Condor Hunters, Agents, Collectors

[The following was originally published as a chapter in: "Nine Feet from Tip to Tip: the California Condor through History." (Gresham, Oregon: Symbios Books, 2012). If you would like a free copy (PDF) of the entire book,send me an e-mail.]

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In the last two decades of the 19th century, the human assault on the California condors increased dramatically. For the 100 years prior to 1880, I found approximately 100 records of condor mortality. For 1880 to 1899, I have 167 records. Random shooting (for sport or curiosity) still ranked high as a mortality factor, accounting for about 30 per cent of the records. The major increase was in killing or capturing condors for what might be termed the collector trade: providing condors either in response to a specific request (e.g., for a zoo, public museum, or individual), or killing condors with the expectation that someone would want to buy them. Contracts from public institutions were still relatively uncommon (accounting for less than 10 per cent of the records during this period); killing on speculation had become the greatest source of mortality (40 per cent of the total) [1].

Before 1880, most mortalities involving condors were individual events. (A person shot a condor for sport, but he did not often shoot a second one. Someone collected a condor for a museum, but seldom collected more than one. A museum requested a condor specimen, but usually not more than one or two.) Exceptions to this were Alexander Taylor, who acted as agent for John Gurney to acquire a number of condors in the 1850s (Chapter 8), and Colbert Canfield, who located condors (both alive and dead) for several institutions in the 1860s (Chapter 10). No one had a similar role in the 1870s. In the 1880s and 1890s, three types developed: hunters who specialized in killing or capturing condors; people who acted as agents between the hunters and the collectors who wanted condors; and collectors who wanted to acquire more than one or two condor specimens for themselves.

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Henry Wetherbee Henshaw (1850-1930) traveled throughout California in 1875 as a member of the Wheeler Survey, collecting natural history information. He returned to California and Oregon a number of times with the Bureau of American Ethnology, pursuing his interests in zoology, archeology, and Indian linguistics. He had been trying to acquire a condor specimen since at least early 1883, as noted in a letter to John Bidwell (Chico, California) in April of that year [2]: "Please accept my thanks for your efforts on my behalf. Whether successful or unsuccessful I fully appreciate your kindness. The fact that the Vulture once so common has become rare, and that it is doomed at no very distant day to complete extinction has added much to my desire to procure specimens before it is too late." Bidwell could not obtain a specimen for him and, in his memoirs, Henshaw wrote [3]: "One of the notable California birds I particularly desired to see was the California Condor... Though I kept a sharp look-out for the bird [in 1875], it was not until several years later (1884) that I enjoyed the sight of a live vulture. While at the San Antonio Mission, in what is now Monterey County, September 27, engaged on Indian work, I saw four individuals circling about high in air and a notable sight they were. Finding that they were still not uncommon in the region I hired a hunter to obtain specimens, and in a few days was gratified by the possession of three. Two of them I measured and weighed. One weighed twenty pounds, and had a spread of wing of eight feet, nine inches; the other weighed twenty-three pounds with a spread of nine feet one inch. Females are no doubt still larger. It is a pleasure to record that at this time of writing [1920] the condor is still extant in several of its native haunts, though apparently not so numerous as when I obtained my specimens."

Henshaw did not name his condor hunter in his memoir, but museum records show that it was Frank Blas McCormack. McCormack was born about 1861 in Santa Clara County, California, second son of Lewis McCormack and Catherine Forbes [4]. In 1871 the family had moved to the San Antonio area of southeastern Monterey County. Frank McCormack spent most of the rest of his life in that part of the county, around San Antonio and later in King City. He died in Salinas 21 May 1953, and was buried in the Pleyto Cemetery near Lake San Antonio. He had three children with his first wife, Mary Govers (who died about 1902), and two with his second wife Mary (Carbajal) Bracisco, who brought an additional two children to the family from her first marriage. Some of the McCormack descendants still live in the area.

Frank Blas McCormack, first to be paid for collecting California

condors. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Pierce Taylor.

An older Frank Blas McCormack in Monterey County "condor country,"1930. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Pierce Taylor.

The inscription on Frank McCormack's gravestone at Pleyto labels him as miner and hunter, and from censuses and voting records it is clear he spent his life in the outdoors working for local ranchers, mining, farming, and supporting his family however he could. According to Suzanne Pierce Taylor, a great-granddaughter, he became a proficient hunter in his teens, and later had a number of contracts with Bay Area markets to supply wild game. "The season he hunted with Barney Butte until October they took a great deal of dried meat to San Jose and sold it for 15 cents a pound. They also sold about 185 hides to a San Jose tannery... Some of Frank's customers were San Francisco's finest restaurants. They paid him top prices for wild game..” [5]. Gold excitement in the nearby Los Burros area in 1887 attracted him to mining, an activity he pursued through his lifetime in Monterey County and also in central Nevada and northern California [6].

About the time Frank McCormack was hired by Henshaw to hunt condors, he was still unmarried and employed as a laborer on a ranch at San Antonio [7]. There appears to be no record of how Henshaw came to hire him, but chances are good that it was through the agency of James Alonzo Forbes. Forbes, foster brother of Frank McCormack's mother Catherine [8], was an attorney and justice of the peace for San Antonio Township. He acted as local interpreter and translator for Henshaw in 1884 [9]. It would have been logical for Henshaw to ask Forbes for the name of a condor hunter, and for Forbes to identify his nephew Frank McCormack.

Henry Henshaw loaned two of his condor specimens to the U. S. National Museum in December 1884, "for exhibition in the mounted collection [10]." The third apparently was not salvageable as a skin, and Henshaw donated a part of its skeleton to the National Museum [11]. Robert Ridgway requested more specimens for the museum, and in March 1885, Frank McCormack shipped five condor skins to Washington, D. C., in care of Henshaw [12]. The five skins and the skeletal parts are still in the National Museum; the two loaned mounts were returned to Henshaw. One went into the collection of his friend, William Brewster, and is now in the Museum of Comparative Zoology (Cambridge, Massachusetts). Henshaw sold his entire bird collection to the British Museum in 1885, and the final condor went to England, and is now in the Natural History Museum at Tring.

Frank Blas McCormack was the first person known to have been hired to collect a number of condors. There appears to be no record of how much money he received for his endeavors. In the 1890s, agents selling to museums and private collectors were being paid $20 to $30 for each condor skin. The hunters probably were given only a few dollars per bird, although McCormack likely did better than that with the skins that he sent direct to the National Museum. He is not known to have killed condors after March 1885, but it is possible that some later Monterey County specimens were taken by him [13].

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The first person known to have acted as an agent between condor hunters and those who wanted to acquire condor specimens was Frank Stephens (1849-1937). Stephens' early years were spent in New York, Illinois, and Kansas, his move to California in 1875-1876 being partially financed by collecting birds along the way for Charles E. Aiken of Colorado [14]. He lived at various locations in southern California and Arizona before settling in San Bernardino County, California, in 1881. As had been the case on his first arrival in California, the return from Arizona to California in 1881 was partially financed by bird collecting, this time for William Brewster [15].

Other than a doubtful sighting of a California condor in far southeastern Arizona in March 1881 [16], Stephens appears not to have observed condors until 1886, when he recorded them near San Bernardino in April and June [17]. His interest in condors, and his opportunity to acquire them, developed as a result of his move in 1887 to Witch Creek in the Cuyamaca Mountains of San Diego County [18]. There, between 1888 and 1890, at least five condors passed through Stephens' hands. Two more were procured by him in 1899, and it's likely he was involved with two other specimens in 1900-1901. He also had a hand in collecting and selling two condor eggs [19].

I have found no indication that Stephens personally hired condor hunters, or that he had advance orders for condor specimens that he sought to fill. It appears that his collecting and selling were opportunistic. In the 1880s, there were only about 500 residents in the Witch Creek-Santa Ysabel-Ballena area of the San Diego mountains, and it wouldn't have taken long for everyone to hear that there was a taxidermist-bird collector living there. Killing of the condors he received also seemed random and opportunistic, with no overt motive to acquire the birds for sale. Frank Boring, a carpenter living in Julian, California, shot two; a third was killed at Julian by a William Decker [20]. Jeff Swycaffer, stagecoach driver, reportedly shot one with a pistol from the moving stage [21]. Massimo Morelli, a vaquero at Santa Ysabel, captured a condor with a lasso [22], and an unidentified Indian shot another [23]. As far as I can tell, Stephens only shot one condor, one found sick or injured that he later dispatched [24]. His 1886 field notes reveal that he shot twice at condors near San Bernardino, but failed to hit either [25].

Among those to whom Frank Stephens sold condors were William Brewster (Cambridge, Massachusetts), George Frean Morcom (Los Angeles, California), and the natural history specimen dealer Charles K. Worthen (Warsaw, Illinois). The relatively short time span covered by his condor collecting activities was not unusual among agents. Condors became scarce locally, condor hunters became unavailable, or the agents moved on to other pursuits. In Stephens' case, it is probably explained by his change in emphasis from birds to mammals. He spent almost all of 1894 away from San Diego, collecting mammals throughout California [26]. Much of his time through the late 1890s was spent in pursuit of mammals, and in drafting the manuscript for the book, "California Mammals," finally published in 1906 [27]. By then, condors were scarce in San Diego County; demand for condor specimens was high, but the supply had to come from other regions.

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Twelve years after Frank McCormack collected condors in Monterey County, the area figured again in organized condor hunting. The principals this time were two men from Berryessa, Santa Clara County, California: Frank Holmes and Rollo Beck.

Frank Henry Holmes (1865-1924), son of Ahira Holmes and Emily C. Foye, was born in San Francisco, where his father had served as principal of several schools and was just completing a three-year term as the first Principal of the State Normal School [28]. Ahira Holmes retired from the education profession after 25 years at schools in California and Massachusetts, then spent 10 or 15 years as a stock broker in the San Francisco Bay area [29]. The family record between 1880 and 1890 is imprecise. About 1883, the family moved to Sebastopol, Sonoma County, California, and engaged in fruit growing there for three or four years [30]. This is borne out by records of Frank Holmes' bird collecting, showing considerable activity at Sepastopol in 1884, 1885 and 1886. However, Frank Holmes was also farming at Rio Vista, Solano County, during that time period, as shown by his bird records, and by letters from him cited in agricultural publications [31]. A further examination of realty and agricultural records would likely show that the family had farming businesses in both locations concurrently. About 1886, they moved south to San Jose, where they continued to grow fruit trees. Over the next 30 years, Frank Holmes developed and operated a major orchard and fruit packing business. He married Hattie Alma Lake in September 1890, and they produced two sons, both of whom eventually pursued farming interests in Santa Clara County and also in the San Joaquin Valley [32].

Farming and fruit packing did not command all of Frank Holmes' attentions. Automobiles attracted his early interest, and he reportedly owned the second car sold in the Santa Clara Valley, a Stanley Steamer, in 1899. He gained local fame in 1900 by making the first automobile trip over the mountains between San Jose and Santa Cruz, and a few weeks later drove across Pacheco Pass to Los Banos in the San Joaquin Valley [33]. Also in 1900, he and his brother Arthur E. Holmes became the first to drive a car into Yosemite Valley, "a trip of almost 2,000 miles without a breakdown, going in and coming back on his own wheels and with his power [34]." His automotive interest became more practical when he became involved in the building of the Sunset car in San Francisco about 1905. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire completely destroyed the Sunset plant, and in 1907 the operation was moved to San Jose, incorporating under the name Victory Motor Car Company, with Frank Holmes as president and general manager [35]. After the company was dissolved, Holmes continued selling automobiles and automotive supplies, and in 1913 became distributor of Federal trucks, just then growing popular with California farmers [36].

Frank Holmes' business successes and general renown in the Santa Clara Valley undoubtedly figured into his later involvement with California condors, but his early interest in birds dated back to his youth in Oakland. As early as May 1883, he was collecting occasional bird specimens in Berkeley, some of them in company with Theodore S. Palmer, two years younger than Holmes and then a student at the University of California [37]. Perhaps Palmer introduced him to bird collecting [38]; in any event, by 1884 Holmes was collecting regularly at Rio Vista and Sebastopol. His observations of Sebastopol birds were cited 64 times in Belding's "Land birds of the Pacific District" [39]. He also was quoted by Walter Bryant and C. A. Keeler regarding his bird and mammal observations in northern California [40]. Although not a major figure in California ornithology in the 1880s, he was obviously becoming well-known.

After moving to San Jose about 1886, Frank Holmes' interest in personally collecting birds appears to have waned, and he is only known to have collected a few birds each year after that [41]. However, his own trophies were supplemented with other stuffed birds and natural history items. A grand-daughter recalled [42] that in the Holmes house there were "six big cases of birds... My favorites are a snowy owl and a big flamingo... There was also a polar bear rug, a grizzly bear rug, and many mounted heads of animals. My seat at the table was under a moose head..." Holmes also maintained a menagerie of live birds which included at various times the condor "Ben Butler" [Chapter 12], a golden eagle, a bald eagle, two red-tailed hawks, a peregrine falcon, a turkey vulture, and a raven [43]. He apparently traveled in conjunction with his bird collection, as he is credited with taking a series of photographs of the stuffed birds of Harry E. Austen in Halifax, Nova Scotia [44]. He became a member of the Cooper Ornithological Club in 1894 [45], but resigned in 1902 [46]. Although he is mentioned in a number of publications, I have only found two articles written by him, a report on "Ben Butler" [47] and a record of unusual waterfowl [48].

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Hired by Frank Holmes in the late 1880s to pick fruit in his Berryessa orchards was a young man named Rollo Howard Beck (1870-1950). The son of blacksmith Thomas Beck and Laura Vance, Rollo Beck was born in the Los Gatos area of Santa Clara County, and had moved with his family to Berryessa about 1876 [49]. A high school dropout, Beck reportedly became interested in birds by observing Holmes' living and stuffed collections, and was taught bird identification and taxidermy by Holmes [50]. This story is almost certainly a simplification of history, as Holmes could not have hired him before 1886, and Beck had collected at least one bird as early as June 1885 (Specimen 125326, common nighthawk, U. S. National Museum). Nevertheless, Beck and Holmes became good friends, and Beck went on to a long career studying and collecting birds. He became famous in ornithological circles for his collecting trips to the Galapagos Islands and to the South Pacific, New Guinea, and Peru [51], and infamous for shooting nine of the 11 last remaining Guadalupe Island caracaras [52].

The involvement of Holmes and Beck in the California condor specimen trade apparently started with Holmes' acquisition of "Ben Butler" in 1896. There is no specific record of how "Ben Butler" was acquired, but likely the bird was taken from its nest by a young man living in Monterey County's Big Sur area. Henry Hopken, son of Henry and Johanna Hopken, was born about 1880, probably in Germany, before his family immigrated to the United States in 1882. In July 1898, Rollo Beck had written to William Brewster in regard to Henry Hopken, that Beck "had camped at his place in Monterey Co. two or three seasons" [53]. One might speculate that on one of these visits Beck had mentioned that Holmes might like a live condor for his aviary. In any event, Hopken and Holmes did meet, and eventually Hopken supplied him with six condor specimens. Their condor collecting relationship might have continued beyond those half dozen birds, but in June 1898 Hopken was shot to death in San Jose. The shooter, a Milpitas, California, constable (who was later shown to have been inebriated, and so was convicted of manslaughter) suspected Hopken of stealing his coat and coach whip, and pursued and killed him. Hopken was shown to be innocent of any crime; in fact, Frank Holmes had played an indirect role in the incident. According to coroner Lincoln Cothran, Hopken "came to San Jose a few days ago. He had a unique occupation. He captured condors and eagles which he sold to societies and people who are interested in these rare birds. He brought two condors and an eagle to this city when he arrived a few days ago and sold them to Frank Holmes, an orchardist near Berryessa. He traded the birds for a horse, and it was intention to ride home today by way of Santa Cruz." Hopken had been with Cothran less than half an hour before the shooting, when Hopken "started to walk to Mr. Holmes' place, which is about six miles from town." That was when he was killed [54].

Holmes' acquisition, and subsequent selling, of California condors was probably purely opportunistic: he found a source of condors, and found a buyer. He had placed an ad in the June 1898 Osprey, offering two condor skins for sale [55], and eventually sold five skins to the U. S. National Museum [56]. Other than the trade of condor skins for a horse, I don't know what Hopken was paid for his specimens. Holmes sold two to the National Museum for $25 each, and two for $20 each. The fifth, an inferior skin, was given to the museum for free. I haven't been able to determine if the National Museum sale was in response to the Osprey advertisement, or a separate transaction, but only one of the Hopken birds was not included in the sale to the National Museum. The sixth Hopken bird was sold by Rollo Beck to William Brewster (see below).

Frank Holmes was an avid hunter, particularly of waterfowl [57], and also participated in shooting tournaments [58], but he probably never shot a condor [59]. Apparently, he did not keep a condor specimen for his personal collection; at least, none were included with the mounted specimens that were presented after his death to San Jose State College, and subsequently transferred to the nature center at nearby Alum Rock Park [60].

Frank Holmes with a California condor, probably one of those obtained from Henry Hopken.

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Rollo Beck's earliest interest in California condors seems to have been in condor eggs, not skins. In 1894, he corresponded with Charles Bendire at the U. S. National Museum regarding the worth of condor eggs [61], and in 1895 discussed with Harry Taylor (in New York City at the time) the possibilities of finding condor eggs [62]. He made an unsuccessful trip into the Monterey County mountains in April 1895 [63], and was still expressing eagerness to acquire an egg in April 1899 [64]. His hopes were apparently realized in 1900, because he was offering to sell two condor eggs to Georg Girtanner (St. Gallen, Switzerland) late that year. Girtanner did not buy them, and I haven't determined what eventually happened to them [65].

Whereas Frank Holmes' trafficking in condor specimens was relatively passive, Rollo Beck actively sought out condor hunters and condor purchasers. In April 1898, Beck offered two of the Hopken birds to William Brewster. Brewster accepted the offer, but something delayed the shipment [66]. During the delay, Beck hired a second condor hunter who eventually supplied him with six or more condors (probably as many as ten). That man, Simon Castro (1851-ca 1923), spent his life in the Jolon area of Monterey County, and was a neighbor and distant relative by marriage of Frank Blas McCormack: Simon's wife, Sarah Govers, was aunt to McCormack's wife, Maria Govers [67]. Simon's occupation at various times was blacksmith, vaquero, farmer, and rancher. I don't know how Beck first contacted Castro, possibly on Beck's April 1895 egg hunting trip to Monterey County. By early June 1898, Castro was on the job, as he wrote to Beck [68]: "I write a few lines to let you know that I start today to get them birds for you and I will send them as soon as I can. I don't know how many I am going to send. I am going to send as many as I can, and when I send them please let me know right away how many more you want."

Castro was able to immediately shoot one condor for Beck, and Beck sent this adult male to Brewster in lieu of the earlier proffered birds, promising to send more as they were obtained [69]. Within a week, Castro had collected two more condors. These specimens were in poor condition, apparently because Beck had not given adequate instruction on how to preserve them. Castro wrote [70]: "I am sorry to know that the birds were in bad condition. When I killed them I boxed them as quick as possible. I think that the insides should be taken out. I could take them out if you just tell me how, and send me something to put inside so the birds will not spoil... the insides should be taken out for the reason that the Station [Jolon, where Castro lived] is about 60 miles from the place where I kill them, and it takes a few hours to get them there." However, the skins were salvageable and they were sent to Brewster, along with one of the Hopken birds that had been offered in April [71]. Brewster accepted them, but commented that "the skins are not up to the one you sent before" [72].

Several California condors were killed in Monterey County in the fall of 1898. These specimens still exist in various museums. It seems likely that most of them were Castro-Beck birds, because no one else is known to have been working in the area during that period. However, the next condor that can with certainty be attributed to them was not taken until January 1899. On 3 January, Simon Castro wrote [73]: "I start today to get some birds for you. I have been occupied in other work, that is the reason I could not send before. I can go now and kill some. They are coming now almost every day. I have seen a few. Please let me know how many birds you want right away and how long you can wait for them." In the next year, Castro killed at least four condors for Beck. They were offered to William Brewster, but he was no longer interested, and Beck distributed them to other buyers.

As is the case with other condor hunters, I haven't found any records that show how much Beck paid Simon Castro for the birds he shot. Beck received $25 each for most of the birds he sold, with a high payment of $30 for one adult and $18 for a young bird in "poor plumage."

After 1900, only a few condors are known to have been killed in Monterey County, and sightings of condors there also decreased dramatically [74]. Rollo Beck's activities took him away from condor habitat, and no agent worked that area after him. Emphasis on condors shifted south, where condors were easier to find.

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The first of the "condor people" of the 20th century was Arthur Wilcox. The son of Horace H. Wilcox and Olivia Richardson, he was born in Denton County, Texas, in October 1860, in what turned out to be a brief detour for his family between Henderson County, Illinois, and Butler County, Kansas [75]. If the stories are true, his father - an outspoken Unionist in the opening days of the Civil War - quickly wore out his welcome in Texas, and barely escaped into Kansas ahead of the mobs [76]. In Kansas, Horace Wilcox ran a reported 1,000 head of cattle on the ranges of Butler and Chase counties, an operation in which Arthur Wilcox undoubtedly participated as he grew older.

On 1 November 1881, Arthur married Lillian Heckenlively, daughter of Jacob and Eliza Heckenlively of Chase County, Kansas. Arthur's and Lillian's names do not appear in the 1885 and 1890 Kansas state censuses, so presumably they moved out of state within a few years of their marriage. They were in San Luis Obispo County, California, by January 1888, when a son, Vincey Arthur Wilcox, was born. Apparently, they moved several times within the county, but dates and places are uncertain. By June 1900 they were living at Arroyo Grande, and Arthur was raising livestock as his father had before him [77].

Most individuals involved with California condors in the 19th and early 20th centuries had a particular interest or specialty. Frank McCormack and Simon Castro hunted condors for the money, but apparently had no other ties to the species. Rollo Beck, although an ornithologist, seemed to have no particular interest in condors beyond buying and selling them. Frank Holmes was principally a middleman between specimen procurers and collectors, but keeping "Ben Butler" and other birds in captivity seems to imply an interest beyond the mere monetary. E. B. Towne (Chapter 14) amassed condor specimens for himself, but apparently made no attempt to share information about them with anyone else. Arthur Wilcox was a little different breed, acting at various times as condor hunter, field agent for a biological supply house, middleman between hunter and collector, and sharer of condor information in print.

I've found nothing in the record that sheds light on how Arthur's interest in California condors developed. He had seen the live condor captured by Austin Hampton and Charles Taylor in early May 1896 [78], that was still alive in Arroyo Grande in June 1897 [79]. He probably read in the local newspaper that David Starr Jordan had written to Hampton about the bird, telling Hampton how rare and valuable it was. He may have been inspired by the editor's comment that "it would take a big sack of coin to buy the bird from Hampton now" [80]. In any event, in August 1900 Wilcox killed four California condors, two of which went immediately to the Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago, Illinois) and two to the Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Public Museum.

In 1903, Wilcox wrote [81]: "Some years ago the Field Columbia Museum asked for a couple of specimens, and as the price was fairly remunerative I outfitted with spring wagon and pack mules, hired a companion and started to secure the specimens." As Wilcox was unknown to condor collectors before 1900, and as there seems to have been no one in the region that might have given his name to a museum, one wonders how the Field Museum "asked for" the condors. Actually, from the paperwork still in existence, it appears that Wilcox killed the condors on speculation, then offered them to the Field Museum [82]. Correspondence in the archives of the Milwaukee Public Museum supports the idea that Wilcox approached both museums after he had the specimens in hand [83]. One wonders how a cattleman from a small community in central California made his decision who to contact to offer his specimens. Even more intriguing than the sales to Chicago and Milwaukee are the 1902 transactions with museums in Sofia, Bulgaria, and Copenhagen, Denmark, not the most obvious European museums for him to have contacted [84].

Between 1900 and 1905, Arthur Wilcox was involved in acquiring at least seven (and probably nine) condors by shooting, three live condors, and two condor eggs. He personally shot the six condors noted above, and purchased one from the boys who had shot it [85]. Of the living birds, he wrote that he was present when one was taken from its nest [86], but apparently he had no role in its ultimate delivery to the U. S. National Zoo. As described in Chapter 12, he acted as Charles K. Worthen's field agent in procuring the Bronx Zoo's first condor, but he was not involved in its capture. He sent a young condor to John E. Thayer (Lancaster, Massachusetts) in 1903, but his role in acquiring it is nowhere stated. Accompanying a photograph of a well-grown immature condor, he wrote [87]: "The bird shown here was captured when very young and is very gentle; he eats heartily and seems well satisfied with his surroundings. He has been sold to a gentleman at Lancaster, Mass., and will be in his new home by the time these lines are in print."

Although museum records show Arthur Wilcox as the collector of the two condor eggs that were in his possession, one was actually collected near Santa Barbara by William Gallaher, Arthur Ogilvy and William Edwards. Wilcox bought the egg from them for $45 [88]. Wilcox wrote about the second egg as if he had been present when it was taken, and photos of the egg and nest site were taken by Wilmot D. Wood, another Arroyo Grande resident, so Wilcox may have been present [89].

About 1905, the Wilcoxes moved from Arroyo Grande a short distance south to Santa Maria, where they opened a meat market. Although they were still living in condor habitat - actually, closer to where Arthur had shot most of his condors - his involvement with condors ended. Perhaps this was because his occupation now kept him mostly indoors. In any event, his ten years in Santa Maria and another 15 years in the San Joaquin Valley at Modesto went by without any known contact with condors. He died 23 May 1932, following the amputation of a leg, made necessary when he developed blood poisoning [90].

Among the condor collectors of the late 19th century and early 20th century, Frank Holmes and Arthur Wilcox were the only ones to publish articles on their condor activities. Holmes had shown an ongoing interest in birds for many years and, although not a very active publisher of his observations, was well known among California ornithologists. Wilcox, on the other hand, seems to have had no particular interest in birds other than the condor, and I've never seen his name associated with the collecting of any other species. Yet, he joined the Cooper Ornithological Society in 1908 and maintained his membership through 1912. Perhaps there is more to be learned about his wildlife interests.

Chapter Notes

1. Judging the reasons condors were killed was not always easy, due to inadequate data or because assigning "motive" is often subjective. In general, if the record merely noted that someone shot a condor and measured its wingspan, I interpreted that as a random shooting for sport or curiosity. If a condor went more or less directly from the shooter to a private collector or institution, I considered that a planned ("on spec") mortality. No doubt some random shootings became opportunistic sales; some I considered as planned may more correctly be in this category.

2. Letter of 16 April 1883 from H. W. Henshaw (Washington, D. C.) to John Bidwell (Chico, California). Special Collections, Meriam Library, California State University, Chico, California.

3. Henshaw, H. W. 1920. Autobiographical notes (continued). Condor 22(1):7-10.

4. The birth date for Frank McCormack given in the compiled California death records is 3 February 1863, and 1863 is inscribed on his gravestone at Pleyto, California. His obituary notice (in the Salinas "Californian," 21 May 1953) noted that "he did not know his exact age as his birth record was destroyed in a fire at the old Santa Clara mission." I haven't been able to find his family in the 1860 Federal census, but his age as given in the 1870 and 1880 censuses indicates he was born ca 1860. The 1900 census, the only one to give month and year of birth, showed him born in March 1862. Perhaps the most authoritative date is that used by McCormack himself, 19 March 1861, which he used when filling out his 1931 California Indian Census application. [Information supplied to me by his great-granddaughter Suzanne Taylor 17 March 2011.]

5. Page 147 in: Taylor, S. P. 2006. The ancestors speak, the remarkable story of an early California Indian family...from ancient times to the present. San Luis Obispo, California: privately printed.

6. Taylor op. cit., pages 148 and 163.

7. U. S. Federal census, 20 June 1880: San Antonio township, Monterey County, California.

8. Catherine (Forbes) McCormack, wife of Lewis McCormack, was an orphaned Miwok Indian from the Sacramento area, adopted in 1838 by James Alexander and Anna Galindo Forbes (Taylor op. cit., pages 115-116).

9. Page 66 in: Mason, J. A. 1912. The ethnology of the Salinan Indians. University of California Publications in American Archeology and Ethnology 10(4):97-240.

10. Page 402 in the Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for the year ending 30 June 1884. Also, U. S. National Museum accession 15484, 20 December 1884 (Smithsonian Archives, Record Unit 305).

11. U. S. National Museum accession 15757, 27 February 1885 (Smithsonian Archives, Record Unit 305).

12. U. S. National Museum accessions 15766 (2 March 1885) and 15810 (13 March 1885), Smithsonian Archives Record Unit 305.

13. On 18 June 1889, Simon Castro (Jolon, California) wrote to Rollo Beck, asking Beck to send money for the condor skin recently sent to him. "I got a man to kill it for you, and he wants his money very bad." (Letter in the Rollo and Ida Beck Collection, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco.) Castro and McCormack lived near one another, and Castro's wife was aunt to McCormack's wife, so McCormack could logically have been that man.

14. Stephens, F. 1918. Frank Stephens--an autobiography. Condor 20(5):164-166.

15. Brewster, W. 1882. On a collection of birds lately made by Mr. F. Stephens in Arizona. Bulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club 7(2):65-86.

16. Brewster, W. 1883. On a collection of birds lately made by Mr. F. Stephens in Arizona (continued). Bulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club 8(1):21-36.

17. Frank Stephens field notes, 1886. Box 42, California Academy of Sciences archives (San Francisco, California): one condor near Banning, Riverside County, 22 April 1886; 7-15 June 1886, Bear Valley, San Bernardino County, four sightings, largest group included four condors.

18. Frank Stephens autobiography, op. cit.

19. Letter of 21 October 1902 from R. P. Sharples to W. Lee Chambers (Chambers Collection, Bancroft Library, Berkeley, California); C. D. Scott, unpublished manuscript "Looking for California condors" (Huntington Library, San Marino, California).

20. I haven't been able to locate any William Decker in San Diego County between 1880 and 1900. Frank Boring, carpenter living in Julian in 1897, is almost certainly the correct Boring (Directory of San Diego city and county 1897, The Olmsted Co. Printers). He may be the Frank G. Boring in San Diego at the time of the 1900 census: born May 1863 in Massachusetts, single, a machinist.

21. Jefferson D. Swycaffer (1861-1952) lived most of his life in San Diego County, at various times being employed as rancher, stagecoach driver, saloon keeper, hotel owner, and butcher shop operator.

22. Stephens, F. 1899. Lassoing a California vulture. Bulletin of the Cooper Ornithological Club 1(5):88.

23. Gilman, M. F. 1907. Measuring a condor. Condor 9(4):106-108. Also: Sharp, C. S. 1918. Concerning a condor. Oologist 35(1):8-11.

24. Interview notes 6 November 1940: Carl B. Koford interviewing Frank Stephens' widow, Kate Stephens, in San Diego. California condor species accounts, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (Berkeley, California).

25. Frank Stephens field notes, op. cit. California Academy of Sciences archives (San Francisco).

26. Huey, L. M. 1938. Frank Stephens, pioneer. Condor 43(3):101-110.

27. Frank Stephens autobiography, op. cit.

28. Pages 108-109 in: Anonymous. 1889. Historical sketch of the State Normal School at San Jose, California, with a catalogue of the graduates and a record of their work for twenty-seven years (1862-1889). Sacramento, California: State Printing Office.

The State Normal School operated in San Francisco from 1862 to 1871, when it was moved to San Jose. It was the forerunner of today's San Jose State University.

29. Ahira Holmes' occupation given as stock broker in the Federal censuses for 1870 (San Francisco, California) and 1880 (Oakland, California).

30. Anonymous. 1902. Pioneer educator dies at his San Jose home. Ahira Holmes, principal of the first State Normal School passes away. San Francisco (California) Call, 31 December 1902.

31. Barrows, W. B. 1889. The food of crows. Pages 498-535 in: Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture, 1888. Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office. F. H. Holmes of Rio Vista, California, is quoted on pages 506 and 512 regarding crow food habits and damage to crops. The quotes appear to be from 1886.

Beal, F. E. L. 1907. Birds of California in relation to the fruit industry. Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office. On pages 15-16, a September 1886 letter from F. H. Holmes (Rio Vista, California) discussed damage to crops done by house finches.

Sawyer, E. T. 1922. History of Santa Clara County, California: with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present. Los Angeles, California: Historic Record Company. On pages 1107-1108, in a biographical sketch of Frank H. Holmes: "Going to Rio Vista to farm when a boy... In 1886, he moved to San Jose to farm his uncle's ranch which consisted of 160 acres which he developed to prunes and apricots."

32. Sawyer, History of Santa Clara County, op cit.

33. Anonymous. 1900. Took trip with auto. Santa Clara County enthusiast makes record. Evening News (San Jose, California), 28 July 1900.

34. Anonymous. 1900. A notable demonstration of serviceability. The Horseless Age 6(26):22 (26 September 1900).

Also, page 208 in: Farquhar, F. H. 1965. History of the Sierra Nevada. Berkeley, California: University of California Press.

35. Anonymous. 1907. Auto engine made in San Jose works is a marvel of precision. Mercury News (San Jose, California), 9 March 1907.

Anonymous. 1909. Sunset car possesses desirable features. Mercury News (San Jose, California), 14 February 1909.

36. Anonymous. 1913. Federal truck agency established in City. Frank Holmes has been named as distributor for this section. Mercury News (San Jose, California), 23 March 1913.

37. Palmer, T. S. 1921. Notes on some birds of the Berkeley campus. Condor 23(4):163-164.

38. With the strong education background of the Holmes family in the Bay Area, one would suspect that Frank Holmes received some kind of higher education, but I haven't found any record of it. Nothing in his family background would seem to have promoted an interest in natural history. His father and uncle were early members of the California Academy of Sciences, but apparently only because of their educational and societal interests in the community.

39. Belding, L. 1890. Land birds of the Pacific District. Occasional Papers of the California Academy of Sciences, 2:1-274.

40. Bryant, W. E. 1891. A provisional list of the land mammals of California. Zoe 1(12):353-360.

Keeler, C. A. 1891. The geographical distribution of land birds in California. Zoe 1(12):369-373.

41. This is based on the dates of specimens he collected that are currently locatable in various museums.

42. Ryon, B. 2006. Betty and the birds. Livermore Roots Tracer (Livermore-Amador Genealogical Society), Volume 26, Number 3.

43. Anonymous. 1898. California condor as a lady's pet. Big specimen in the possession of Mrs. Frank Holmes of Berryessa. Chronicle (San Francisco, California), 20 May 1898.

Cohen, D. A. 1899. Pet California condor. Osprey 3(5):78.

44. The display cases of Austen's birds are shown and described in Recreation Magazine in 1896: 4(2):59; 4(3):112; 4(5):220; 5(3):128; and 5(4):224.

45. Anonymous. 1894. Cooper Ornithological Club. Nidiologist 2(4):56-57.

46. Barlow, C. 1902. Official minutes, Northern Division. Condor 4(4):100.

47. Holmes, F. H. 1897. A pet condor. Nidiologist 4(6):58-59.

48. Holmes, F. H. 1899. The old-squaw and fulvous tree ducks at Alviso, Cal. Bulletin of the Cooper Ornithological Club 1(3):51.

49. Some biographical notes on Rollo Beck report his family moved from Los Gatos to Berryessa about 1882, but it is clear from the 1870 and 1880 Federal censuses, and from notes accompanying the Rollo Beck archives at the California Academy of Sciences, that the move was made well before 1880.

50. Palmer, T. S. 1951. Obituary: Rollo Howard Beck. Auk 68(2):260. Also: Albee, W. E. 1917. R. H. Beck returns from bird expedition. Mercury News (San Jose, California), 2 December 1917.

51. Palmer 1951, op. cit. Also: Barlow, C. 1899. Prominent Californian ornithologists. II. Rollo H. Beck. Bulletin of the Cooper Ornithological Club 1(5):77-79.

52. Abbott, C. G. 1933. Closing history of the Guadalupe caracara. Condor 35(1):10-14.

53. Letter of 1 July 1898, Rollo Beck (Berryessa, California) to William Brewster (Cambridge, Massachusetts). William Brewster Collection, Museum of Comparative Zoology archives, Ernst Mayr Library, Harvard University.

54. Anonymous. 1898. A catcher of eagles is killed by an officer. San Jose (California) Evening News, 29 June 1898. Additional stories in the Evening News of 29 June 1898 ("A Hardy Boy"), 30 June 1898 ("Staid with his victim. Matthews remains while aid is called," and 1 July 1898 ("Crazed by grief, Henry Hopken's father is insane").

55. "California Condor--A fine pair of fresh skins of this species for sale, or would take part payment in desirable rare skins." Advertisement section, Osprey 2(10), June 1898.

56. Letter from F. H. Holmes (Berryessa, California) to C. W. Richmond (Smithsonian, Washington, D. C.), 9 November 1898. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Reference Services: Record Unit 305, Accession Folder 34469.

57. Typical of stories occurring regularly in the San Jose Evening News: Frank Holmes and party killed 180 geese in two days at Rio Vista, California ("Sportsmen in luck," 14 April 1905); Holmes among locals going to Firebaugh, California, for opening of waterfowl season ("Hunters ready for coming duck season," 30 September 1910); and Holmes killed limit of ducks at Alviso, California, on opening day ("Hunters get limit bag quickly," 14 October 1916).

58. Anonymous. 1895. Ready for the shoot. Evening News (San Jose, California), 23 April 1895.

59. Frank Holmes had two California condors in his possession that were reportedly killed in May 1905. These were in the Leonard Cutler Sanford collection, and are now in the American Museum of Natural History. It is unlikely that Holmes shot the birds, but I have found no record of how he acquired them.

60. Ryon 2006 op. cit.

61. Letters of 18 August 1894 and 2 September 1894, Charles Bendire (U. S. National Museum, Washington, D. C.) to Rollo H. Beck (Berryessa, California). Rollo Howard and Ida Menzies Beck Papers - Box 1, Folder 7. California Academy of Sciences archives, San Francisco.

62. Letter of 11 March 1895, H. R. Taylor (New York, New York) to Rollo H. Beck (Berryessa, California). Rollo Howard and Ida Menzies Beck Papers - Box 1, Folder 9. California Academy of Sciences archives, San Francisco.

63. Letter of 3 May 1895, Charles Bendire (U. S. National Museum, Washington, D. C.) to Rollo H. Beck (Berryessa, California). Rollo Howard and Ida Menzies Beck Papers - Box 1, Folder 9. California Academy of Sciences archives, San Francisco.

64. Letter of 23 April 1899, Simon Castro (Jolon, California) to Rollo H. Beck (Berryessa, California). Rollo Howard and Ida Menzies Beck Papers - Box 3, Folder 4. California Academy of Sciences archives, San Francisco.

65. Letters of 11 December 1900, 14 January 1901, July 1901, 9 August 1901 and 29 January 1902 from Georg Girtanner (St. Gallen, Switzerland) to Rollo H. Beck (Berryessa, California). Rollo Howard and Ida Menzies Beck Papers - Box 3, Folder 5; Box 4, Folders 2 and 3. California Academy of Sciences archives, San Francisco.

66. Letters of 16 April 1898 and 5 May 1898, Rollo Beck (Berryessa, California) to William Brewster (Cambridge, Massachusetts). William Brewster Collection, Museum of Comparative Zoology archives, Ernst Mayr Library, Harvard University.

67. Taylor 2006 op. cit., pages 149-150.

68. Letter of 7 June 1898, Simon Castro (Jolon, California) to Rollo H. Beck (Berryessa, California). Rollo Howard and Ida Menzies Beck Papers - Box 2, Folder 5. California Academy of Sciences archives, San Francisco.

69. Letter of 10 June 1898, Rollo Beck (Berryessa, California) to William Brewster (Cambridge, Massachusetts). William Brewster Collection, Museum of Comparative Zoology archives, Ernst Mayr Library, Harvard University.

70. Letter of 27 June 1898, Simon Castro (Jolon, California) to Rollo H. Beck (Berryessa, California). Rollo Howard and Ida Menzies Beck Papers - Box 2, Folder 5. California Academy of Sciences archives, San Francisco.

71. Letter of 1 July 1898, Rollo Beck (Berryessa, California) to William Brewster (Cambridge, Massachusetts). William Brewster Collection, Museum of Comparative Zoology archives, Ernst Mayr Library, Harvard University.

72. 69. Letter of 20 August 1898, Walter Deane (Cambridge, Massachusetts) to Rollo H. Beck (Berryessa, California). Rollo Howard and Ida Menzies Beck Papers - Box 3, Folder 1. California Academy of Sciences archives, San Francisco.

73. Letter of 3 January 1899, Simon Castro (Jolon, California) to Rollo H. Beck (Berryessa, California). Rollo Howard and Ida Menzies Beck Papers - Box 3, Folder 3. California Academy of Sciences archives, San Francisco.

74. Pages 13 and 141 in: Koford, C. B. 1953. The California condor. National Audubon Society, Research Report Number 4. New York, New York.

75. According to the 1850 Federal census, the Wilcox family had been at Terre Haute, Henderson County, Illinois, since at least 1848. The 1860 Federal census of Denton County, Texas (1 July 1860), showed daughter Mary O. Wilcox, age 2, as born in Illinois. Family records show her birth date as 18 March 1858. Therefore, the family had been in Texas probably no more than two years when Arthur was born.

76. Mooney, V. P. 1916. History of Butler County, Kansas. Lawrence, Kansas: Standard Publishing Company. Several dates are given for the Wilcox arrival in Butler County: summer 1861 (pp. 367-370), 1866 (p. 369), and autumn 1867 (pp. 331-332). If the story is true that their move to Kansas was precipitated by Civil War animosity in Texas, then the 1861 date is most likely.

77. U. S. Federal census, 8 June 1900: Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo County, California.

78. Page 44 in: Tognazzini, W. N. 1995. 100 years ago, 1896: Excerpts from the San Luis Obispo Morning Tribune and Breeze. San Luis Obispo, California: self-published.

79. Page 55 in: Tognazzini, W. N. 1996. 100 years ago, 1897: Excerpts from the San Luis Obispo Morning Tribune. San Luis Obispo, California: self-published.

80. Tognazzini 1995 op. cit., page 49.

81. Wilcox, A. 1903. The California vulture. Western Field 2(4):217-219.

82. Armand Esai (Archivist, Chicago Field Museum) found a memo dated 11 October 1900 from C. B. Cory (Department of Ornithology) to Museum Director F. J. V. Skiff: "I return also, a letter from Arthur Wilcox offering to sell vulture skins. I have written that we would purchase two specimens, if satisfactory after examination, and to forward the same to the Field Columbian Museum, price to be $25 each." Wilcox's letter could not be found.

83. Susan Otto, Librarian at the Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Public Museum, found five letters from 1900 and 1901, with some details of the purchase of California condors from Arthur Wilcox. Wilcox clearly made the first contact, offering to sell up to four condors to the Museum for $25 each (20 August 1900). Before the Milwaukee museum responded, Wilcox notified them that two of the specimens had been sold to the Chicago Field Museum (19 September 1900). The Milwaukee Public Museum purchased the remaining two on 24 September 1900.

84. It's possible that Arthur Wilcox did not deal directly with the European museums, but sold through a middleman. For one condor sale in 1904 he acted as an "agent" for Charles K. Worthen's biological supply house. No other references to cooperation between Wilcox and Worthen have been found, so far.

85. Page 121 in: Tognazzini, W. N. 2000. 100 years ago: January 1, 1901 to December 31, 1901, from the San Luis Obispo Morning Tribune and the Arroyo Grande Herald. San Luis Obispo, California: privately published.

86. Wilcox 1903 op. cit.

87. Wilcox 1903, op. cit.

88. Notice in Santa Barbara, California, Morning Press, 30 March 1902; also reported by C. B. Koford in interview notes with Arthur Ogilvy, 25 October 1940 (Carl B. Koford condor species accounts, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, Berkeley, California).

89. Wilcox 1903 op. cit.; also: Wilcox, A. 1901. California vulture. American Ornithology 1(9):164-168.

90. Anonymous. 1932. Blood poisoning results in death of Arthur Wilcox. News-Herald (Modesto, California), 24 May 1932.


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