on this month’s cover is entitled “A Short Visit to Wales” and was written by Ralph A. Graves, author of “Fearful Famines of the Past,” “The Romance of Geneva,” etc., in the National Geographic Magazine.  The article has an internal subheading which reads “Historic Associations and Scenic Beauties Contend for Interest in the Little Land Behind the Hills.”  It contains thirty-seen black-and-white photographs, of which twenty-four are full-page in size.  Of those full-page photos, sixteen are really a set of undocumented duotones to be discussed later.  The article also contains a sketch map of Wales on page 639 (one of the few that Philip Riviere missed).

Both scenically and historically, the Principality of Wales was one of the most alluring regions of the British Isles, yet comparatively few of the thousands of American tourists who made the transatlantic voyage included it in their itinerary.  It was accessible, the hotels accommodations were admirable. The people hospitable, the highways irreproachable, and the summer climate delightful.  But the average American traveler took one look at his guidebook and decided to go to the English Lakes district, to Scotland, or to Paris.  With place names like Bettws-y-Coed and Bodelwyddan, a traveler at a train station could not tell where he wished to go.  He might have equipped himself in advance by studying some “easy rules for pronouncing Welsh name.”  But if ever he imagined that he could have remembered such rules, he forgot their application the moment he heard glin-div’r-doo-I, meaning Glyndyfrdwy.  It was so much simpler to go elsewhere.  Consequently, at tourist agencies the Welsh window never had a waiting line, and few clerks were able to give one advice as to where to go, how long to stay, and how to come back.  It was a pity, for within that little principality, having an area smaller than New Jersey, one found the loftiest mountains, the loveliest waterfalls, beaches which rivaled Atlantic City, streams that teamed with Trout and other fishes, footpaths through vale and forests, and gray ruins of towers and bastions from the Middle Ages.  For the visitor who chose to visit Wales for a weekend, had to decide which Wales he should visit – Northern Wales, Middle Wales, and Southern Wales.  Each region had its definite appeal and each its peculiarities.  The guide book did not help in reaching a decision.  The author left it to chance and chose to visit the place where David Lloyd George, the war-time prime minister hailed.  He found it was Northern Wales.

The gateway to that region was that unique city of western England, Chester, with its mellow old cathedrals, its fine walls, and its other-days atmosphere.  By taking an early morning train from London, the author was able to have a sufficient stop-over in the border town to convince him that he had to return for a longer visit.  That ancient city’s famous Rows were four streets with sidewalks with two tiers.  The shopper went from store to store along a sort of open arcade, and at the end of the block, if he was on the second story sidewalk, he descended by a stairway to the street level, crossed to the next block, and continued shopping.  Mystery surrounded the origin of those Rows.  A visit to the sixteenth-century “Stanley Palace” was worth the time, if one had an hour to spare.  It was there that for sixteen weeks the Earl of Derby was concealed under the ceiling from Cromwell’s men.  But all in vain: a false servant thwarted a resourceful wife, and Stanley lost his head.  Just off the drawing room in that quaint old structure were two windowless cubby-holes, where guest would sit in the glow of smoking rushlights and converse after lights out.  But regardless of Chester’s compelling charm, the author could not linger on the threshold of Wales.  Crossing the River Dee, his train entered Wales, bound for Carnarvon, 69 miles distant by way of Rhyl, Conway, and Bangor.  Just six miles southwest of Chester rose Hawarden Castle, famous in Welsh history.  His train did not stop in Rhyl, the first considerable Welsh seaside resort.  It had its attractive marine drive and promenade, its pavilions, and its piers.  Nor did he stop in Conway.  He left the train at Bangor and paid a hurried visit to their famous suspension bridge over the Manai Strait, with a length of 580 feet from pier to pier and 1,710 over all from the mainland to the island of Anglesey.  It had been surpassed by other bridges, but when it was opened, a hundred years prior, it was regarded as a notable engineering triumph.

Resuming his journey, he arrived late in afternoon at Carnarvon, a community which concentrated more history in smaller pace than any other town in Wales.  Depositing his baggage at a low-spreading hotel, he meandered up the main street.  Turning a corner, he was suddenly face to face with one of the finest castles in Great Britain.  Built entirely of hewn stone, the imposing structure stood on the peninsula formed where the River Seiont flowed into the Menai Strait.  Every room in the great building had its legends.  The noble banquet hall was 100 feet long and 45 feet wide.  The author preferred to accept the legend that the first English Price of Wales was born there 639 years prior [to 1923].  During the reign of Edward I, the Welsh rose against the English.  Edward brought his army to Wales and put down the rebellion led by Llewelyn the Last.  He then commissioned his architect to build castles at Conway, Carnarvon, Criccieth, and Harlech, as strongholds from which in future he might hold his turbulent subjects in check.  During his long stay in Wales, Edward’s queen, Eleanor, visited him at Carnarvon, and, in a small room in the Eagle Tower of the unfinished castle, she gave birth to he who would become Edward II.  A few years later (1301) that son was formally created “Prince of Wales,” and from that day on the recognized heir to the English throne had borne that title.  From the towers of that stronghold the author surveyed the scenes of many of the most stirring episodes of Welsh history – a panorama of two thousand years, from the time when Roman legions occupied the site as the city of Segontium to the present day [1923], symbolized by the bronze statue of David Lloyd George standing in the shadow of the castle walls.  A short distance from the castle was Twt Hill, below which was an immense pavilion capable of seating 8,000 persons, and yet its capacity was greatly overtaxed whenever an Eisteddfodau was held in Carnarvon.

The Eisteddfodau were among the most distinctive and inspiring institutions preserved for sixteen hundred years by the Welsh.  They were the famous festivals of song, music, and poetry where Welsh bards participated in contests comparable to those of ancient Greece.  The national Eisteddfod had been held annually since 1819, in Northern Wales and Southern Wales alternately.  One of the contests was the “pennillion” singing, in which the poets compose their songs after the harpist had begun his melody.  Such contests had made the Welsh a nation of singers, and the rivalry between the various sections was such that even underground the coal miners would rehearse their choruses for the coming Eisteddfod.  To celebrate the end of the war, the Welsh soldiers decided upon a Festival of Song, which was held on every battlefield where there was a Welsh contingent in the line.  At a recent Eisteddfod held in the village of Ammanford, South Wales, there were more than 18,000 spectators, including Welshmen who had returned for the occasion from the four corners of the world.  The choruses, solos, and contests in poetry, history, and criticism lasted for several days and continue from early morning until late at night.  The object of those great gatherings was to perpetuate the Welsh language, popularize the Welsh literature, and afford the people the cultural advantage of good music.  How effective they had been in maintaining the ancient language was judged from the fact that Cymric was in everyday use in railways, churches, shops, and other public places.  England absorbed Wales four centuries prior [to 1923], but 8% of the people spoke only Welsh and nearly a third spoke both English and Welsh.  In Scotland, less than one half of 1% of the people spoke their ancient tongue exclusively, and less then 4% spoke both Gaelic and English.  In Ireland, despite the intense nationalism of its people, less than 4% spoke Irish (Gaelic) exclusively, and only one in eight spoke both Irish and English.

It was only a few miles’ ride by train from Carnarvon to Llanberis, where the ascent of Mount Snowdon might be made by footpath or by rack and pinion railway.  That peak simply must be scaled by every visitor to Wales.  It was expected; like visiting the Washington Monument when on a trip to the U. S. capital.  Since the author had only a weekend for his trip, he used the railway avoiding a time-consuming climb.  More than an hour was required to reach the top – 3,560 feet above sea-level.  The upward climb afforded a succession of pictures of hills, lakes, seas, and clouds.  Slate quarries clung perilously to the mountainside.  Shafts of sunlight pierced the clouds, from time to time, giving color to the adjacent slopes, with their bits of pasture and flocks of sheep.  From the summit on a clear day, one could see the Cumberland Mountains, the Isle of Man, the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland, and Holyhead Mountain on the coast of South Anglesey, 32 miles distant.  On the authors visit, he could only decern the nearby peaks due to lifting and lowering mists.  Snowden was not a unique mountain in that respect.  Other heights, Rigi-Kulm, above the Lake of Lucerne, and Mount Tamalpais, in California, played the same shabby trick upon the sightseer.  If Snowden were in the U. S. it would hardly be noticed.  Twenty-five of our States had loftier summits than that premier Welsh peak.  Mount Whitney, in California, was over four time as tall as Snowdon.  Measured in historical association and scenic charm, however, Snowdon held its own with far nobler heights.  It had been rightly called the Parnassus of the British Isles.  One of the folk tales of the region was intimately connected to America.  It was among those foothills, so the story went, that Madoc, son of the Prince of Gwynedd, set forth, some time in the twelfth century, to find a new land.  He sailed for months across the western seas and finally came to America.  There was some evidence that it was true.  A far more substantial link to America was the fact that the Snowdon region was the ancestral home of Thomas Jefferson.

Returning to Carnarvon from Llanberis by motor bus, the author passed within sight of a wooded eminence known as Dina Emrys.  Legend tells of a Briton King who built a tower there as a shelter for his old age.  However high the walls were raised by day they would tumble down at night.  The king’s advisers claimed the walls would not stand unless they were sprinkled with the blood of a child who never had a father. Merlin proved to be the desired prodigy, born of a virgin and a demon.  He convinced the king that the walls fell each night because of two dragons in a subterranean lake.  The lake was drained, the dragons slain, and Merlin was spared to live for many years and figure in countless Arthurian legends.  Railroad schedules and motor-bus routes apparently were especially designed to meet the whims of all tourists in Northern Wales.  One could go almost anywhere, at any time, usually with less than a half-hour’s wait at a railway station or bus-stop.  Waterfalls and meadows, rolling landscapes, and flashing seascapes, gladdened the short journey from historic spot to delightful watering place.  The authors journey next took him to Llandudno, appropriately styled the queen of Welsh watering places.  The town itself was built around a vast semicircle of firm sandy beach, with the ends of the crescent tipped with two towering masses of rock, the Great Orme’s Head and the Little Orme.  No other European bathing resort had a situation comparable to that magnificent watering place.  And the Welsh had made excellent use of it.  A concrete “boardwalk,” wider than New York’s Broadway, followed the graceful curve of the beach for more than a mile and a half.  A pier, jutting out into the bay for half a mile, was the scene of daily concerts and dances, while along its full lengths were booths of fortune-tellers, catch-penny vendors, and other attractions.  Marine Drive, chiseled out of the solid rock of Great Orme’s Head, wound between sea and sky midway along the precipitous cliff.

There were many spots which lured the visitor: Happy Valley, nestled in a hollow of the Great Orme; the Church of our Savior (where Dean Liddell’s daughter, Alice, inspired Lewis Carroll; and St. Tudno’s Church, a medieval structure occupying the site of the cell of St. Tudno, a hermit of the seventh century.  In contrast to the fashionable European watering places, Llandudno achieved a saintly calm on Sunday.  There was no music on the pier, motor-bus offices were closed, and all inquiry booths suspended operation.  It was impossible to make railway reservations, and the ticket office was only open for ten minutes prior to the train’s arrival.  One was compelled to rest on the Day of Rest in Wales.  A note to the weekender – do not defer your trip to Mount Snowden until Sunday; the mountain Railway was not operated that day.  One could play golf on Sundays, but the hiring of caddies was forbidden.  On Llandudno’s North Wales Golf Course, which overlooked the Irish Sea, only four greens could be seen from their driving tees.  Monday mornings must have provided a bonanza of lost balls for the caddies.  There was an interesting colony of summer residents in Llandudno which the tourist rarely saw and which he seldom heard.  They were Moroccan merchant princes and their entourages.  Those princes resided in England half the year, purchasing cotton goods at Manchester for consumption in the Muslim world.  The summer sightseer enjoyed the advantage of long days in that part of Wales, and a newspaper could be read in the open as late as 10:30 in the evening.  Conway Castle, like that at Carnarvon, had Welsh history graven on every stone.  It, too, was built by Edward I, but it had not been restored as was the latter.  Of close secondary interest to the castle was Plas Mawr (“the Great Mansion”), a picturesque sixteenth-century house.  In 1923, it was the headquarters of the Royal Cambrian Academy of Art.  Every visitor to Conway paid a pilgrimage to the little Church of St. Mary, part of which was once a Cistercian abbey founded in the twelfth century.

One could wander for many weekends through Northern Wales without exhausting the list of quaint villages and their contiguous scenic beauties.  If one was to look at the Wales of Industry, one went to the south.  The three largest towns in the principality – Cardiff, with 200,000 inhabitants; Swansea, with 157,000; and Merthyr Tydfil, with 80,000 – were situated in Glamorganshire, a county occupying only one-ninth of the country’s area, but where more than half the total population was congested.  That was the great coal-mining district of Wales, where one person in six, man, woman, and child, worked underground, producing 47,000,000 to 57,000,000 tons of coal annually (chiefly bituminous coal) – one-fifth of the annual supply of the United Kingdom.  In addition, this was the only important anthracite region in Europe.  South Wales was also the copper-mining district and the center for the tin-plate industry of Great Britain.  Of the 82 Welsh tin-plate mills, 65 were concentrated within a radius of 18 miles of Swansea.  There was one celebrated industrial plant, however, which the Northern Wales tourist might visit by motor-bus from Llandudno.  It was the Penrhyn slate quarries, near Bethesda.  These were said to be the largest quarries in the world, and had at times employed as many as 3,000 workmen, producing 360 tons of slate a day.  The quarries resembled a vast amphitheater with tiers 50 feet in height.

 One might wander for days through the towns of Wales without seeing anyone wearing the “witch’s hat” which most thought of as typical.  One never went to Wales without encountering two standbys of the centuries – the story of the hound of Beddgelert, and a certain place name on the island of Anglesey.  Beddgelert was 13 miles by motor bus from Carnarvon.  The town was the center for many charming walks.  The author visited the grave of Gelert, a dog belonging to one of the Llewelyn clans.  His master returned home one day to find the dog covered with blood and the cradle of his child overturned. In rage and grief, Llewelyn slew the dog.  But when the cradle was rightened, the child was found unharmed with a dead wolf at its side.  Llewelyn, realizing too late that he owed his son’s life to the dog, buried the animal, and place a stone over his grave.  People came to pay tribute to that prototype of “mankind’s best friend.”  The second Welsh stand-by was not legendary but geographical.  It was the first village on the Anglesey shore, four miles from Bangor.  Mapmakers labeled it briefly “Llanfairpwllgwyngyll,” or merely “Llanfair P. G., but its unabridged name was Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerwchwyrndrobwllllandysiliogogogoch, which meant “Church of St. Mary in a hollow of white hazel, near to a rapid whirlpool and to St. Tysilio’s Church, near the red cave.”  The street urchins of that town reaped a considerable harvest from tourists, who paid a penny to have the name pronounced.  The author enjoyed his weekend in Northern Wales, and longed to repeat the experience.

 

 

As mentioned above, the second article contains a set of sixteen undocumented duotones concurrent from page 645 to 660.  Duotones, formerly called photogravures, are full-page images created by transferring a special ink to paper using an acid-etched metal plate; the deeper the etch, the darker the transfer.

A list of the caption titles for these duotones is as follows:

  • “On Her Way to the Cockle Sands”
  • “Menai Suspension Bridge, Once a Marvel of Engineering”
  • “The Castle of Criccieth, Built on a High Rock Jutting Out into the Air”
  • “Mount Snowdon, the Most Distant Peak on the Right, Seen from Llanberis”
  • “Conway Castle and the Suspension Bridge Over the Conway River”
  • “East Gate and Guildhall, Carnarvon, Capital of Northern Wales”
  • Two Women in Welsh Costume Winding Yarn in a Garden at Carnarvon”
  • “An Airplane View of Cardiff, the Metropolis of Wales”
  • “Cockle Gatherers”
  • “Rhuddlan Castle, Three Miles Inland from Rhyl”
  • “The Opening of the Wading Season at Tenby, South Wales”
  • “Welsh Sheep in Montgomeryshire”
  • “Carnarvon Castle, One of the Finest Specimens of a Medieval Fortress in Britain”
  • “A Cottage of Northern Wales”
  • ““La Marguerite” Arriving at Menai Bridge”
  • “A Girl of Snowdonia in Welsh Costume”

 

 

The third article in this month’s issue is entitled “The National Geographic Society’s Memorial to American Troops” and was written by Dr. J. Howard Gore, Chairman of the Memorial Committee, who represented the Board of Trustees and members of the National Geographic Society, at the dedication service.  It has the internal subtitle: “Fountain and Water Supply System Presented to Historic French Town of Cantigny, Where Our Overseas Soldiers Won Their First Victory in the World War.”  The article contains four black-and-white photographs, of which two are full-page in size.  One of the full-page photos serves as the frontispiece to the article.

To Bunker Hill and Gettysburg, the World War added another holy place of American History – Cantigny.  At this little white stone village of France, American overseas troops, fighting as a unit, first exhibited their valor and received their first baptism of German fire.  Members of the National Geographic Society had the honor of bestowing upon this Old World shrine the first memorial gift commemorating an event and a place which would loom ever large in the perspective of history.  On Cantigny’s tiny hill, near Montdidier, some 20 miles from Amies, that memorial was tendered to the village, in the name of The Society, in the presence of high French officials, on France’s beloved Bastille Day, July 14, 1923, by Dr. J. Howard Gore.  [Note: See map, “Western Theater of War,” Special Supplement in colors, May 1918, National Geographic Magazine.]  The gift consisted of a complete water-supply system for the village, including a capacious artesian well and pump, a handsome central fountain of white marble, a large pond, and accessory water pipes and outlets to all parts of the village.  Many official delegations attended the ceremonies, including the color guard from the American Legion, but the most picturesque groups that gathered were French school children bearing American flags.  In Dr. Gores address of presentation, he stated “The National Geographic Society, with a membership of 800,000, under the leadership of its resourceful and energetic president, Dr. Gilbert Grosvenor, was active in many lines of endeavor to aid the Allies cause and to contribute to the welfare and comfort of our soldiers at home and abroad.  At the close of the war The Society, finding itself with an unexpended balance of a fund, decided to utilize it in erecting a memorial to our participation in the great conflict.”  The fund Dr. Gore referred to was that voluntarily contributed by the members to equip Society wards in American Military Hospital No. I, at Neuilly, France.  The fund that ministered to the men now could memorialize them.

Cantigny was chosen as the recipient for that gift upon the advice of General Pershing.  It was the First American Division that first went over the top at Cantigny.  War records had since disclosed that the German General Staff had ordered that the heart be taken out of the Americans, at any cost, when they first showed up as a unit anywhere on the fighting front.  That order converted what would have been a skirmish into a terrific struggle, during which the Germans rallied thousands of men and hurled 19,000 shells into the tiny town.  Even after Americans took Cantigny, they had to hold it against six counterattacks.  Cantigny of 1923 typified the heroism of her own people in peace, as she once signalized the courage of the American troops.  The town was devastated – swept of not only every habitation, but every semblance of being a habitable place.  The surviving citizens of Cantigny hesitated to rebuild their homes because of the lack of water in that dry district, and it was not until The Society offered a memorial water supply that a reconstruction of that heroic and historic town was undertaken.  The dramatic moment of the Bastille Day ceremony took place after the mayor of Cantigny accepted the gift of The Society and “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the “Marseillaise” uncovered the heads of the crowd.  And its significance, perhaps, was best summed up when a rosy-cheeked schoolgirl in blue presented Dr. Gore with a bouquet of countryside flowers and a bystander explained: “It is the water your Society provided which makes our hillside bloom.”

 

 

Tom Wilson

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