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Akeley Article On The Four Seasons In Natural History Magazine

Discussion in 'Taxidermy History' started by PA, Dec 22, 2021.

  1. PA

    PA Well-Known Member

    Natural History, a publication that comes out of the American Museum of Natural History had an excellent article on the four dioramas constructed by Carl Akeley in the time period 1900-1902 and opened together to exhibit in summer 1902. They were pictured in four consecutive plates in the annual report

    v.2:no.2 (1901/1902) - Annual report of the Director to the Board of Trustees for the year ... - Biodiversity Heritage Library (biodiversitylibrary.org)

    Color images can be seen here FMNH 1508 | Zoological Collections (fieldmuseum.org)

    The authors of the article are Mark Alvey, Thomas P. Gnoske and John Janelli and tell a great story of some of the details of the creation of these four masterpieces. I am thrilled with their work highlighting this work as I remember visiting the Field Museum in 1990 and hearing rumors they should be discarded as they “weren’t really that good”. Perhaps the world will begin to realize how great dioramas are.

    Years ago, when I was first being introduced to the world of taxidermy in the vacuum that existed in my hometown (there were no taxidermists within 10 miles) I bought the Elwood set of books and later located a book on taxidermy in my grandfather’s Herter Catalog. Here was a great book that told me how Professional Taxidermy was done, and it was a SCIENCE and gave examples of what is good and what isn’t.


    Many years later I recognized an image of one of Akeley’s deer groups.


    It always amazes me how ignorant some people are - the authors of the Herter book included. Akeley, being the perfectionist he was, evidently used professional hunters to obtain four, as near to perfect, hides from each of the four seasons – Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. According to the article up to 150 or so deer were used to get these hides and spring deer are shedding their hair and look unkempt. The summer and fall deer, after 120 years still look smooth and well combed out – but damn, that spring deer “is a good example of a very poor mounting job”.

    I highly recommend getting a copy of this issue and putting it in your taxidermy library as it is another tidbit that helps us understand the history of this honored profession.

    Thanks to Mark, Tom and JJ for writing the article!