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Mr. Hornaday's War: How a Peculiar Victorian Zookeeper Waged a Lonely Crusade for Wildlife That Changed the World Hardcover – May 15, 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Essential for anyone interested in U.S. conservation history and the wildlife protection movement ... A landmark biography.” —Douglas Brinkley, author of The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt’s Crusade for America
 
“Beautifully paced and brilliantly written.” —Laurence A. Marschall, Natural History
 
“Lively ... fascinating.” —Nature
 
“A fascinating book . . . We have W. T. Hornaday to thank for a nation richer with wildlife today as a result of his work a century ago. Stefan Bechtel has done a masterful job telling us the story of one of America’s forgotten heroes, from his field explorations to the establishment of the Bronx Zoo and his battles in Congress. This book must be read by anyone interested in history and the environment.”—Cristián Samper, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History
 
“William Temple Hornaday is a name we’ve forgotten, and that’s almost a crime, as he was the first truly successful eco-activist. While nineteenth-century America was wiping out species after species virtually for the fun of it, Hornaday gave voice to the animals’ agony and dragged several back from the brink. Stefan Bechtel has vividly resurrected Hornaday—a hero for those who care for the fate of the earth.”—Robert L. O’Connell, author of The Ghosts of Cannae
 
“Stefan Bechtel tells William Hornaday’s story with zest and a great eye for detail. Mr. Hornaday’s War offers adventure, political maneuvering, a stellar cast of characters, and a nuanced portrait of the crusader who called himself ‘the most defiant devil that ever came to town.’”—Henry Wiencek, author of An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America

About the Author

Stefan Bechtel is the author of ten books, his most recent including Tornado Hunter and Roar of the Heavens. A founding editor of Men’s Health magazine, his work has appeared in Esquire and the Washington Post, among other publications. He lives in Free Union, Virginia.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; 1st Edition, 1st Printing edition (May 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807006351
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807006351
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,422,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Hundley VINE VOICE on July 16, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first ran across William Hornaday's name several years ago while reading about Ota Benga. I then promptly forgot it again. (Benga, however, has always stayed with me.) I ran across it again only recently, when reading the excellent Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America. I am very glad I did. If all I had known about Hornaday had been the sad saga of Benga it would have been a shame, for while Hornaday may not have been the most pleasant of individuals, he sure was an important and fascinating one.

And this is a fascinating book, not exactly a biography, but a narrative history of a man on a mission to the nth power. Hornaday, for all practical purposes is the father on American conservation and it wasn't an easy birth.

Pugnacious (and understatement), cantankerous, opinionated, obstinate - throw the whole thesaurus out there - Hornaday was tireless in his efforts to force Americans (and eventually a lot of others) to look unblinkingly on the way they (we) had squandered and despoiled the natural world around us. Focusing on the near-extinction of the buffalo, Hornaday created a new way for most to look at nature and animals. And his message, and the need for it, are surely as intense now as 100 years ago. And along the way, he certainly had some high adventures and met (and influenced) some pretty heady company.

Highly recommended. It is an excellent read about a fascinating man who changed a kicking and screaming America and who's work and message remain significant to this day - maybe more so. But don't read it because it's good for. Read it because it's good.
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By JTC on September 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book a lot. I'm a biologist and love getting out in nature to see animals and beautiful setting, but before reading this book I was completely unaware of William Temple Hornaday and the crucial role he played in saving so much of our country's wildlife and in particular its bird species. The book tells an intriguing story that is little known. In the end I came away feeling that I'd gained an understanding of a lot of history, but that occurred without me trying or really wanting to learn history. That understanding seemed to just naturally evolve from the book's enjoyable account of Mr. Hornaday's complex and adventuresome life. What an interesting and important character! Reading this was a nice way to learn about how our country and the popular movements to conserve some natural lands and keep many animal species from extinction came about. There would have been many more cases like the passenger pigeon if Mr. Hornaday had not been around. This book also connected up Hornaday's mostly forgotten role with long friendships to more famous individuals like Teddy and Franklin D. Roosevelt, which I enjoyed. But my favorite parts probably were the development of Hornaday's successful effort to save the American bison from extinction and the account of his youthful collecting trip in southeast Asia. I also liked the human side that came through in the picture of Hornaday's long and happy marriage to his sweetheart Josephine. As one other reader said, this was a fast and interesting read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I want to rate this book higher because William T. Hornaday is not appreciated in America as he should be for being the ONE MAN who was responsible for saving the American Bison, and making major contributions to saving other world wildlife. He's an enigmatic figure who left a long trail of information about himself, and he deserves a better biography than this.

The book and writing itself is pretty laughable. About halfway through, I became so annoyed with the author's adolescent style that I looked into his bio online, and it suddenly it all made sense: he's the editor of a men's magazine. If you read his online bio, you'll see what I mean. His writing style is infuriating, but since this is the only published biography of WTH to date, it'll just have to do.

One thing that really, really, bothers me about this volume is the authors apparent, repeated attempts to villianize Hornaday for no reason other than to attempt to create controversy. Over and over again, he judges Hornaday's actions against our modern standards of behavior, anachronistically comparing behaviors from the past to the present. It's unfair and it paints Hornaday as a bad man, which he most certainly was not. I would go so far as to call that bad journalism, Bechtel is sensationalizing events to help sell his story. Bad on you, Stefan Bechtel, you should be ashamed of yourself.

If you can get past the authors 8th grade writing style, and you are willing to research on your own a little to get past Bechtel's fibs, it's a good story. If you consider yourself a conservationist, you owe it to yourself to learn about W.T. Hornday, either by this book or by some personal research. He's a giant in the field, and we owe a lot to him.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We had the great opportunity to meet the author and speak along side him in Washington DC at an event, very nice man. He's pulled together some very important history about the bison we all should read.
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