Animal histories at Chicago’s Field Museum

I had the pleasure yesterday of visiting the Field Museum in Chicago, USA. The museum, founded in 1893 as an outgrowth of the World’s Columbian Exhibition hosted in Chicago that year, is home to one of the world’s premiere natural history collections. As someone interested in museum storytelling about animals, I was looking forward to seeing how the Field Museum approached history in their displays.

I was impressed that animal histories with conservation messages pervaded many of the exhibits. Take the case of this gray wolf (Canis lupis):

The Gray Wolf on display at the Field Museum, Chicago. Photo by D Jørgensen.

The Gray Wolf on display at the Field Museum, Chicago. Photo by D Jørgensen, Oct 2014.


The display not only puts the gray wolf’s decline into cultural context–”Our fears led to the wolf’s decline”–but it also tells the story of this particular specimen and the wolf’s belongingness:

This gray wolf, shedding its thick winter coat for spring, came from Minnesota. Wolves once roamed throughout Illinois, too–even around Chicago–but they’ve been extinct here since about 1860.

In this, the wolf on display becomes more than just a representative of species. It becomes an individual, one who belonged in a certain place at a certain time. The label gives us a mini-environmental history because there is not only the wolf, but also the people in the story. It offers an insight into historical interaction between humans and wolves in space and time.

Guanacos in the Field Museum exhibit 'Messages from the Wilderness'. Photo by D Jørgensen.

Guanacos in the Field Museum exhibit ‘Messages from the Wilderness’. Photo by D Jørgensen.

The “Messages from the Wilderness” exhibit was particularly strong in telling stories about human-animal interactions. There were bison who were nearly hunted to extinction, and guanacos who were identified on the sign as ‘a forgotten native’ because they once were central in Patagonian culture but have now been pushed out by sheep. There were Mexican grizzly bears who are now extinct and muskoxen whose range is reduced to northern Canada and Alaska.

Not everything had a story at the Field Museum, but I was impressed by how many things did. I think that connecting the animals on display not only with their own biology (which was also included as it should be in any natural history museum) but also with humans made the exhibits come alive. They became animals with real histories, not just wondrous creatures from far off lands.

California condors at the Field Museum, Chicago. Photo by D. Jørgensen, Oct 2014

California condors at the Field Museum, Chicago. Photo by D. Jørgensen, Oct 2014

Of course telling histories means that you have to be willing to revise texts if things change. I noticed that the California condor exhibit featured the headline ‘Condors no longer hatch in the wild’. Luckily, this year in July, that has changed with the first confirmed California condor hatched in the wild in Zion National Park. Changing that particular museum sign should be a welcome change–a sign that things may be on the right track for conservation of this magnificent bird.

— Dolly Jørgensen, The Return of Native Nordic Fauna

Climate Variability and Human Population in Prehistoric Australia

<from H-Env> New podcast episode: Climate variability and population dynamics in prehistoric Australia by Jan Oosthoek The first people to settle in Australia, ancestors of present day Aboriginals, arrived in Australia about 50,000 years ago. They encountered a cooler and drier continent than at present. From about 35,000 years ago global temperatures and water availability […]

— Climate History Network

Nature’s Past Canadian Environmental History Podcast Episode 45 Available

Episode 45: The St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project, 29 October 2014 [56:00]
Download Audio

It cuts through the centre of the continent linking all of the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. Long the ambition of governments, industry, and continentalist visionaries, the St. Lawrence Seaway fulfilled the mid-century modernist dream of transforming the Great Lake cities of North America into international seaports.

Between 1954 and 1959, Canada and the United States jointly constructed a series of canals and locks to create a single navigable system from the port at Montreal through the Great Lakes. Building upon previous navigational improvements, including the various Welland Canals, the St. Lawrence Seaway opened for business in 1959. It was both an ecological and a diplomatic breakthrough.

The history of the seaway is one of tremendous Earth-moving high modernism and complicated international diplomacy. And Daniel Macfarlane’s new book, Negotiating a River: Canada, the US, and the Creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway, takes readers through the fascinating environmental and diplomatic history of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

On this episode of the podcast, we speak with Daniel Macfarlane about his new book on the history of the St. Lawrence seaway and power project.

negotiatingarivercoverPlease be sure to take a moment to review this podcast on our iTunes page.

Visit the main page at and subscribe to our YouTube page here.



Daniel Macfarlane

Works Cited:

Sean Kheraj, Canadian History & Environment
Macfarlane, Daniel. Negotiating a River: Canada, the US, and the Creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2014. 

Music Credits:

“Forgotten 12-string” by Clarence Simpson
“Cassettes” by Nethis
“The Writer” by Nethis


Kheraj, Sean. “Episode 45: The St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project” Nature’s Past: Canadian Environmental History Podcast. 29 October 2014.

— Sean Kheraj, Canadian History and Environment

The Greatest Baseball Championship Series Ever Played

The debate can now be settled. We know what the greatest championship series in baseball history is. It’s certainly not the 2014 San Francisco-Kansas City match-up, though that’s been entertaining.

What championship am I talking about? The year was 1908. Theodore “Big Stick” Roosevelt was finishing his second term as president. “Big Bill” Taft was running on the Republican ticket to succeed his friend and was taking on William Jennings Bryan, aka “The Great Commoner.” (This may have been the Progressive Era, but it was also the era of the best sports nicknames. Who could ever forget players like “Wee Willie” McGill, “Handsome” Griffin, or “Postscript” Fletcher? Even the head umpire of the series was nicknamed “Dusty”!)

The teams hailed from Chicago and Indianapolis and met on a sun-baked field in Michigan City, Indiana, for the first game. It had all the trappings of the modern game: two teams loaded with stars, four umpires, clean uniforms. See for yourself.Hoo Hoo baseball Chicago vs. Indianapolis

Oh, did I mention that this was the Hoo-Hoo‘s World Series? After all, lumber mills were big sponsors of teams back then. Nevertheless, there were bragging rights on the line. We’ll let our intrepid reporter take it from here:

At 1 o’clock the invading army of black cats took Michigan City without a struggle, the natives firing only one shot, that being from the artillery of a photographer. Immediately upon the landing of the steamer a brass band headed the line and the cavalcade proceeded to the park, where it was successfully photographed, and then steered to a great refreshment hall, where it was very successfully fed. The local accommodations for caring for the big crowd were found to be excellent and the hunger of all was satisfied without serious difficulty.

The chief event of the afternoon was the baseball game. Immediately after the luncheon the Hoo-Hoo and their ladies proceeded in a body to the b.p., meaning not baseball park but boiling point. The Northern Indiana penitentiary formed an appropriate background to this travesty on a baseball field. The sun turned all its calcium effects upon two inches of red hot sand, in which the athletes were compelled to disport themselves. The game itself was a contest between two teams selected from the lumbermen of Indianapolis and Chicago. They were made up as follows:

Two more formidable teams have never taken the field to battle for a title.

Just before the teams took the field E. F. Dodge, of Chicago, called [umpires] C. D. Rourke, of Urbana, Ill., and George Palmer, of Indianapolis, Ind., to the plate and presented one with a horse pistol and the other with a shotgun. Some of the decisions later proved that this was a wise precaution, undoubtedly saving both umpires from the fury of the populace.

Indianapolis won the game in the first inning, the Chicago team going up in the aeroplane a la Wright Bros. The procession of Indianapolis runs took ten minutes to pass a given point.

Pitcher Fox appeared to be a stranger in the neighborhood and was unable to locate the plate. He gave Mercer and Geisel, the first two men up, passes to first, and then Johnson started a grounder to first, which got through Saye’s legs and caromed into right field, Mercer and Geisel scoring. Avery struck out, but a passed ball assisted Johnson to third, from which he scored when Pritchard singled. Pritchard stole third, but expired there on infield outs of West and Maas.

In the third inning Giesel drew a base on balls, but was forced at second, McGill to Larson, on Johnson’s grounder. Avery’s single advanced Johnson a base and he scored when Lewis threw over Fletcher’s head. Pritchard grounded, McGill to Saye. West struck out.

Chicago got its lone tally in this inning and might have had more but for some bad base running. Larson opened with a beautiful two-base hit and went to third on a wild pitch. Matthias struck out, but Dodge singled through the box, scoring Larson. When Fletcher flied to Mercer, Dodge led away off and was easily doubled, Mercer to Pritchard.

During the four succeeding innings the two teams played airtight baseball, but thirteen Indianapolis men and twelve Chicago men going to bat. Fox opened the fifth inning with a single, but was nailed at second when he attempted to steal with the ball in the pitcher’s hands. Hamilton singled in the seventh with two out and was left at first.

The fielding features of the game were supplied by Fox, McGill, and Pritchard. W. H. Johnson, who besides being a good ball player is president of the Indiana Retail Lumber Dealers’ Association, gave a fine exhibition of backstopping. Wee Willie McGill accepted three chances at second without error. Postscript Fletcher did not have a chance at third, or undoubtedly would be included in the special mention column. The managing of Handsome Griffin was also a conspicuous feature. The score:

Box Score 1908

Immediately after the ball game the Hoo-Hoo and their ladies, many of whom had entertained themselves about Michigan City rather than swelter at the ball park or approach so dangerously close to the penitentiary, again boarded the [steamer] Theodore Roosevelt and enjoyed a beautiful twilight and moonlight trip homeward to Chicago. On the way they were entertained with music by talented vocalists and with explanations from members of the Chicago team.

That’s right. The Chicago players spent part of the trip home making excuses for the loss. I wonder what they said after Game 2, played ten days later in Indianapolis.

Chicago Hoo Hoo baseball team 1908

The losers from Chicago.

Because once again, the Windy City Boys turned in a poor performance, this time getting shellacked 23-3, committing 12 errors, and not scoring their first run until the 7th inning. Let’s go back to our reporter, who appears to be making excuses for the Chicagoans:

Because of the wide difference in the score there was not much excitement, but what the game lacked in excitement was made up in fun. The local team is composed largely of big men who do not often indulge in such exertion as playing ball, most of them being office men. Until noon Monday part of the local team had not reported at their offices for work.

Indianapolis baseball 1908

The victorious team from Indianapolis.

The third and final game was played in Chicago. By then, the Hoosiers had already won the 3-game series, so their incentive to play all-out was not very great. Still, Chicago had to rally from 3 runs down to win 8-4.

A week later the Chicago Cubs won their last World Series title. Perhaps instead of a billy goat, their fans should bring a black cat to Wrigley Field to break the curse.

Go Hoo Hoos!

What we like to think might have been the pennant won by the Hoosiers!

The Chicago Hoo Hoo baseball team.

Chicago’s not-so-lovable losers.

Filed under: From the Archives Tagged: baseball, Chicago, Hoo-Hoo, International Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo, lumber companies, sports history

— Peeling Back the Bark

ICEHO Bulletin 2

The second ICEHO Bulletin for 2014 is available now (PD […]

— Australian and NZ Environmental History Network

7th Tensions of Europe Conference, Sept 2015

The 7th Tensions of Europe Conference will be hosted 3-6 September 2015 by ICEHO member organization KTH in Stockholm, Sweden. The main theme of the conference is the interactions between technology and environment. Proposals for the conference can be submitted until 15 February 2015. Read the detailed CFP.

— International Consortium of Environmental History Organizations

The Hoo-Hoo Response to the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906

The International Concatenated Order of the Hoo-Hoo is the country’s oldest fraternal organization. Formed in 1892 at a train station in rural Arkansas almost as a lark (and possibly while under the influence of alcohol), the idea of a fraternal organization for the timber and lumber industries founded on the ideals of fellowship and goodwill quickly caught on. Soon chapters could be found all over the United States.


The black cat with its tail curled into the number 9 is the Hoo-Hoo mascot. It flies in the face of superstition and harkens back to the ancient Egyptians, who worshiped the cat as a deity.

While it’s easy to not take the organization seriously in part because the founders adopted their nomenclature from Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Hunting of the Snark,” and they do know how to have a good time, the Hoo-Hoos of today are little different from members a century ago: they are folks who care deeply about their industry and each other. Early proof of that fraternal bond quickly emerged in the days following the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Shortly after the earthquake hit on the morning of April 18, 1906, the news flashed around the country of the catastrophe via telegraph. The earthquake had done its share of damage, but the fires that erupted in the aftermath laid waste to significant portions of the city. Lumber yards and wood products businesses were particularly vulnerable to the fires, of course. Communication in and out of the area was spotty and slow. In Nashville, where the Hoo-Hoo organization was then headquartered, in the Office of Supreme Scrivenoter (Editor) J. H. Baird, they anxiously awaited word from San Francisco. Fortunately for us, Baird sifted through and preserved a good portion of the correspondence in an article published in the May 1906 issue of the organization’s newsletter The Bulletin.

On April 24, Vicegerent Frank Trower in San Francisco telegrammed: “Disaster by earthquake and fire too awful for description has prostrated San Francisco and many interior towns. Three hundred thousand people homeless and destitute. Immediate help sorely needed. Many Hoo-Hoo lost business and homes—everything except their grit. This is the time for brothers to show true spirit of fraternity by temporary relief. Will you help us? Wire me at 1238 Filbert Street, Oakland.” Along with many other businessmen Trower had relocated to Oakland because he had lost his lumber business in the fire that followed the earthquake.

The Mission District burning. [Photographer: Chadwick, H. D. (US Gov War Department. Office of the Chief Signal Officer.) - US Archiv ARCWEB ARC Identifier: 524395 NARA National Archives and Records Administration]

The Mission District burning. [Photographer: Chadwick, H. D. (US Gov War Department. Office of the Chief Signal Officer.) - US Archiv ARCWEB ARC Identifier: 524395 NARA National Archives and Records Administration]

On April 30, a lengthy letter dated on April 25 from Trower to Baird read in part:

“Dear Brother Baird: I am confiscating a few moments’ time to write you regarding conditions here one week after the great earthquake and fire. The experiences and emotions of a lifetime have been crowded into that short week. It is very hard to realize that the beloved San Francisco of former times we shall know no more. Today she is still a splendid city—splendid in her ruins….

Now a few words as to our local Hoo-Hoo and how they have fared. I wired you on the 20th saying that many of our Hoo-Hoo had their business and homes ruined, and asked if our Order would not give them temporary assistance. So far I have not had an answer to this message. I have met several of our members in this situation and there are doubtless many more. It is difficult for us just now to find each other, but I am advertising in the local papers, giving my new address and asking all Hoo-Hoo needing temporary assistance to call on me. What we want is to help our members to help themselves. I am sure that most of them will later repay any relief given now. We do not want charity, but only a little help for the time being, until we can get on our feet. I feel this is the time for our brothers to show a true fraternal spirit. You may be sure any help extended us will be carefully handled, and if there is any balance remaining it will be returned to you for the Imminent Distress Fund or for such other use as the Supreme Nine may decide to make of it.”

Baird received another letter from Trower on May 1:

“Many of our members have suffered heavy financial losses. You can easily understand this when I tell you that about one-half of the lumber yards in San Francisco are gone, all of the hotel district, about one-half of the planing mills and practically all of the sawmill and machinery supply houses…. Brother Baird, it would warm the cockles of your heart to see how our people have accepted their fearful losses without a whimper. Our boys out here are pure grit, and the women, God bless them, are pure gold, and they are all standing by the city, working cheerfully to put it once again in its imperial position.”

Other Hoo-Hoos were writing Baird as well, and so he published those letters in this same article. Arthur White wrote to convey his experiences the day of the earthquake, which makes for a very riveting letter. But I wanted to share this little tidbit. The next time you’re having a tough day at work, you might want to remember this. Recall that the quake hit at 5:18 in the morning. That afternoon, White wrote, “Premature births began. I was told that in one lumber yard in the south end of town forty-two children were born before Friday morning. I did not see this but I have every reason to believe it.”

In the days immediately following the disaster, Trower and the others initially didn’t know that cities and people around the country were organizing relief efforts. In another letter to Baird he wrote: “I think our members here never realized before the strong bond of fraternity between us and our brethren in other parts of the country. We have had many expressions of sympathy and good cheer, and your prompt offer of financial assistance impressed upon us profoundly the fact that while ours is not a benefit order, yet we will not allow any member to be in imminent distress without coming to his aid.”

Trower formed a Hoo-Hoo relief committee to do several things, including securing employment for members. Naturally, there were nine members of the committee. In this time of crisis, being part of the organization brought some solace to Trower and the others in the Bay Area. After a bit of time had passed, maybe just a few weeks or so, he wrote Baird again, saying:

“Please send me the latest handbook and such supplements as may be out, as I have no list of our members here. Our faithful old Hoo-Hoo trunk with all the apparatus and the Sacred Black Cat is no more. They did their duty well. Peace to their ashes. Will you kindly send me the new supply of Hoo-Hoo material of all kinds as soon as convenient? I am anxious to hold another concatenation in the near future, either in the San Joaquin Valley, probably at Fresno, or in the San Francisco Bay section. Another good, old time initiation will make us feel at home again.”

I’ll give Scrivenoter Baird the last word on this. At the end of the article, he wrote:

“All of the foregoing is but a meager outline of conditions in San Francisco, but it serves to show that Hoo-Hoo is far from an order devoted merely to promoting what is known as ‘a good time’ on the part of its members. The returns from the call sent out for aid are still coming in, and the hundreds of letters received at this office are truly an inspiration, proving that the Order does truly typify the universal brotherhood of men.”


I recently spoke at the annual Hoo-Hoo international convention and shared the above with the members in my talk. This year’s gathering was held just north of San Francisco in Santa Rosa. While at the convention, though, I heard echoes of 1906. Ironically, a small quake had hit the region just a few weeks before. Some members couldn’t attend because they were dealing with earthquake damage or contending with wildfires that were threatening their homes. There was some concerned discussion about those not in attendance because of natural disaster, as well as conversations and commiseration about the challenges many of these business owners face in a volatile lumber market. I also saw many displays of friendship and fraternity that transcended international boundaries—the Aussies and Kiwis evidently had been coming for years, judging by the camaraderie between them and the Americans and Canadians. I witnessed the inauguration of their first woman Grand Snark of the Universe, Mary Beth Moynihan, who was clearly beloved and respected. The “universal brotherhood of men” will now be led by a woman. In short, I can attest that nearly 110 years later, the Hoo-Hoo continue to inspire and that the feelings of goodwill and fellowship are strong.

Read a first-person account of the recovery efforts launched by the U.S. Forest Service in the aftermath of the earthquake in the 2006 issue of Forest History Today in Pamela Connor’s “A First-hand Report Concerning the Fire and Earthquake Situation in San Francisco, 1906″ and see photos of the city after the fires in our digital online exhibit “Redwood in the San Francisco Fire.”

Filed under: Historian’s Desk Tagged: earthquake, Hoo-Hoo, International Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo, Lewis Carroll, lumber industry, San Francisco

— Peeling Back the Bark

New podcast episode: Climate variability and population dynamics in prehistoric Australia

The first people to settle in Australia, ancestors of present day Aboriginals, arrived in Australia about 50,000 years ago. They encountered a cooler and drier continent than at present. From about 35,000 years ago global temperatures and water availability declined even further culminating in the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), about 21,000 years ago. At this time, the Australian continent entered its driest and coolest period since modern humans colonized it. By 12,000 years ago the climate warmed rapidly, sea levels rose and climate began to ameliorate.

On a new episode of the Exploring Environmental History Podcast, Alan Williams, an archaeologist and graduate student in the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University in Canberra explores the responses and adaptations by Aboriginal people to climate change over the past 50,000 years.

Listen to the podcast.

View the intro video on YouTube

— EH Resources

Table-ronde. “De l’eau, du sel et des hommes (histoire – archéologie – environnement”. Université de Poitiers. 6-7 novembre 2014.

Cette table-ronde présente les travaux d’une équipe pluri-disciplinaire (archéologues, historiens, géographes, géophysiciens, paléo-environnementalistes) regroupée autour d’un projet collectif de recherche (PCR) soutenu par le Ministère de la Culture et le CESCM. Mis en place en 2011, ce PCR intitulé « les marais charentais du Moyen Âge à l’époque moderne : économie, peuplement, environnement » a pour objectif d’appréhender l’ancien golfe de Saintonge, plus communément appelé golfe de Brouage (Charente-Maritime).

Consulter le programme complet

Cette table-ronde se tiendra les 6-7 novembre au CESCM, Hôtel Bertelot, salle Crozet – 24 rue de la Chaîne.
Poitiers, France (86000)


Séminaire de Master 2 Archéologie de l’Antiquité et du Moyen Age. “La forêt et ses usages”. Université de Poitiers. 20 novembre 2014.

Ce séminaire de Master 2 “Archéologie de l’Antiquité et du Moyen Age” est ouvert à tous. Il est consacré à la “forêt et ses usages” et se tiendra à l’Hôtel Fumé (salle 115)

Consulter le programme complet