Wildlife Conservation Society: Library & Archives

Hornaday Wildlife Conservation Scrapbooks

Bison once roamed North America in numbers greater than 20 million. However, by the late nineteenth century, the mass slaughter of bison with the settlement of the American West brought the species to the brink of extinction. In 1889, following upon his work with the US National Museum, William T. Hornaday published a stark portrait of the species’ destruction. Titled The Extermination of the American Bison, Hornaday’s study posited that the American bison population had fallen as low as 1,000.

In 1905, Hornaday and others convened a group of diverse stakeholders at the Bronx Zoo in New York City and formed the American Bison Society (ABS). With President Theodore Roosevelt as its honorary president, ABS set out to prevent the extinction of the American bison by establishing a number of small herds in widely separated parts of the country. The organization’s first success came in 1907 when it sent 15 bison donated by the New York Zoological Society by railway from the Bronx Zoo to Wichita National Forest and Game Preserve in Oklahoma to begin the work of restoring the Western Plains’ depleted bison population. In 1908, following successful petitioning by ABS, Congress passed a bill to establish a permanent national bison range in Montana with one contingency: ABS was required to raise $10,000 to secure a breeding population of bison for the new range.

Volume 2 documents these early events in ABS history, including the Society’s success in raising $10,560.50 for the Montana national herd. Although this is the only scrapbook concerning ABS activities in Hornaday’s Scrapbook Collection on the History of the Wild Life Protection and Extermination, the Wildlife Conservation Society Archives holds many additional historical American Bison Society records.

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