Here is the twelfth weekly digest for Animal History Daily, which I'm running on Twitter (@hannahvelten) every day for 2014. Using the #AHD tag, I find random titbits of animal history from the British Newspaper Archive (@BNArchive) on the appropriate day, from any year (generally the 1800s).
IMAGE OF THE WEEK
from The Graphic 21 March, 1891
Selection of sketches by D.B. Roffey
Raising funds for a horse ambulance for The Animal's Institute, 9 Kinnerton Street, Wilton Place, SW. 'Too often it happens now that valuable horses, fallen on our slippery pavements, have to be slaughtered where they lie, owing to the impossibility of removing them. The Ambulance will obviate this difficulty. It consists of a large covered van, fitted inside with a sling, on which the animal can be supported in transit, and provided with a new chloroform chamber, invented by Professor Atkinson, the well-known bonesetter, and splints of various kinds.'
This week's #AHD offerings: Arctic animals, poisoned dogs, Smithfield Horse Market, the canary trade, weeping animals, an animal actor dies and a stiff horse is cured.
19th March: 1818: (Book) Observations on Greenland, Seas and North West Passage - Arctic animals and birds & whale fishery described (Morning Post)
20th March: 1830: M. Chabert (famous heat & poison resister) fed prussic acid to dogs & tried to bring them round with antitode - they died (Berkshire Chronicle)
21st March: 1839: Smithfield Horse Market (Fri 2-4pm) satirised - dealers, costermen, cat's-meat speculators, etc. - best of human nature?! (Devizes & Wiltshire Gazette)
22nd March: 1867: German steamers that touch at Southampton import c.20,000 canaries into New York, worth $80,000. Bred by poor miners in Hartz Mts (Liverpool Daily Post)
23rd March: 1901: Animals That Weep - incl. aquatics...a young female seal been seen to weep when teased by a sailor (Manchester Courier & Lancashire General Advertiser)
24th March: 1941: 'Animal actor' Fred Conquest died aged 70. Well-known for playing goose, cat and dog in pantomime (Derby Daily Telegraph)
25th March: 1871: Mr Wood treats carriage horse affected with 'stiffness of joints' using his galvanic machine - horse soon restored to usefulness (Cheshire Observer)
Stories behind the 140-characters:
1) Following a voyage to Davis's Straits during the summer of 1817 to discover a North West Passage, an illustrated book ('embellished by charts and numerous plates') was published to show 'inhabitants of Southern Lands the views sketched on the spot... of the Polar World to the 77th degree of north latitude'. The Arctic animals and birds, and the Whale Fishery, were included in the plates.
2) Frenchman Ivan Chabert was known as the 'Fire King' and as an illusionist would regularly confound London audiences in 1826/1828. He would sit in a 220+ degree oven with a leg of mutton and emerge with the meat roasted - his body would be unscathed - and would sit with his audience to eat. A series of performances at the Argyle Rooms saw him swallow phosphorus washed down with solutions of arsenic and oxalic acid, then several spoonfuls of boiling oil and a quantity of molten lead...he survived. Chabert was suspected of trickery by many, and this would explain why the dogs were poisoned - he was proving the efficacy of the poisons he swallowed on stage (further details of Chabert's London shows from Harry Houdini Miracle Mongers and Their Methods, pp.38-44)
3) A satirized account of Smithfield Horse Market appeared in Blackwood's Magazine by 'the Irish Oyster Eater' (and reproduced in Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette)... it didn't paint a happy view of human nature. 'Selfishness, trickery and falsehood' were evident... 'Pause awhile, and attend to the unshaven blackguard in the greasy smock-frock, who is chaffering with that enterprising knacker - what emphasis in every blow he lays on the blind old animal, patiently awaiting, with dropping head and downeast ears, the issue of the argument - with what sincerity he invokes eternal perdition if he can take less than 'fifteen bob', and hopes he may be struck dead on the spot if the skin alone is not worth the money!
4) Of the 20,000 canaries exported from Germany into New York, 30% would die during the journey. They were imported in the winter, as they lost their voice and plumage in warm weather and would be unsold. New York had its own canary stores and 2,000 of these feathered musicians could be seen and heard, singing from dawn until dark. Many of them would be prima donnas and were very valuable.
5) Henri Coupin, writing in 'La Nature', quoted numerous authorities to show that many animals shed real tears, and for the same reasons that caused human beings to weep (anthropomorphic nonsense, but there you go!). Phrases included: 'To weep like a calf' and all hunters knew that the bear, eland, elephant, giraffe and stag wept tears when they saw their 'last hour approaching'. Even aquatic animals were able to weep - dolphins, 'at the moment of death, draw deep sighs and shed tears abundantly'. The naturalists St Hilaire and Cuvier were the authorities on the Malays, who reported that when a young dugong is captured, the mother is sure to be taken too. The young will cry out and shed tears, which are collected carefully by the Malays and preserved as a charm to make a lover's affection lasting.
6) Fred Conquest, like many others, worked full time as an animal actor. In the image to left he appears as Mother Hubbard's dog, but equally he was at home as a goose, cat or in 'a skin' as a one-person donkey or cow. Although a pantomime horse is popular today (think Dobbin from 'Rentaghost' et al), the Edwardian stage was almost devoid of horses - there were more camels than horses in an old panto store. According to 'It's Behind You' website, London once had an entire shop devoted to the panto animal - 'Theatre Zoo' in New Row, Covent Garden. Here you could hire any creature - you had to book early for Christmas
Image to left from http://its-behind-you.com/ 'Gallery of Pantomime Animals'
7) Mr Wood was a 'gentleman of independent means' who was famed for his acts of charity after offering free treatment to over 1,200 persons using his 'wonderful old box' - a galvanic machine. The machine used electrical currents to stimulate muscles, relieving stiffness (and is now mainly used for removing wrinkles from the face). Wood's treatment of the favourite carriage horse shows the efforts owners would go to to see their horses free from the sick-box and back in work.
Hannah Velten - author of