Friday, December 7, 2012

CAMERA CRITTERS

 All photos except the first two were taken by husband Gregg.  We had family visiting over the Thanksgiving holiday, and two of our company had not been to George Washington's home.

The one thing I did not expect to find at Mount Vernon was a camel, but then as I often do I have fun finding out about these things later.  From various websites on line I found the following information and thought I would share not only the story of the camel, but the other animals in George Washington's life.


"George Washington had a great interest in not only plants but exotic animals, and often paid to see them. In 1787 he paid the sum of 18 shillings for a camel to spend the Christmas holidays at Mount Vernon, to entertain both the Washington's and their many guests.




These few words are the only documentation of a visit to Mount Vernon, by a rare exotic animal for 18th century Americans, 'By the man who brot. a Camel from Alexa. for a show...0.18.0.'


Attempts to find references in period newspapers to this particular camel have been unsuccessful.  According to one source, however, it was probably the third camel to reach North America: the Boston Gazette for October 2nd, 9th and 23rd, 1721, noted the exhibition of a camel in that city, while 18 years later, on November 19th, 1739, the New York Gazette recorded that a camel was then being shown there.  The only other 18th century camel to make the American newspapers was in the June 10th, 1796 edition of the York (Pennsylvania) Gazette.


From a variety of sources, we know that George Washington had quite an interest in animals, both domestic and rare, and often paid to see them.  Over the years he and various members of his household were able to learn something about the world outside Virginia, from the itinerant entertainers who traveled along the eastern seaboard, and would have been drawn to large gatherings of people at events such as fairs.


Many of these individuals seem to have worked with exotic or specially trained animals. They worked alone or perhaps with a servant acting as handler, acquired one single animal and hoped to make their fortune through charging admission to see it.  For example, in some of the earliest references to this sort of thing, Washington recorded paying 10 shillings to see a 'Lyoness' and 3 shillings-and-a-half-pence to see a 'Tyger'. Washington definitely saw a 'Cugar' in Philadelphia during his presidency, as well as a 'Sea Leopard', a type of sea lion.  At least twice in his life he paid to see an elk and during the presidency, he spent $1.75 'for to see Elephant' and took the whole family several months later.


The Washington family was also interested in animals exhibiting special qualities or training.  During the presidency they gave $3.00 to a 'man who had a very sagacious Dog,' so that they could see 'his performance.'  This was very likely a dog brought from Europe by a man named Gabriel Salenka; the canine is said to have been able to 'beat any person at playing at cards.'"

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By the time we had made our way back to the car and passed by the camel enclosure again, I was happy to see that he had been given a very large mound of hay to munch on instead of those very bare branches he was nibbling when we first saw him.


Thank you Misty for hosting Camera Critters each Saturday.  

To see other fun critters you can click here.