Monday, September 22, 2014

William T. Hornaday

In 1886, the Smithsonian sent an expedition to Montana to collect buffalo specimens. Expedition leader William T. Hornaday was an internationally known naturalist, author, and conservationist. He was also the Smithsonian’s chief taxidermist and considered the best in the U.S. The expedition collected specimens from the last free-roaming herd of wild bison as they were on the brink of total extinction. Hornaday’s experiences in Montana led him to write scathingly of the buffalo’s extermination and to publicize its sad plight.

Library of Congress, LC-B2-1183-14 [P&P]
One of the specimens Hornaday collected at the Big Porcupine Creek camp in Garfield County is among the bison that make up the famous American Bison Group. It is one of the largest bison bulls ever recorded, and later served as the model for the buffalo on the 1901 ten-dollar bill. In 1908, Hornaday helped establish the National Bison Range in Montana. The Hornaday Buffalo Camp on Big Porcupine Creek at Sand Springs was the expedition’s final base camp. Today it is a National Historic Landmark. Hornaday’s American Bison Group, evidence of Hornaday’s skill in taxidermy, is on display at the Museum of the Northern Great Plains in Fort Benton.

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