In 1911, William T. Hornaday was hard at work in his efforts to protect birds from unnecessary slaughter. The Bayne-Blauvelt Bill (more commonly known as the Bayne Bill) to prevent the sale of wild American game in New York State had recently passed in July of 1911. The Bayne Bill, said by journalists at the time to be the most important measure for the protection of game brought before New York legislature, was a notable victory for Hornaday and wildlife conservationists alike. The law prohibited the sale and importation for sale of any species of wild game, regardless of where it may have been killed. The bill passed by the state senate 38 to 1 and unanimously by the assembly. However, there was still much to be done in the fight to protect wildlife.
One of Hornaday’s efforts was to involve the Boy Scouts of America. In August 1911, he issued a public appeal to the Boys Scouts, entreating them to keep birds and wild animals safe, not to engage in any cruelty against them, and to watch for any violators of the nation’s game laws. As he urged the Scouts, “The boys of America have it in their power to render services incalculable value to the wild creatures that are so defenseless against the terribly deadly modern firearms, nets and dynamite.”
In order to promote these ideals, in 1914, the Permanent Wild Life Protection Fund, which Hornaday founded, created the Wild Life Protection Medal. This medal would be awarded to Scouts who stopped the harm of animals, secured state wildlife legislation, restocked native wildlife in depopulated areas, or even created a new game preserves. The standards were set high for this medal, and the first was not awarded until at least six years after the program’s inception. According to the Eleventh Annual Report of the Boy Scouts of America, the first medal was awarded in 1920 to Lenhardt E. Bauer, who “by an astonishing amount of work” brought about the creation of 266 wildlife sanctuaries. Bauer went on to become an attorney and, in 1940, ran for a House of Representatives seat for the state of Indiana. (Interestingly, the US Scouting Service Project website notes that Bauer was never formally a member. The first medal officially awarded to a BSA member was in 1921, to Scoutmaster Harry Hall of Carbondale, Pennsylvania.)
Hornaday died in 1937. A year later the Boy Scouts of America renamed the medal in his honor. To this day, the William T. Hornaday medal is still bestowed to members of the Boy Scouts of America, and over 1,100 awards–which come in the form of badges as well as bronze, silver, and gold medals–have been awarded over the past 80 years. Scouts today are encouraged to think of the award as an “Olympic medal bestowed by the Earth.”
This post is by Sarah Cassone, graduate student in Library and Information Science at Palmer School at LIU Post. During Summer 2013, Sarah worked with the WCS Archives as a Metadata Cataloger on our Hornaday Wildlife Protection Campaign Scrapbook Project.
In addition to serving as the first director of the Bronx Zoo, William T. Hornaday (1854-1937) was a pioneering force in the American wildlife conservation movement, and he spearheaded several lobbying and fundraising campaigns in support of wildlife. These campaigns he documented in scrapbooks, and the WCS Archives is now engaged in making many of these scrapbooks available online through the generous support of the Leon Levy Foundation. These scrapbooks are expected to be online in February 2014. In the meantime, posts like this one provide a preview, as well as some backstory, into the scrapbooks’ contents.