Copyright
William Jones Rhees.

An account of the Smithsonian Institution, its founder, building, operations, etc. prepared from the reports of Prof. Henry to the regents, and other authentic sources online

. (page 7 of 10)
Online LibraryWilliam Jones RheesAn account of the Smithsonian Institution, its founder, building, operations, etc. prepared from the reports of Prof. Henry to the regents, and other authentic sources → online text (page 7 of 10)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


abundant in the Central American States. There are believed to be nearly 400 species. Their food consists
almost entirely of insects. The humming, from which they derive their name, is produced by the whirring of
the wings.

Middle Shelf. The celebrated BIRD OP PARADISE from New Guinea. ..The Blue-Headed
Shrike or Butcher Bird from the Philippine Islands. ..Blue-Backed Shrike from India...
Burmese Shrike from Malacca. ..Cayenne Shrike. ..Brazil Shrike... Black-throated Shrike from
Feejee Islands. ..The Common Jay, &c.

Many years ago, when rice was dear in Eastern China, efforts were made to bring it from Luzon, where it was
abundant. At Manilla there was, however, passed a singular law, to the effect that no vessel for China should
be allowed to load with rice unless it brought to Manilla a certain number of cages full of the little ' butcher
birds," we.l known to ornithologists. The reason for this most eccentric regulation simply was that the rice in
Luzon suffered much from locusts, and these locusts were destroyed in great numbers by butcher birds. In
our sublime and superior common sense such a law appears trivial. Yet if we could calculate the vast amount
of money annually lost to this country by insects, caused by the wanton and wicked destruction of birds, it
might not seem so very trifling after all. It might be even found to be advantageous to import or raise
large quantities of insectivorous birds.

EAST SIDE Lower Shelf. Regent Oriole of Australia. ..Red-breasted Meadow-Lark of
Chili. ..Black Cassican of Tierra del Fuego... Australian Shrike of New South Wales, &c.

WEST SIDE. Cassicans, Crows, and Meadow-Larks from Brazil and Australia. The beauti-
ful 1 black birds at the north end are the Satin Birds.

CASE 6.
Fishes.

CASE 7.

EAf.T SIDE. Humming Birds from Chili, Brazil, &o.

WEST SIDE Upper Shelf. Kingfishers frjm the Sandwich and Cape de Verde Islands,
Australia, Malacca, Brazil, &c...Goat Suckers or Night Jars. ..Great Ibyan of Brazil.
The Kingfishers, of all British birds, have the most brilliant plumage. The classic name of this beautiful



THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION. 61

bird was Halcyon, and the phrase "Halcyon Days," as applied to times of unusual prosperity, is said to have
been derived from the notion, for which there was no foundation, that the bird hatched its eggs in a floating
nest, and that during its incubation there was always a calm at sea.

WEST SIDE Middle Shelf. Blue-winged Thrush. ..Sunbirds, representing in the Old World
the Humming Birds of the American Continent.

Of this group, distinguished by their long, slender bills, and by the curious structure of their tongues,
which are long, and usually divided into threads or filaments like a brush, it has been remarked that it is among
the most interesting of the animal world. Among those in the case may be enumerated the Hoopoes and Sun-
birds, the males of which have beautiful plumage, and sing agreeably; they are most common in the warm
regions of the Eastern Hemisphere; the Honey-Eaters of Australia, whose tongue is terminated by a bunch of
delicate filaments, admirably adapted for licking up the sugared sweets of the flower-cups; and the Creepers,
Nut-hatchers, Wrens, and other small birds that feed on insects, chiefly obtained by striking the bark of trees.
But far the most interesting of the tenuirostres are the exquisite little Humming Birds.

EAST SIDE. Megalophus of Brazil, very curious.... Fly Catchers. ..Bird of Paradise....
the Rifle Bird, &c.

Lower Shelf. Thrushes and Wrens from all parts of the world.. ..Red Toucan of Brazil,
very rare... Green and Blue Tanagers.

CASE 8.

Fishes.

CASE 9.

Parrots, inhabitants of all parts of the world except Europe. ...Parroquets, Cockatoos,
(large white birds;) Aracans, Toucans, Cuckoos, from New South Wales and Brazil princi-
pally. ...The Funereal Cockatoo is dressed in mourning suit. The Woodpecker of Brazil, on
the middle shelf, west side, is worthy of notice, also the Toucans and Aracans. On the
lower shelf are Trogons...Tamatia...Barbets, or Puff Birds.

CASE 10.

Fishes, mainly collected by Pacific Railroad and Mexican Boundory Expeditions.

CASE 11.

Kites... Hawks. ..Buzzards.. ..Falcons, the most courageous in proportion to their size of all
birds of prey.

The most remarkable is the Peregrine Falcon, formerly used in the sport of hawking. These falcons were
very expensive; the use of them was permitted only to persons of rank, and to injure one of their nests, even on
one's own grounds, was a crime severely punishable- Their power of wing is almost incredible. A case is re-
corded of a falcon flying 1.350 miles in 24 hours, or nearly sixty miles an hour. When flown at a heron or any
other bird, their plan was to chase the bird, mount above it, and then swoop down upon it. To do this in. a
proper manner they required training.

The beautiful birds at the north end with long tails are the Peacock Trogons. At the same
end, east side, is the Caracara Eagle. On the lower shelf are Owls from Australia, Brazil,
&c. The one with wings extended, is from Malacca.

CASE 12.

Fishes.

Table Case, between Cases 11 and 13, is filled with Eggs of Eagles, Hawks, Owls, Wood-
peckers, Cuckoos, &c.

CASE 13.

Fishes. Observe the singular Hippocampus^ or Sea-Horse, from Ofa Point Comfort, Va.
Also the same from California.

At the EAST EXD OF THE HALL we see two cases containing Birds and Animals, mounted
by the skilful taxidermist, J. G. Bell, of N. Y., and exhibited by him at the World's Fair,
as specimens of his art.

The DOOR leads to the taxidermist's or preparation room, where Mr. C. Drexler is en-
gaged in mounting animals for the Smithsonian Museum. Any persons having a pet bird
or animal which they desire to preserve, can have it beautifully mounted by Mr. Drexler,
at a moderate charge.

Ball struck by lightning.

This ball was attached to the top of a lantern placed on the top of the old dome of the Capitol, in which it was
proposed to use the Drummond light for illuminating the city. The experiment failed, and a stroke of
lightning left its mark on this ball, which is here exhibited.



62 THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION.

Cinnabar or Vermilion, the ore from which mercury or quicksilver is obtained.

This specimen, from California, weighs 400 pounds, is very rich in mercury, and was exhibited in the World's
Fair as a rample of the mineral wealth of the Pacific State. The mines of Almaden, in Spain, are the most cele-
brated. Mercury boils at 670 and becomes solid at 40 below zero.

CASE 14.

We have here a great collection of Rattlesnakes. Every species may be seen, and from
all parts of the country.

It was proposed, in the early days of our history, to adopt the rattlesnake as our national emblem, but the
eagle was selected in preference.

Window between Cases 14 and 15. Specimens of American Woods.

Table Case. Specimens of Palaeontology, or fossil remains of plants and animals dug
out of the earth.

These singular and interesting fossils are from Nebraska, a district called " Mauvaises Torres" or Bad Lands.
The valley is 90 miles in length and 30 in breadth. Its most depressed portion is 300 feet below the general
level of the surrounding country. All over the surface thousands of abrupt, irregular, prismatic, and columnar
masses are standing, extending to a height of one or two hundred feet. It resembles a large city. It is an im-
mense cemetery of extinct animals, the bottom of what was once an extensive lake. The specimens are Mam-
malia, and Chelonia or Turtles. There are two remarkable species of Rhinoceros differing from any remains of
this animal found in other parts of the globe. These are the first discovered in America. A full description of
these fossils has been written by Dr. Jos. Leidy, of Philadelphia, and published in the Smithsonian Contributions
to Knowledge.

CASE 15.

Serpents.

CASE 16.

EAST SIDE Upper Shelf. The most prominent object is (No. 43) the Bald Eagle or
White-headed Eagle. It has its wings extended.

Benjamin Franklin thus speaks : " For my part, I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen as the represent-
ative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character ; be does not get his living honestly. You may have
seen him perched on some dead tree, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labors of the Fishing
Hawk ; and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to his nest for the support of its
mate and young ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him. With all this injustice, he is never
in good case, but like those among men who live by sharping and robbing, he is generally poor. Besides he is
a rank coward ; the little King-Bird, not bigger than a Sparrow, attacks him boldly, and drives him out of the
district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America, who
have driven all the King-Birds from our country."

Next in order are Duck Hawks... Black-capped Hawks... Prairie Falcons. ..Pigeon Hawks...
Sparrow Hawks.

The Sparrow Hawk was in high estimation among the Egyptians; and their god Osiris was worshipped under
this name.

Middle Shelf. No. 39, The Golden Eagle, or the Ring-tailed Eagle.

The Golden Eagle is held by the American Indians, as it is by almost every other people, to be an emblem of
might and courage ; and the young Indian warrior glories in his eagle plume as the most honorable ornament
with which he can adorn himself. A warrior will exchange a valuable horse for the tail-feathers of a single
eagle.

Swainson's Hawk. ..Brown, Baird's, Red-shouldered, Red-bellied, Broad-winged Hawks.

Lower Shelf. OWLS, rapacious nocturnal birds, inhabiting all parts of the world except

Australia. There are specimens of the Barn, Prairie, Burrowing, Pigmy, Short-eared,

Long-eared, Saw-whet, Snowy, Great Horned, Mottled, Great Gray, Barred, Sparrow, and

other Owls.

The Burrowing Owl is the constant companion of the Prairie Dog, (see case 30,) and lives in perfect harmony
with him in his underground quarters.

" Looking at some of these wise-looking birds, with their big round heads, docked bodies, and goggle eyes, one
could almost believe the story of the cockney sportsman, who, having shot something that he saw flying over-
head, as he and a companion were passing through a churchyard in the evening, cried out in horror as he picked
it up fluttering beside a tombstone, " Oh, Jack, I have shot a cherub!"

CASE 16.

WEST SIDE Upper Shelf. Blue-backed, Sharp-shinned, and other Hawks.... The Bald
Eagle.

Middle Shelf. American Bald Eagle. ..Western Red-tailed Hawk, the most abundant
species west of the Rocky mountains. ..Rough-legged Hawk. ..Black, Marsh, and Sparrow
Hawks. ..The Golden Eagle, very rare. This bird preys on lambs, fawns, &c,

Lower Shelf. Turkey Buzzard... Mexican, White-tailed, Swallow-tailed, Marsh, Fish,



THE SMITSSON1AN INSTITUTION. 68

and other Hawks. ..Mississippi Kite. ..Black Kite. ..Gray Sea Eagle... Northern Sea Eagle...
the California Vulture, the largest species in Western United States.

Four of these Vultures were seen to drag off the body of a grizzly bear weighing 200 pounds, a distance of
six hundred feet. It is inferior in size only to the gigantic Condor of South America.

CASE 11.

Serpents.

CASE 18.

EAST SIDE Upper Shelf. Red and yellow-shafted Flickers. ..Chuck-Will's- Widow...
Whip-poor-will. ..Wood, and other Pewees... Olive-sided and other Fly-Catchers, which catch
their insect prey flying. ..King Birds.

The Scissor-tail or Swallow-tailed Fly-Catcher or the Texas Bird of Paradise, is an exquisitely beautiful and
graceful bird.

Middle Shelf. Swallows. ..Thrushes... Warblers. ..Stone Chat, &c.

Lower Shelf. Finches... Sparrows... Cross-bills... Oregon Snow-Bird. ..Buntings.

WEST SIDE Upper Shelf. Cuckoos. ..Woodpeckers. ..Sapsuckers... Humming Birds.

The feathers of the Red-shafted Woodpecker are highly prized by the Indians on account of their beauty and
rarity. They ornament their head dresses with them.

Middle Shelf. Warblers. ..Red Birds. ..Tanagers. Notice especially the California Ant-
eating Woodpecker.

Found in every portion of the country. They are very gay and sociable, and make a great deal of noise. In
the fall this species has the curious and peculiar habit of laying up provisions against the inclement season.
Small 'round holes are dug in the bark of the pine and oak, into each one of which Ls inserted an acorn, and so
tightly is it fitted or driven in that it is with difficulty extracted. The bark ol the pine trees, when thus filled,
presents at a short distance the appearance of being studded with brass headed nails. Stowed away in large
quantities in this manner, tLe acorns not only supply the wants of the Woodpeckers, but the Squirrels, Mice,
and Jays avail themselves likewise of the fruits of its provident labor. The nest is hollowed out from the
body of a tree or some decayed branch, and varies from 6 inches to 2 feet in depth. The eggs, 4 or 5 in number,
of a pure white, are placed at the bottom of this cavity, resting on the soft bed of dust and chips which
have there fallen during the labor of excavation.

Lower Shelf. Nut-hatchers. ..Titmice. ..Wrens. ..Shrikes, or Butcher-Birds.

They derive their name from the manner in which they treat the insects, young frogs, &a, DJI which they
feed, often impaling them on thorns, and tearing them to pieces at their leisure.

Sky-larks. ..Grosbeaks. ..Finches. ..Creepers.

CASE 19.

Serpents.

CASE 20.

EAST SIDE Upper Shelf. Cardinal Grosbeaks.

The Cardinal Grosbeak is also called the " Red Bird" and the " Virginia Nightingale." With the most
brilliant plumage, it unites the sweetest song.

Middle Shelf. Partridges... Prairie Hens... Ptarmigans.

Large numbers of Ptarmigan are sent from Norway to London every winter. The birds are caught in snares,
and kept in a frozen state for the dealers. One dealer will buy and sell 50,000 Ptarmigans in a season.

Lower Shelf. Golden Plovers, or Bull-heads... King Plover. ..Piping Plover. ..The largest
is the Black-bellied.

These birds prefer bare places, ropose on the ground, and never perch at night or roost on trees. Inhabits the
entire American continent.

Kill-deer, one of the few birds of our country known to all classes and ages of the
people.

WEST SIDE Upper Shelf. Jays. ..Crows... Ravens.

The Raven is the largest bird of the crow kind. It is found in all climes, and its age is said at times to reach
one hundred years. It sustains equally the warmth of the sun at the equator and the cold of Iceland ; it feeds
on everything, and is highly venerated in some countries.

Orioles. ..Arctic Blue Bird.

Middle Shelf. Cock of the Plains, or Sage Cock. ..Oregon Cocks... Grouse.

Lower Shelf. Snipes... Buff-breasted Sandpiper, a little bird of remarkable and handsome
plumage. ..Marbled Godwit, a great favorite with sportsmen for shooting.. .Long-billed Cur-
lew, abundant in. every part of the United States,



64 THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION.

CASE 21.

Reptiles. ..Notice tbe Mexican Horned Frog.

This curious animal will live for months without food. Quite recently there were two live specimens received
at the Smithsonian Institution, in a letter from Huntsville, Texas. When taken out of the envelope, they ap-
peared flattened and lifeless, but a few moments in the fresh air made them very lively, and they can now be
seen in the taxidermist's room.

CASE 22.

EAST SIDE. Upper Shelf. Sea Ducks.

Middle Shelf. River Ducks. ..Mallard, or Green Head. ..Black Duck, the largest, and
finest for eating... Pintail, Sprigtail, English, Blue- winged, Green-winged, Red-breasted
Teals. ..Sora... Common Rail, or Ortolan.

The most abundant and most universally known bird of its genus, inhabiting the United States, and every-
where known as the " Bail." The specimens from California are precisely identical with others from the banks
of the Delaware river.
Lower Shelf. Wild Turkeys... Mexican Turkeys.

Among the most beautiful of known birds. The feathers exhibit reflections of metallic bronze, gold, green,
and blue.

WEST SIDE Upper Shelf. Shoveller. ..Spoon-bill Bald-pate. ...American and English

Widgeons.

Middle Shelf. Teals.

Lower Shelf. White Crane. ..Whooping Crane.
The White Crane is one of the rarest birds to be found in collections.
Sand-hill or Brown Crane, or Stork, from California.

In the early settlement of that country, one of these cranes sold from $16 to $18 in the San Francisco market,
to take the place of the turkey at the Christmas dinner.

CASE 23.
Frogs.

Here are also the Hyla, or Tree-Frogs, which have the power of walking; on polished surfaces, and of attaching
themselves by their feet to, and walking with their bodies suspended on the under side of. the smoothest leaves.

CASE 24.

EAST SIDE Upper Shelf. The Gulls. ..The Laughing Gull... Franklin's Rosy Gull....
Hooded, Bonaparte's, Kittiwake, and Yellow-billed Gu'ls.

The most beautiful are known by the dark-colored hood or cowl which envelopes the head in summer.

Middle Shelf. Fishing Ducks. ..Goosander... Sheldrake, or Fish Ducks. ..Red-breasted
Merganser... Smew.

Lower Shelf. American Geese... Canada Goose... Hutchins' Goose... Brant.

WEST SIDE Upper Shelf. The Terns. ..Marsh, Caspian, Royal, Elegant, Cabot's, Havell's,
Sooty, Arctic, Roseate, and other Terns,

Mostly found on the sea-coast and bays, are much on the wing, and are remarkable for their easy and buoyant
flight.

The Frigate Pelican, or Man-of-War Bird.

Its power of flight is not excelled by any other bird . Very tyrannical.

Middle' Shelf . Fishing Ducks.

Lower Shelf. Rough-billed and Brown Pelicans. The American Swan, equally abund-
ant on all parts of the continent. The young bird is brown. ...Trumpeter Swan, very large
and powerful. ..Cormorants.

PELICAN. "In the Gulf of California, a small black gall follows the pelican incessantly on its flight, and as
th< lat*er plunged into the sea after fish, the gull would immediately alight by its side. The pelican, emprging
from vufc water to discharge the fluid collected in the gular sac, would drop its bill, when the fish partially pro-
truding from between its mandibles, the gull would seize upon one and drag it out, as his share ol the booty.
Although this feat is of hourly occurrence, the pelican never offers the least resistance, or shows any anger or
impatience at the intrusion or impudence of his little neighbor, who, like a tax-gatherer, follows him through
life, an evil inevitable."

CASE 25.

Frogs.

CASE 26.

This case contains a number of interesting specimens. No. 67, Alligator from Florida...
68, Sea-cow from the Amazon river. ..69, 70, 71, 75, 79, Sea-Leopards, or Seals.
The brain of the seal is well-developed, and the degree of sagacity and attachment shown in domestication for



THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION. 65

they are very easily tamed, and taught to perform tricks is. evidence of superior intelligence. Cuvier tells
offtieal who would raise himself erect, and take a staff in his flippers, like a sentinel. At the word of command,
he would lie down on his right side or his left, according to order, or tumble head over heels. He gave a paw
when requested, like a dog, and protruded his lips for a ki>s.
The Roman Emperor Augustus always earned the skin of a sea-leopard as a protection against lightning.

Nos. 72, 73, 76, Albatrosses, the largest sea-birds known.

They will swallow a salmon of 4 or 5 pounds -weight. They never attack other sea-birds.

" If the Eagle is called the king of birds, the Albatross ought to be called the queen, so queen-like and stately
is her course on the wing, and so dignified, mild, and unfearing is her expression when captured. When on the
wing it is the very beau-ideal of beauty and grace. This glorious bird is the most beautiful and lovable object
of the animate world which the adventurer meets with in all the South Pacific." Rev. H. T. Cheever.

No. 74, Saw-fish. ..No. 78, Skull of a Sea Leopard. ..No. 80, American Beaver, a splendid
specimen of this interesting animal, whose habits and history are familiar to all.. ..No. 81 is
a part of a tree cut by the Beaver. ..No. 82, Porpoise or Sea Hog.

Porpoises swim in shoals and drive the mackerel, herrings, and salmon before them, pursuing them up the
bays, with the same eagerness as a pack of dogs after a hare. In some places they almost darken the sea as they
rise above water to take breath. In fine weather they leap, roll, and tumble about in the most sportive manner.
The oil procured from the fat surrounding the body of the Porpoise is of the purest kind, and the skin, when
tanned and dressed, is used for wearing apparel, and for coverings for carriages. As an article of food, the flesh
is highly esteemed. It is the great dainty of the Greenlanders, and he quaffs its oil as the most delicious of
draughts.

The large fish near the east side of the case is a STURGEON, and the one near it, with the
fin on. its lack, is a SHARK, both caught in the Potomac river.

CENTRE OF THE HALL, EAST END.

Case of specimens of Silver, Lead, and Copper Ores, from the mines of the Sonora Ex-
ploring and Mining Company, Tubac, Gadsden's Purchase, New Mexico... Specimens from
the mines of New Granada. ..Gold, Silver, Galena, &c., from various parts of the world.

Raised Model, representing the Geology of Switzerland.

The large case contains a magnificent and unique collection of Birds' Nests and Eggs...
Notice especially in the upper part, the Oriole Nests. ..Marsh Wren Nests. ..The green eggs
of the Catbird. ..Eggs of Chuck- Will's- Widow.. ..Humming Birds' Nests, very rare and
valuable. These nests readily bring a high price at any time... .Night Hawk's Eggs. ...In
the lower part, the Pelican Nest and Eggs. ..Loon Eggs.. .Alligator and Ostrich Eggs. ..The
largest egg is that of the Giant Fossil Bird, of Madagascar.

Though probably extinct, the species may be in existence in the unknown interior of the Island, as is be-
lieved by the natives. This egg is 12}^ inches long by % inches wide, the shell one-tenth of an inch thick.

Notice in this part of the hall the Meteorite described on page 23 of this volume.
Next visit the WEST END OF THE HALL, and commence on the south side at

CASE 28.

No. 1, Wolverine or Glutton, from Salt Lake, very fierce and cunning. ..No. 2, Jaguar, or
American Tiger.

The following narrative shows the character of this animal : " In 1825, near Santa Fe, N. M., a lay brother,
after having made confession and concluded his prayers, entered the sacristy. There he was terror-stricken on
opening the door and seeing himself face to face with a Jagnar. In a moment the poor man was in the clutches of
the beast, which dragged its victim into a back corner to finish the bloody work. The guardian of the convent
hearing the noise hurried to the room, and had scarcely become aware of what had happened when the animal
leaped upon his second victim and despatched him. After a while several other men attempted to open the bloody
sacristy, but not without meeting a similar fate, for the first one opening the door was immediately slain. After he
had killed four victims, the roaring of the Jaguar attracted the people of the convent, and by boring a hole in the
door they finally succeeded in shooting the dreadful monster. The convent where this occurred is on the banks of
the Rio Bravo, which, after freshets, overflows the islands in front of the town, and all the animals living in the
thickets are driven up. This animal entered the garden of the convent, and thence, by a small door accidentally
left open, the sacristy."

No. 3, Three American Wild Cats, from the Sonorian Mountains near Fort Yuma...4,
Young Black Bear, from Warsaw, Illinois. ..5, Red Wild Cat, from Washington Territory...
6, Canada Lynx, from Medicine Bow Creek, near Fort Laramie...7, Grizzly Bear, from
Medicine Bow Creek, near Fort Laramie...8, Skin of Bush Goat, of Africa. ..9, Skin of Red
Buck Deer, of Africa. ..10, Black Orang-Outang, of Africa, female. ..11, Skull, hand, and
foot of the Chimpanzee, of Africa. ..12, Rope made from grass on the Gold Coast of Africa...
13, Sankywin Monkey, from Demarara, Guiana. ..14, Hooraway Monkey, from Demarara,
Guiana...l5, Ground Monkey. ..16, Ring-tail Monkey. ..17, Ground Monkey.

CASE 29.

Fishes from the China seas.



66 THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION.

CASE 30.

EAST SIDE Upper Shelf. Bats, from New South Wales, &c... Sloth, from British Guiana,
rare. ..Gophers, of California, etc., very destructive to the products of the farm and garden...


1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10

Online LibraryWilliam Jones RheesAn account of the Smithsonian Institution, its founder, building, operations, etc. prepared from the reports of Prof. Henry to the regents, and other authentic sources → online text (page 7 of 10)