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Posts Tagged ‘Richard La Barre Goodwin’

Portrait of John James Audobon, 1826. John Syme. Oil on canvas. 35 1/2 x 27 1/2 in (90.2 x 69.8 cm). White House, Washington DC.

Since the early days of America’s founding, the close association between hunting and virility has remained unchanged. During the Victorian Era, outdoor, recreational sports  became increasingly popular among urban males. The hunt, formerly a recreational privilege of the rich and powerful in Europe, was democratized in America in the 1850s when private and public land became accessible to all. Hunters were free to exploit the wilderness and its wildlife with unfettered zeal, leading to a great reduction in the wildfowl population and the extinction of several species. Professional bird hunting became an accepted annual right for urban business men.  Mimicking the migrations of thousands of birds flocking along the east coast, men from the city would take fall and spring vacations to camp in the salt marshes and shoot all forms of wild fowl.  While hunting was purely recreation for some, others practiced the sport professionally.  Market gunners arose in great numbers during the 1850’s, responding to an urban demand for the inexpensive, abundant and undeniably tasty birds.

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