Saving American Birds: T. Gilbert Pearson and the Founding of the Audubon Movement / Edition 1

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"A captivating account of one of the neglected pioneers of the conservation movement . . . and an insight into attitudes we must update if we are to adapt to the environmental realities of the twenty-first century."--Roland C. Clement, past president, National Audubon Society

"A trail-blazing volume. . . . one of the few books covering this critical period and the life of a key player in the conservation movement."--Peter Bennett, director, Florida Museum of Natural History

"Orr documents how Pearson grew from bird collecting to bird advocacy and in doing so promoted field studies, ecological concerns, wildlife laws, and a moral sense for nature."--Robin W. Doughty, University of Texas, Austin

T. Gilbert Pearson (1873-1943) was one of the most influential ornithologists in North America, crusading for the cause of conservation a century before the modern movement to save the earth's resources. 

   Working in the American Ornithologists' Union, Pearson and other pioneering conservationists radically altered public attitudes toward birds, lobbied laws through state legislatures, and involved the national government in bird protection. Their activities, documented in this biography of Pearson's early career, spearheaded the movement that eventually led to today's Audubon societies. 

   As a boy in rural Florida, Pearson was an avid--even obsessive--"egger." On a particularly lucrative day in 1889 he gathered eggs from the nests of a hawk, flicker, mockingbird, grackle, and ground dove and was only momentarily stymied by the discovery of five eggs in a crow's nest located high in a 100-foot pine tree. "Putting three of the eggs in my mouth and taking two in my hand, I descended without mishap," he reported. 

   His love for birds grew in company with an increasing alarm at the extent to which they were killed, not just for sport but for decorating hats, too. In 1892, in college in North Carolina, he participated in a student oratory contest in which he described the cruelties of plume hunting, concluding, "O fashion! how many crimes are done in thy name!"  

   After joining the AOU in 1891, Pearson organized efforts to protect birds that were vulnerable to commercial exploitation and unregulated hunting. In 1902 he founded the Audubon Society of North Carolina, the South's first state agency for wildlife. By 1911, the year this account ends, Pearson had become the first full-time leader of the National Association of Audubon Societies. He continued his work with the national organization until 1934, helping to build the association into the strong international force for conservation that it is today.

Oliver Orr is a retired specialist in American history, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, and a long-time member of the National Audubon Society. He is the author of Charles Brantley Aycock and coauthor of A Guide to the Study of the United States of America.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
One of the great pioneers of conservation, T. Gilbert Pearson (1873-1943) spent his childhood in rural Florida and his early career in North Carolina, where he established the state's Audubon Society, the South's first agency for wildlife. Orr, coauthor of A Guide to the Study of the United States of America and longtime birder, follows Pearson's life and work in 1911 as representative of the founding of the Audubon movement. Pearson joined the American Ornothologists' Union in 1891 and became active in the struggle to protect birds from exploitation by plume- and market-hunters. He organized a program to teach schoolchildren about the value of birds, lobbied state legislatures for protection laws, spoke widely and raised money. He eventually became the first full-time head of the National Association of Audubon Societies, forerunner of today's powerful force for conservation. Readers interested in the history of conservation would do well to start here. Photos. (May)
Library Journal
In 1890, nongame birds had no legal protection in the United States (even robins often were shot for ``sport''); by 1910, most states had enacted bird protection laws. The credit for this remarkable change in public attitudes goes mainly to the Audubon movement. This book is both a history of the Audubon Society up to 1911 and an examination of the early career of one of its most influential leaders, Pearson (1873-1943). Orr sees Pearson's skills as writer, orator, and political lobbyist as crucial to the movement's success. This is the first major study of Pearson. Extensively documented for the scholar but not pedantic in style, it is recommended to all libraries with a serious interest in ornithology or environmentalism.-- Paul B. Cors, Univ. of Wyoming Lib., Laramie
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813011295
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida
  • Publication date: 4/28/1992
  • Edition description: First
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 308
  • Product dimensions: 5.79 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction 1
1 "Oologically, T. G. Pearson, Archer, Fla." (1873-1891) 7
2 A Union of Ornithologists (1891) 18
3 "Oh fashion! how many crimes are done in thy name!" (1891-1893) 33
4 "The Birds Our Friends" (1893-1897) 44
5 "A thousand impressions" (1897-1898) 56
6 "Life on the Holiday Campus" (1898-1899) 66
7 "There are a great many things to know" (1899-1901) 79
8 The Audubon Society of North Carolina (1901-1902) 88
9 National Recognition (1902) 100
10 The Audubon Law: Good Birds, Bad Birds, Game Birds (1902-1903) 108
11 The South's First State Wildlife Commission (1903-1904) 119
12 The Money in Game (1904) 133
13 The National Association of Audubon Societies for the Protection of Wild Birds and Animals (1904-1905) 140
14 Pearson Labors, Willcox Bequeaths (1905-1906) 153
15 Defending the Audubon Society and Saving the Biological Survey (1907) 161
16 South Carolina and Georgia (1907-1908) 173
17 Birds and the "Conservation Movement": Vainly Seeking Equal Status (1908-1909) 182
18 The South's First State Wildlife Commission Eviscerated (1909) 192
19 New York (1909-1910) 206
20 When Wildlife Protectors Quarrel (1910-1911) 219
21 In New York to Stay (1911) 233
Notes 241
Selected Bibliography 271
Index 285
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