The Dowager’s Diary – Week One Hundred and Eighteen

May 17-24, 1917

“To a garden party at the zoological garden today where there was a drill of Company “A” Park Guards and presentation to them of flag by Mr. Fairfield Osborn.” The Zoological Society was founded in 1895, as one of the first conservation of wildlife organizations in the United States.  The Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, New York Aquarium, Queens Zoo and the Prospect Park Zoo were all established under its umbrella with a vision to save and respect wildlife.

1. photo, kate shippen roosevelt, fairfield osborn, governor's island parade, loc

Honoring New York City’s Troops during World War One

Back in 1917 when Kate Roosevelt made this notation in her diary, she was commenting on a day spent outdoors honoring the newly-formed World War One, Company “A,” formed to protect New York City during World War One.  Not all enlisted men were sent overseas, many troops stayed behind to protect American shores.

The guest of honor, the man who presented the flag to Company “A” was Henry Fairfield Osborn a geologist, paleontologist and distinguished Roosevelt Family Friend, who most likely had a seat reserved at the shin-dig for Kate Shippen Roosevelt.

2. photo, kate shippen roosevelt, fairfield osborn, bronx zoo, wiki

A Tour of the Bronx Zoo

Osborn’s relationship with the Roosevelts went back many years.  In 1897 he was chosen as a member of the Boone and Crockett Club, a wildlife conservation organization founded by Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell. Named after the hunter-heroes, Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone it is America’s oldest wildlife and habitat conservation organization. When it was formed in Theodore Roosevelt’s New York City home, it kept its membership open to a choice few and Osborn was one of them.

4. photo, kate shippen roosevelt, fairfield osborn, davey crockett, magazine cover, public domain

Theodore Roosevelt and Davey Crockett

It was a smart decision to have Fairfield Osborn on the club’s roster. In the world of wildlife conservation he was a well-known and respected authority. The son of a prominent railroad tycoon, Osborn studied at Princeton University, earning a degree in geology and archeology. There he was mentored by the famous paleontologist, Edward Drinker Cope. His next academic accolade included obtaining a degree in anatomy from the College of Physicians and Surgeons and Bellevue Medical School. He went on to join the faculty at Princeton, teaching biology and comparative anatomy. He was also a professor of zoology at Columbia and in 1891 was named curator of vertebrate paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History. Most likely he received a good reference from his friend Theodore Roosevelt, whose father, Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. was one of the founders of the museum on Central Park West.

In addition to his famous friends, Osborn’s family wealth helped him acquire the title of President of the Museum of Natural History’s Board of Trustees. Serving from 1908 to 1933, he was responsible for accumulating one of the finest fossil collections in the world.  Additionally, he served as President of the New York Zoological Society from 1909 to 1925.

5. photo, kate shippen roosevelt, fairfield osborn, roy chapman andrews, indiana jones, public domain

Roy Chapman Andrews

From Princeton to pursuing dinosaurs, in 1905 Osborn led a group of explorers to the American Southwest in search of fossils where he conducted tests on the brain of Tyrannosaurus Rex. His team of fossil-hunters included William King Gregory and Roy Chapman Andrews. There is some speculation that Andrews was the inspiration for the character of the fictional archeologist, Indiana Jones.

And speaking of “old fossils,” Kate Roosevelt and some of her friends could have certainly fit into that category of old-fuddy-duddies with their daily rounds of taking tea, calling on friends and critiquing movies and Broadway plays. Her last comment for May 19, 1917 was, “Dorothy and I to matinee of “Our Betters.” An immoral play!”

Written by W. Somerset Maugham, the romantic comedy’s plot revolved around the invasion of sly social-climbing American heiresses into British Society.  In early twentieth-century, England, broke aristocrats needed money to maintain their “to the manor born” lifestyle and wealthy American women, who wanted desperately to be called “Her Ladyship” traded their money for the title.  Kate Roosevelt called the plot “immoral,” but fans of the twenty-first century’s PBS Series, Downtown Abbey called it spell-binding.

Sharon Hazard’s Dowager’s Diary appears on Thursday.

Photo One:
Henry Fairfield Osborn, third from right: Officers of the Paleontology Section of Congress, Library of Congress

Photo Two:
Honoring New York City’s Troops during World War One
Library of Congress

Photo Three:
A Tour of the Bronx Zoo

Photo Four:
Theodore Roosevelt and Davey Crockett
Public Domain

Photo Five:
Roy Chapman Andrews
Public Domain