Thursday, April 14, 2016

1954 Audubon Junior News artwork by Ellsworth Jaeger

This full-page illustration, suitable for printing out and coloring, appears in the May/June 1954 issue of Audubon Junior News.1 The artwork is by Ellsworth Jaeger (1897-1962), who was a well-known outdoor educator in the middle of the 20th century. It accompanies an article, also by Ellsworth, titled "Mother Nature's Nursery."

The illustration features many forest animals — including skunks, woodchucks, rabbits2 and opossums — with their young. There is also a raccoon carrying a smiling frog. This is explained in Ellsworth's article:
"As we near a brook, we find the five-toed tracks of a family of Raccoons. Perhaps we can find them fishing. As we creep up quietly we can see the family busily reaching under the stones in the shallow water for a crayfish and a frog or two. Both baby and grownup Raccoons are very clever at this kind of fishing."
So the frog is dinner. If it knew this, it probably wouldn't be smiling.

Jaeger was an author, artist, naturalist, youth worker, TV and radio personality and lecturer, according to the biography on his Find A Grave page. He appears of Wikipedia's "List of 20th-century outdoor proponents and outdoor educators," which is a pretty cool list to be on, in my book.

Here is some more information on Jaeger, again from Find A Grave:

  • "Jaeger's interest in natural history and Native Americans blossomed early, inspired by the writings of Ernest Thompson Seton3 to whom he wrote a fan letter at the age of nine."
  • "His career as a popularizer of natural history was said to have begun about 1925 when he showed some watercolor paintings with lengthy captions to a group of publishers in New York City. St. Nicholas Magazine bought the first set for publication. Many other magazines followed suit, most notably Nature, Natural History, Life, Better Homes and Gardens, Canadian Nature, and the Christian Science Monitor."
  • "His association with the Buffalo Museum of Science began in 1929 when he joined the museum's adult education faculty and began offering evening classes. Four years later he was elected to the Board of Managers of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, the museum's governing body. This eventually led to a career at the museum beginning in 1941 as Assistant Curator of Education. He took on full curatorship two years later."
  • "For nearly a decade, beginning in 1951, he hosted WBEN-TV's popular weekly program 'Your Museum of Science', viewed in Western New York, Pennsylvania and Southern Ontario. With moderator Virgil Booth, he would discuss nature studies, woodcraft and Native American lore, often exhibiting small animal "guests" from the Buffalo Zoo and showing film footage from his travels."

Jaeger published a couple of books, including 1945's Wildwood Wisdom, an outdoor survival guide, which is remains popular and in print from Shelter Publications. In 2015, Randy Clark added the following tribute to Jaeger's Find A Grave page:
"It's such an extreme pity this wonderful man's life work has been largely forgotten within the bush craft and survival communities. My first book on these subjects was his 'Wildwood Wisdom'. It's one of my few treasured possessions and in 40 years I've never found another book that even comes close to it in terms of breadth and usefulness of knowledge. Rest in peace, sir, and thank you for equipping me for a lifetime of wilderness adventures."

1. For some neat history of the National Audubon Society's youth programs and materials, check out the Vintage Kids Clubs Online Museum.
2. Speaking of rabbits, I did the first mowing of the year yesterday, and I am pleased to report that no baby bunnies crossed the path of my lawnmower. This has been a problem the past few years. Last night, however, I did see two huge rabbits loping across the yard when I pulled into the driveway.
3. You should see Seton's mustache.
4. According to Shelter Publications, Wildwood Wisdom includes information on "providing life’s basics: food, shelter and clothing. How to skin a bear, blaze a trail, cook flapjacks on a flat rock. Plants that are edible, plants that are poisonous, and plants that are medicinal. How to portage a canoe, pack a mule or build a bed in the woods out of willows." Shelter Publications also, by the way, offers books titled Tiny Homes on the Move, The Barefoot Architect, The Septic System Owner's Manual, and D.C. Beard's 1914 classic Shelters, Shacks and Shanties.

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