|Muff and tippet set composed of 4 Adult Herring Gulls|
Although millions of birds were sacrificed for plumage of late 19th and early 20th century feathered fashions the exhibit, FEATHERS: Fashion and the Fight for Wildlife, at the New-York Historical Society, reveals the overwhelming toll on birds and plumage, and the industry that embellished clothing and accessories.
THEN AND NOW: The faint at heart may find the insensitive plunder of birds for adornment. on view, a heart wrenching reminder about the time society viewed feathered fashion with reckless disregard and how the plume trade had decimated many American bird species to point of near extinction. Image Left: Accessory Set, American, including muff and tippet, 1880-90, Herring Gulls, feathers, silk. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection, 2009. Right: John James Audubon, Herring Gull. Watercolor, graphite pastel, black chalk, and black ink with touches of gouache, white lead pigment, and glazing on paper. Purchased for the New-York Historical Society by public subscription from Mrs. John J. Audubon, 1863.
However, activists soon recognized the urgency for protection and the New-York Historical Society's exhibition, on view through July 15, 2018, examines the circumstances that inspired early environmental activists to champion the protection of endangered birds. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 was one of the first federal laws to address the environment, prohibiting the hunting, killing, trading, and shipping of migratory birds, The exhibition is part of the Year of the Bird, centennial celebration of the Act organized by National Geographic, the National Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab ofOrnithology, and Birdlife international.
|Women Flaunt the Feather Craze in Killer Millinery|
|Activist> Florence Merriam Bailey|
The exhibition concludes with 14 watercolors by Audubon (least we forget he, too, killed many birds for his studies) including the Roseate Spoonbill, whose pink feathers were used in fans sold in the Florida tourist trade, and the Great Egret, one of the chief victims of the turn-of-the-century plume hunters that became the symbol of the Audubon Society.
Even before the Federal Act earlier concern for bird protection was the concern in New Jersey. In the April 18, 2018 issue of The New York Times, the feature ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY. reported a memorable headline: "MUST WEAR BIRDLESS HATS,"
March 24, 1910. The New Jersey General Assembly passed a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for women to wear the feathers, wings or bodies of birds as accoutrement, a practice that was devastating several species. "Spring styles for New Jersey women must undergo a change at once or many women will be in jail." the article noted.
The Year of the Bird pays it forward and examines how our changing environment is driving dramatic losses among birds species around the globe even today and highlights what we can do to help bring birds back.
For nature lovers, several walking tours of Central Park bring Audubon's paintings to life.
May 5 and June 2 to name a few. Refer to the Museum's website for further details.
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