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Discussion in 'Taxidermy History' started by LordRusty, Sep 3, 2017.
"Prince Imperial" Horse Mount by Carl E. Akeley
I enjoyed the show and i share your admiration for the man.I you need me I will call you.
I wish you had better evidence that Akeley mounted this horse that that he was at Ward's at the time. There were multiple great taxidermists there at the time, including Remi Santens who I believe was actually in charge of the taxidermy shop about then.
Much has happened to Prince Imperial since it was mounted - you can see that the right ear and the face has been "repaired" and the horse air-brushed with various times. How a horse holds up is often dependent on the storage conditions for the last 100+ years.
It was not uncommon that famous horses were mounted at that time. Two of the most famous horses from the Civil war were mounted at Frederic Webster's studio in Washington D. C. after he left Wards around the same time that Hornaday did when he took the USNM job. Webster mounted Stonewall Jackson's Horse Little Sorrel and then later Phil Sheridans Horse "Renzi" which later went by the name Winchester. Both are still in existence though Winchester.
Then also, there is Comanche mounted by Lewis Lindsay Dyche after being trained by Hornaday.
Akeley contracted for mounting horses with the US government I believe for the 1892 World's Columbian Exposition. Santens did some beautiful horse mounts, approaching the quality of Phar Lap for the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. I have a photo I bought on Ebay a dozen years or so ago that shows the finished mount from page 13 in this link
Well, as much as you like to post reading material, it sounds as if you did not read the attached text included beneath the video. I did NOT simply 'assume' it was an Akeley mount. Far from it! I carefully examined the mount prior to recording it. Then, armed with my knowledge of Akeley's methods, I made my assertions. Yes the muzzle - as well as the skin around the eyes - was painted. This mount was NOT a stagnant museum piece ... instead it traveled extensively, being pulled in parades, as well as being petted and sat on for decades! There is not one hair remaining on the muzzle area, and few, if any, around the eyes ... again ... the result of decades of being petted by curious observers, so yes, it has been repainted. I did not lift the riding pad under the surcingle to check his back for missing hairs, and the museum people were not certain about hair rubbing on his back either. It was also obvious the genital area had seen its share of hands-on experiences as well, thus owing to its bare and repainted skin! This mount had been stored in a private library, den, store front, and in the latter part of the mounts "life", it was stored in an airy barn! There it fell victim to mice, who found the once record length mane and tail - not to mention the long hairs of the pasterns - made for comfy nesting material. There are other minor 'chew' areas on the lower limbs as well ... unfortunately, and these too, have been touched up.
The Horse mounts you present here, are all in protected exhibits, and all have leg seams ... while Akeley's mount does not have leg seams. This was his signature! The mannikin for this Horse was stock solid, but not hollow ... created by the method Akeley employed for the three Horses mounted for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893! This was with the use of steel rods secured to the cleaned and poisoned bones for the legs, and the body covered with steel lath, hammered into the shape of the body, and covered with plaster. After the plaster had a couple of days to set, Carl then carved it away until the dimensions and shape of the Horse were correct, over which the skin was fitted and mounted. The legs were, of course, mounted separately, then reattached to the mannikin, enabling it to be mounted without leg seams. The ONLY seams are found at the back of the pasterns ... from the coronet to the ankle joint itself. The single belly seam is tight and barely noticeable! The eye work bears a strong resemblance to Carl's eye work on his earlier Zebra mounts, and his winter Whitetail buck from his later Three Seasons group, with similar upper and lower lid structure. Unfortunately the Horses' actual ears have been replaced with Cow ears, due to the massive damage the original ears received over the multitude of decades of handling and touching.
One of the smallest details that amazed me were the tiny skin wrinkles found in the arm pits of the mount ... something known to exist in Akeley mounts! Again ... no leg seams!!!!
The RESEARCH has been done!!! Please don't assume I made an assumption ...
Below is the text found beneath the video ...
"After a phone call from my longtime friend John "JJ" Janelli, regarding what might possibly be a mounted Horse done by Carl Ethan Akeley - "The Father of Modern Taxidermy" - Cheryl and I drove north to Marion, Ohio - about a two hour drive on a beautiful Sunday - to meet "Prince Imperial" in person! After a lengthy examination of the mounted Horse, I was able to determine, this IS, in fact, an Akeley mount! There are NO leg seams! The biggest Akeley signature!!! After he and an assistant mounted P.T. Barnum's great African Elephant "Jumbo", Prof. Ward - Akeleys' then employer - allowed Carl to skin specimens as he saw fit ... and skinning without leg seams became his signature method! Then there are the eyes, and the structure of the upper lids ... all Carl, all the time! Mind you, there appears to have been some epoxy rolled and placed around the lower lids at some point ... that's how it looks to me ... BUT Carl DID roll his lower eyelid work in such a manner, as seen on his Field Museum Whitetail mounts.
The mount is literally solid as a rock, as it was mounted using one of his earliest methods for large mammal mounts, wherein he created a metal framework using steel rods for the legs, and metal lathe or hardware cloth for the body, covering all with plaster, and after it set carving the animals shape and features to perfection before mounting the skin. I carefully knocked against the top of the nose, and it is solid ... no hollow sound! There are ZERO cracks in the skin, albeit only under the front of the lip, most likely due to over-handling over the years. There is also no hair left on the lower muzzle area ... from years of people petting him. I learned that at some time the Marion Heritage Hall, had the very badly damaged ears replaced, and all they could use were cow ears. BUT ... they were formed to look more Equine than Bovine, so they don't look that bad. We also learned of the rough "life" this old mount had, wherein it was traveled all over the place, being towed in many parades, and finally even having 'lived' for a time, in a barn, where he was subjected to having mice chew off much of the hair of the mane and tail, as well as the longer hairs on his pasterns. But for all that, the 118 year old Prince really looks SPECTACULAR!!! Bearing in mind, this was another of Carl's very early large mammal mounts, and that he improved over the years, this has all the earmarks of an Akeley mount."
With respect: PA’s request for evidence is reasonable. Your account offers an informed opinion, which is not the same as definitive proof.
I’ll cut to the chase: Akeley had departed Ward’s for Milwaukee by the time this animal was mounted. Web sources put Prince Imperial’s death at 1887, you say 1888 in the video (I think), and the bronze plaque in the museum says 1890; not sure which is correct, but Akeley was in Milwaukee in early November of 1886. He had his own studio, and doing contract work and then part time work at the Milwaukee Public Museum until going full-time in 1889 (according to the MPM annual reports and Bodry-Sanders). According to PB-S he was already working 12 hour days before he went full-time, and he certainly would have had his hands full with museum work after that. It’s possible that in 1887 or 1888 he could have taken this on as a contract, but it seems very unlikely. Would Prof. Ward have hired Akeley for a one-off contract when he had lots of other talented young men in the workshop, like, as PA suggests, Remi Santens? (Leave aside Akeley having to commute to Rochester or Ward having to ship the skin to Milwaukee, and ship the mount back.)
I haven’t seen the mount in person like you have, and you’re a professional, while I just read books, but I don't see how you can assert how the manikin was made with any confidence. I am sure it feels as hard as a rock, but wouldn't clay over excelsior (a la Hornaday) feel just as solid, or more? Do we know what method Ward's was using around 1888-90? Both Hornaday’s excelsior + clay method and the plaster/mâché covered mesh were in play at the time (Akeley at MPM and Rowley at AMNH). The only way to tell for sure what’s under the skin would be an x-ray (and maybe a core sample—the plaster would not show up on an x-ray, but the mesh would. That said, if you saw mesh, you could be pretty certain a plaster of some kind was the manikin’s surface).
The lack of visible leg seams is interesting and Akeley may have pioneered the idea (he lets us believe he invented it), but he wasn’t the only one doing it. Rowley describes mounting a horse this way: "The backs of the legs are opened from the hoof up about a foot or so . . . The manikin is then so constructed that the legs all lift off. . . . This method of mounting does away with the unsightly seams up the legs which are always so difficult to conceal." So -- seamless legs were doable -- and who's to say some talented young guy at Ward's didn't hear about Akeley's way and copy it?
Likewise, other details indicate great attention to detail but are not proof of Akeley’s hand.
To my mind any Ward’s mount from that era is exciting, and the history behind the animal is significant. So much of the old Ward’s stuff was surely done by people whose names we would recognize (and probably some we wouldn’t) but they didn’t sign their work. That’s bittersweet – bitter because their work is uncredited, but sweet because we still appreciate it 100, 130, 150 years later.
So …. I think we are still left wondering who did this piece. Ward’s did try to lure Akeley back around this time for a permanent job. He didn’t take it. It’s nice to imagine that maybe he went back for a couple weeks to mount this horse and make some extra money. But until there’s hard proof . . .