Monday, April 10, 2017

William T. Hornaday on Hetch-Hetchy

Here is an item from the cutting room floor, so-to-speak, that never made its way into The Most Defiant Devil. It seems fitting to mention it after the pervious post on Hetch-Hetchy. Hornaday focused his attention like a laser beam on wildlife conservation. He did not engage in conservation issues outside of those that related directly to wildlife, but that did not mean that he was inattentive. A hard-hitting and fiery campaigner unafraid to sling mud, if not worse, his comments about John Muir are not surprising. The excerpt below comes from a letter Hornaday wrote to Henry Fairfield Osborn on November 8, 1913. Osborn, a paleontologist who served as president of the New York Zoological Society and president of the American Museum of Natural History was a friend of John Muir. I don't know if Hornaday and Muir ever met. They served on the same committee in a conservation congress held in Indianapolis in 1912, but I have no evidence that Muir actually attended. Hornaday wrote:

"It seems to me that the Hetch-Hetchy campaign is sadly missing the bullseye. There is too much firing into the air, instead of firing at guilty men! There is some ginger in the campaign; but only about 10 per-cent of what there should be. It is within the power of the managers to make the enemies of Yosemite National Park hurt .... in mighty short order; but the managers don't seem to know how to do the trick. It is significant that the managers of the campaign feel that they are so nearly beaten that they are directing their appeals to President Wilson."

It is interesting to think of how Hornaday might have handled the campaign to save Hetch-Hetchy differently from Muir.

The above excerpt is from the Hornaday papers at the Bronx Zoo, outgoing correspondence, vol. 6, page 422. The omitted words are due to the fact this is an old note in pencil and there are two words I could not make out in my notes.