Taxidermy

>> Monday, December 22, 2008

During my senior year in high school I finally did something I had contemplated for some time. I had read advertisements for several years that appeared in many different magazines concerning a correspondence course to learn taxidermy. I sent my money, which I believe was a whole $10.00, and began receiving my lessons. I had to invest in some equipment and supplies, which the school, J. W. Elwood’s Northwestern School of Taxidermy, also had available. I still have some of the items from the little tool kit I purchased, a pair of scissors and a scalpel. Some of the supplies I purchased were glass eyes of various sizes, potters clay, wire, paper-mache, and "wood wool" (which is also known as excelsior, which is very fine wood shavings used for packing, stuffing upholstery, etc.).

J. W. Elwood, who founded the school in 1903, was apparently trained as a taxidermist as a boy and taught his knowledge to many of his friends. He was encouraged to open a school. He believed he could teach the subject by mail just as effectively as he had done with his friends. Over the years hundreds of thousands learned the basics of taxidermy through his correspondence lessons. Although there are numerous advancements in many of the methods and procedures it remains the means by which many taxidermists got their start. As far as I can determine the school is no longer in existence.

The first exercise in the lessons was skinning birds, then it moved on to actually mounting a bird. One of my early attempts was a pigeon, which I kept for over 40 years. It was finally discarded before our move to Kentucky since it had become very dirty and the legs had been badly eaten by some kind of bugs. After working with birds the lessons moved on to small animals. I remember mounting a squirrel, a small ground hog, a mole and the head of a rabbit. Before moving on to bigger animals and other bigger projects I left home for college and never finished the course.



I haven't attempted any projects since, other than mounting the antlers from my deer on a cedar panel. Maybe not quite professional quality but I like them.



The photo above is of
the pigeon I mounted.

Below is pictured the deer antlers.

1 comments:

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