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Tribute To "Samson"

Discussion in 'The Taxidermy Industry' started by LordRusty, Jul 21, 2009.

  1. LordRusty

    LordRusty If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.

    5,530
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    Ohio
    Tribute To "Samson"

    The information and story about Samson is from the website of the Milwaukee Public Museum. It is a great story about an animal that was essentially a local celebrity his whole life. And now through the talented hands of Wendy Christensen-Senk, his likeness will continue to enthrall the public for years to come. I hope you enjoy learning about Samson as much as I did. Enjoy!

    John.


    ABOUT SAMSON

    Just over a quarter century ago, the Milwaukee County Zoo lost its most famous resident, a male gorilla named Samson. During his 30 plus years in Milwaukee, Samson became extremely popular with the local community, appearing frequently on local television and in publications as diverse as International Wildlife and the National Enquirer. Samson was often featured in zoo merchandise and in June, 1981, just months before his death, he appeared on a local bus pass. Today we are recreating an exact replica of one of Milwaukee's "favorite sons." Whether you visited him in his prime or have never heard of him before, come along as we remember Samson.

    When and how did Samson first come to Milwaukee?
    Samson, along with another young gorilla named Sambo, came to the Washington Park Zoo in 1950. Purchased from a New York firm, with funding provided by Pabst Brewing Co., the two gorillas had been acquired from what was then the French Cameroons in West Africa.

    Were Samson and Sambo brothers and how were they named?
    Though acquired together, the two gorillas were not brothers. A naming contest resulted in them keeping the names they had before coming to Milwaukee. Roughly a year old on arrival here, Sambo weighed 15 pounds while Samson was just 12.5 and thought to be a bit younger.

    When and how did Sambo die?
    Sambo passed away on November 2nd, 1959, just a month after being moved to the new zoo location on Blue Mound Road. At death he had a respiratory infection, believed caused by a virus; a later examination showed evidence of tuberculosis. He was roughly 10 years old. The Museum acquired his remains and the taxidermy staff prepared him for exhibition.

    Who was Samson's mate and did they have any offspring?
    After Sambo's death, Samson lived alone until 1975, when a 16 year old female named Terra was introduced. After more than 4 years together, with no evidence of mating, she was moved to Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo where she became pregnant. Samson's inability to mate resulted from his many years imprinting on humans rather than other gorillas.

    Were Samson's behavior and weight abnormal?
    Samson, a silverback (adult male with silver-gray hair on back and shoulders), was noted for banging on the windows and steel door of his enclosure. This noisy behavior was a way of asserting his power, in this case his power to get visitors' attention. He also sat on a large scale, topping out at 652 pounds in 1971. Though larger-boned than the average adult male gorilla (400-450 pounds), Samson was overweight and was put on a diet in his last decade.

    When did Samson die and what was the cause?
    At roughly 32 years old, Samson died suddenly on November 27th, 1981 from a massive heart attack . A necropsy (autopsy) on his body revealed five previous heart attacks that had gone undetected. Unlike Sambo, Samson's body was retained for some time by the zoo. When the Museum received it, the skin and hair were unsuitable for standard taxidermy, but the skeleton was exhibited in 1996. Now we are using that skeleton, along with remains of his hair, death masks, measurements and photos, to reconstruct a near exact duplicate of Milwaukee's fondly remembered zoo star.


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    Discover and re-encounter Milwaukee's famous gorilla, Samson, and learn about his eventful life at the Milwaukee County Zoo in the interactive exhibit "Samson Remembered."

    See the fascinating artistry of a scientifically accurate re-creation of Samson, by museum artist Wendy Christensen-Senk on the museum's behind-the-scenes Web cam. Wendy will complete the full-size Samson in view of museum visitors during regularly scheduled sessions during 2007, as the centerpiece of the new exhibit.

    Samson died November 27th, 1981 at the age of 32 years. This November will mark the 25th anniversary of his death.
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    Volunteers are needed to staff this exhibit. Please contact the Volunteer Office to sign up for training.

    Highlights of the exhibit include:
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    A platform scale, where children can compare their weight with Samson, who, at his heaviest weighed 650 pounds!

    The chance to "hold hands" with a gorilla. Visitors can compare their hands and feet with gorilla-sized versions.

    Videos of Samson and his faithful zoo caretaker Sam La Malfa.

    Photos of Samson throughout his life.

    Visitor presentations by Sam La Malfa, museum educators, museum docents and ZooPride volunteers.

    Samson's skeleton and "death mask," a mask created of his face at the time of his death.

    Samson's childhood playmate, Sambo, a gorilla brought to Milwaukee with Samson in 1950. Sambo died of tuberculosis in 1959 and "lives on" in the museum's Central Africa Hall exhibit.

    Exhibits about the natural history of gorillas, their endangered species status, and the development of the world's first gorilla preserve in Africa.

    Entertaining displays about gorillas in popular culture, as portrayed in movies such as "King Kong" and "Mighty Joe Young."
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    "Samson Remembered" will be showing in the museum's Steigleder Special Exhibits Gallery on the second floor through January 1st, 2008. Re-discover this Milwaukee legend, or encounter him for the first time!

    This is the webcam presentation that was a live feed in real time as Wendy created Samson. It spans the months from June through November, and is fascinating to watch! I watched it in segments due to the time required to watch the whole thing. I just wish the images were larger ... other than that it is very cool to see how one the best Taxidermists out there built this recreation of Samson!
    http://www.mpm.edu/exhibitions/special/samson/recreation.php

    These first few images are of Samson while he was alive ...
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    These image are of the recreation of Samson ...

    This first image is in the current issue of Breakthrough, and is a congratulatory ad from National Fiber Technologies -- http://www.nftech.com/ -- the company that supplied the hair for the Samson recreation. They are a huge company in the movie industry, providing hair for countless effects. You recall the Jack Links Beef Jerky "Messin' With Sasquatch" TV ads ... they supplied the fur for Sasquatch! Anyway, I have only ever seen congratulatory ads like this in Cinefex Magazine -- a movie special effects trade publication. So to see an ad for Wendy in Breakthrough is HUGE!
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    Samson ... "In Progress"
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    Samson's Recreation and the mount of his pal Sambo behind him.
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    Samson's Skeleton
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    This was "Bushman" ... another well-known Gorilla from Chicago's famous Lincoln Park Zoo.
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    After his death "Bushman" was mounted and preserved forever, and is on display at the Field Museum, Chicago.
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  2. RDA

    RDA Active Member

    cool John,, Natl fibers has been around for a looong time!! For those that do a lot of Africa lions, I had them do a repro mix of the mane hair by sending them a real sample and they matched it perfetly with five different strands of hair!!!! came with a stretch backing and simplified mane replacements ike you cant believe!! LOL! :D It is expensive though!!! but for those clients with "those" projects they are the way to go!!!!


    Congrats to Wendy on a stellar piece!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
     

  3. jasonb

    jasonb I think I'll keep her

    outstanding.
     
  4. jasonb

    jasonb I think I'll keep her

    Dude that re-creation has been done for 3 years now. It is an old artical, and an awesome piece.
     
  5. bmdakk

    bmdakk Report to moderator

    i just seen that :-[
     
  6. Huntress

    Huntress Member

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    Thanks for another trip back to my childhood John! My dad made all the metalwork for the primate house at the 'new' zoo so as a kid I got to see a lot of Samson. I remember that when he got bored and banged on the glass he really got your attention!

    Congrats to Wendy on an outstanding piece!
     
  7. Here is a video with her explaining some of what she did.
    Its short, but its something.

    http://www.fox6now.com/news/witi-090503-samson-taxidermy,0,1254418.story
     
  8. LordRusty

    LordRusty If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.

    5,530
    16
    Ohio
     

  9. hahaha

    I was waiting for that.
    ;D
     
  10. bucksnort25

    bucksnort25 New Member

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    I remember seeing Samson numerous times when I was younger. Scared the crap out of me whenever he banged on the glass. My mom says I would always cry when we went to that part of the zoo.
     
  11. SCT

    SCT New Member

    Awesome John, thanks for sharing.
     
  12. Kim Owens

    Kim Owens Are we there yet?

    What a great story- I have to say- in 28 years of taxidermy, short of Sewart Valentine, ( and I know that that will bring up news) Wendy Senk is the most brilliant taxidermist I know. Her husband is not so bad himself, but let me say, like Rick, he over married. I don't know if Wendy frequents this place, but it you do, You're the Girll!
     
  13. LordRusty

    LordRusty If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.

    5,530
    16
    Ohio
    Shout it out Kim!

    John.
     
  14. kbauman

    kbauman Active Member

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    OK
    My favorite piece from the World Show. Unbelievable talent and artistry.
     
  15. I can remember as a kid we used to travel from MN to WI to visit relatives in the Milwaukee area. We always went to the zoo and saw Sampson. I had forgot about that until now. Thanks for sharing that John!
     
  16. LordRusty

    LordRusty If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.

    5,530
    16
    Ohio
    Here are some shots I pulled from the video link supplied by Josh Knuth. They flashed across the screen so quickly it's hard to really appreciate them ... or the work! So here they are in permanent "pause" ... Enjoy!

    John.

    I particularly like seeing all the reference castings hanging on the wall!
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    Notice the eyelashes!
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    Here too, notice the hairs individually paced into his muzzle.
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    Notice how the lower lid actually comes away from the eyeball ... just like the living Gorilla!
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  17. Ted B

    Ted B Active Member

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    Great pics John, here's a few I took at the WTC.

    Wendy did an AMAZING job!
     

    Attached Files:

  18. LordRusty

    LordRusty If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.

    5,530
    16
    Ohio
    Hey Ted,

    A big thanks for posting the pictures from the World Show. She did an astounding job. I particularly like the angle of your standing shot. Looking at his face, he seems to have a "thinking" expression! Fantastic!

    I mean, it was mentioned the "mount" is an old one, well ... yeah it is ... but so what? This just makes my case that an older, well made piece -- whether a skin mount or a recreation/reproduction -- will stand the test of time. His base is brand spankin' new. ;) Before he just stood on a plain wooden base ... nice, but no where near as nice as his new habitat. Even though it seems Samson never really had the experience of a "natural" habitat for most of his life, he has one now ... or, at least his likeness does! He did live in a nice outdoor enclosure as the photos show, but the base looks more like the natural Rain Forest type habitat from the land he originally came from. And that's what's nice!

    John.