When Wild Animals Were Lassoed at Carnegie Hall
One hundred years ago today, Charles Jesse "Buffalo" Jones—frontiersman, farmer, rancher, hunter, and conservationist—presented his film Lassoing Wild Animals in Africa at Carnegie Hall.
An advertisement for Jones's Carnegie Hall appearance from the New York Tribune on January 26, 1913. Courtesy of the Library of Congress's Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/)
According to The New York Times, Jones—who "catches 'em alive"—regaled audiences at the Hall with tales of "his trip to East Africa in which he and the cowboys who accompanied him lassoed all sorts of wild animals, including wart hogs, hartebeestes, rhinoceroses, and lions." His film "showed clearly how he captured with a rope animals which up to his time hunters hesitated to face with a gun." The lecture and presentation on January 27, 1913, was repeated twice more on January 29.
Program for Buffalo Jones's lecture series, including multiple events at Carnegie Hall and one at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Courtesy of the Finney County Historical Society.
Jones (1844–1919) embodied most of the qualities associated with the now nearly mythical figure of the 19th century American frontier hero. Although he acquired his nickname early on for his skill hunting the American bison, the sobriquet is equally fitting for his efforts on behalf of saving the species from extinction. Having witnessed first-hand the wholesale decimation of the vast bison herds of the American West and Southwest in the 1880s, he began capturing the animals in the wild, transporting them to his own Kansas ranch and cross-breeding them with cattle in the hope of producing a durable hybrid. According to a 1984 profile published in the Arctic Institute of North America's journal Arctic, in 1889 Jones "caused an international incident by purchasing nearly all the buffalo left in Canada"—a privately owned herd in Manitoba—"for an estimated $50,000 ... over the protest of the Dominion government."
Advertisement for Lassoing Wild Animals in Africa.
Similar schemes to capture musk oxen and bighorn sheep illustrated Jones's "vision of mankind and animals living together in mutually beneficial fashion," noted Arctic. In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him the first game warden of the newly created Yellowstone National Park. Several years later, a budding young novelist named Zane Grey, enthralled by Jones's tales of adventure at a lecture, introduced himself to Jones. Jones, in turn, introduced Grey to the American Southwest during several hunting trips. The novelist gained inspiration and detailed first-hand knowledge of the vanishing frontier, writing of these experiences in The Last of the Plainsmen.
The Three Amigos: Pawnee Bill, Buffalo Bill, and Buffalo Jones. Courtesy of the Finney County Historical Society.
The year following his Carnegie Hall lectures, Jones returned to Africa at the age of 75, this time in pursuit of the gorilla. His plans were cut short by the outbreak of World War I in August 1914. Jones never completely recovered from the malaria that he contracted during the trip, and he died in 1919 in Topeka, Kansas. While he was certainly a "famous cowboy and big game hunter and friend of the late former President Theodore Roosevelt," as The New York Times stated in its obituary, Jones was also—as Arctic noted 75 years later—"the first, great, and highly original preserver of North America's wildlife."
Related: Hall History