Scrapbooks and Spies

Letter from Lawrence Macrae to Hornaday, Dec. 20, 1906. Hornaday Wildlife Scrapbook Collection, Vol. 1. WCS Archives Collection 1007.

One never knows what oddities or treasures may turn up when undertaking a cataloging project. Given the variety of ephemera collected in scrapbooks, the possibility for unknown treasures is especially exciting. This was certainly the case while creating descriptive metadata for the first scrapbook from William T. Hornaday’s scrapbook collection on the history of wildlife protection and extermination. An innocent attempt to locate the identity of a correspondent led to a scandalous discovery! (Okay, perhaps not that scandalous–but certainly interesting enough to share.)  

Letter from Lawrence Macrae to Hornaday, Dec. 20, 1906. Hornaday Wildlife Scrapbook Collection, Vol. 1. WCS Archives Collection 1007.

Letter from Lawrence Macrae to Hornaday, Dec. 20, 1906. Hornaday Wildlife Scrapbook Collection, Vol. 1. WCS Archives Collection 1007.

 

This letter to Hornaday is from Lawrence Macrae, the private secretary to the Prime Minister of British Columbia. (The scrapbook itself is regarding the creation of the Elk River Game Preserve in British Columbia, a project that put Hornaday in contact with many Canadian government officials.)

Since the last name was difficult to read, a search was performed for private secretaries to the Prime Minister around the time period in question. The results yielded claims that Macrae, the private secretary to Prime Minister Richard McBride, was a German spy. Macrae committed suicide on September 10, 1914. According to Patricia Roy’s Boundless Optimism: Richard McBride’s British Columbia, rumors quickly circulated that Macrae did so after he was caught stealing and manipulating defense plans. McBride, however, quickly came to Macare’s defense, claiming that he had been suffering with a nervous ailment for many months prior.

When cataloging a scrapbook on wildlife protection, rumors of espionage are not something someone assumes they’ll encounter. But you really never know what you may find!

This post is by Sarah Cassone, who worked during Summer 2013 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 has made many of these scrapbooks available online through the generous support of the Leon Levy Foundation.

2 thoughts on “Scrapbooks and Spies

  1. Steve Johnson

    The note on the accusation that Hornaday’s Canadian correspondent, Lawrence Macrae, was a German spy reminded me of accusations of espionage or “agent of a foreign power activities” against the biologist Victor Wolfgang Von Hagen regarding Von Hagen’s activities in the Galapagos in the nineteen thirties. Many years have gone by since I used the relevant records. However, the WCS Archives Finding aid points to American Committee for International Wild Life Protection, WCS Archives, Collection 1025, boxes 9 and 10, “Galapagos, Correspondence with Ecuadorian government, Von Hagen, and Equador, 1935-1937 ” and “Galapagos, Von Hagen, Wolfgang.” Further archival details escape my memory. The New York Times, December 17, 1941, however, noted that the American born Von Hagen was detained as an enemy alien in December of that year (“Federal Men Silent on Von Hagen Case.”)

    Reply
    1. wcsarchivesadmin Post author

      Interesting, Steve! We haven’t run into this one yet. We’ll have to do some digging and get back to you–possibly another blog post!

      Reply

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