02 December 2013

All Sorts of Stuffed Owls in Lively Demand

"It is really surprising," said the old English taxidermist in William Street the other day, "what an extraordinary demand has sprung up for owls this season. It has been good and gradually increasing for two or three years, but this winter it has exceeded anything I ever knew before as a rage for one particular variety of bird. Why, before the holidays, out of every ten people who entered my store, nine were after owls. When this year opened I didn't have an owl left on hand except a few little screech owls. Even now, although the call for them has slackened off since the holidays, whenever a stranger comes in I find myself instinctively moving over toward the owls, expecting they are what is wanted. I don't know why the popular taste has rushed so in that direction and further than that it appears to be one of those inexplicable crazes that people do not try to account for further than by saying: 'It's the fashion.' But I have stocked up again with all sorts of owls, and am ready and willing for the craze to boom all along. Prices? Why, better than ever before. That great snowy owl, the largest and most beautiful of the family, is worth $25. I have snowy owls as low as $15, $12, and even $10, but not such a superb specimen as that. Yet I used to be glad to get $8 or $10 for the very best of them. These great horned owls are worth $10 each. The barred, long-eared, and short-eared owls (the latter sometimes known as the swamp or meadow owl) are worth $4 each. Barred owls made into a screen are worth $6. They are not much wanted in fancy forms, however, either as screens or in flying attitudes. The owl's strongest suit is his dignity, and he shows that best in repose. The Acadian owls are the smallest found in this section of the country, not bigger than quails; and the Sawit owls, from somewhere away out west, are not more than half their size. They command pretty good prices, as they are rarer than the others, but still never anything like the big ones. All the fine large owls came from Canada as a rule, but this season two handsome snowy owls were shot over in Jersey City. Another was shot on Biker's Hospital. Owls the only birds used for screens? Oh! no; not by any means. Herons, hawks, and gulls are also used, and indeed, many others. The handsomest is the white heron, which, when spread out so as to make a sort of halo of wings and tails while perched naturally on one log, is worth $15. All the prices I have named are for owls mounted complete and life-like."

Another taxidermist in Fourth street says he sells are one owl a day, right along, and cannot get enough to supply the demand.

Mr. Reiche, the bird dealers says that nothing is done in live owls; people only want them stuffed. In Germany some people look upon stuffed owls as a talisman to bring good luck, and perhaps that notion has just broken loose over here.

Capt. William Fowler says the great increase of the owl's popularity is due to the vast social, moral, and generally artistic and aesthetic influence of the famous "Owl Club," which is want to gather in "the hollow tree roost" at the Knickerbocker Cottage at midnight, there — in the language of the call for their recent dinner — "to eate, to drynke, to be merrie, to hoote ande to screeche l'ye barne."

January 21, 1883. Minerva's bird in fashion. All sorts of stuffed owls in lively demand at extraordinary prices. New York Sun 50(143): 6. Excerpts published February 22, 1883 in the Los Angeles Herald, and March 17, 1883 in the Washington D.C. Bee.