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Animal Furniture, pt. 1

From The Strand, vol. XII (1895), "Animal Furniture," by William G. Fitzgerald.

"We have all seen hunting trophies – for the most part mournful looking heads – mounted in monotonous fashion and set up as ornaments in country houses; but he was really a "dreffle smart man" who first thought of adapting these trophies to every-day use – turning them, in fact, into articles of furniture."

"This obsequious-looking bear was shot in Russia by no less a personage than the Prince of Wales; and for years it has 'waited' meekly in the smoking room at Marlborough House. The setting-up of this bear was intrusted [sic] to Mr. George F. Butt, F.Z.S., the eminent naturalist, of Wigmore Street, who has a perfect genius for transforming big game trophies into articles of furniture and general utility. From Mr. Butt I learned that this particular brand of taxidermy is about thirty years old, its origin dating from the time when ladies adopted the hideous fashion of wearing as hats whole grouse and pheasants. In the 'Sixties,' when this craze was at its height, the naturalists couldn't supply the birds fast enough – at four guineas each."

"After these modish abominations came tiger and bear claw jewellery [sic], the notion of which was imported from India; then followed various articles made from whole animals and parts of animals. One of the earliest designs was a horse's hoof – that of a favorite charger – made into a silver-mounted inkstand. Chairs were also made which were supported by the four legs of a rhinoceros or zebra, or a favourite horse.

But without doubt the most original 'animal' chair I ever beheld was that which belongs to that mighty Nimrod, Mr. J. Gardiner Muir, of 'Hillcrest,' Market Harborough. This chair, as may be seen in the accompanying reproduction, is made from a baby giraffe, which, with its mother, was shot by Mr. Gardiner Muir, near the Kiboko River, in British East Africa. The design is by Rowland Ward, of Piccadilly. In the photograph will be noticed a little dog on the seat of the chair; this is the hunter's little Scotch terrier, 'Punch.'"

"It is quite astonishing to learn how many defunct animals are called upon to throw light upon things. I refer, of course, to animals converted into lamps. Some years ago a certain lady's pet monkey died, and although her grief was great, she resolved to have her dead darling turned into something useful as well as ornamental. In life that monkey had been phenomenally active – tweaking the noses of dignified people who least expected it; and the sorrowing mistress couldn’t bear to think of the poor little thing as a mere stuffed specimen grinning idiotically beneath a glass case. Therefore was that pet monkey – which is seen in the next illustration – set up as a candle-holder, grasping in its little fists the polished brass sconces, and with quite an eager, officious air."

"This set another fashion, and before long a West-end firm (Messrs. Williams and Bach, of New Bond Street) was doing a roaring trade in animal and bird lamps. The designs of many of these are remarkably ingenious. Here is another monkey lamp, in the design of which two active little fellows are supposed to be frolicking together, the topmost monkey bearing the oil-well after the manner of Atlas, with his tail coiled around the cross-bar, while his playfellow is scrambling up the pillar as though anxious to share the burden and the fun."

"For some reason, innumerable monkeys were sold to light up billiard-rooms, the little animals swinging from a hoop with one hand and carrying the lamp in the other. After a time people other than those who had dead pet monkeys wanted to possess these unique lamps, so that defunct specimens from the Zoo had to be eagerly bought up, and Mr. Jamrach, the famous wild beast importer, was vexed with orders for deadmonkeys.

Later on less uncommon pets – parrots and cockatoos – were utilized in a similar manner, and at length this latter form of the craze reached preposterous dimensions. Will it be believed that the Bond Street house (I have it on the authority of the manager) had actually to keep a stock of live parrots and cockatoos, so that aristocratic customers could select one for a swinging lamp? After selection, the doomed bird was sent along to the taxidermist, killed immediately, and then mounted in the style chosen...Oh! Fashion! What cruelties are perpetrated in thy name!"

"Of course the idea of turning into useful articles pets that have died from natural causes or old age is at once ingenious and praiseworthy. Here, for example, is a fruit and flower stand made by Mr. Geo. F. Butt for the Princess of Wales; it is now at Sandingham. The centre is a movable screen composed of a favourite parrot belonging to Her Royal Highness."


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 27th, 2007 02:44 am (UTC)
Holy crap-- this is amazing! I especially love the giraffe chair, though I would personally be a bit too freaked out to sit in it...
Mar. 27th, 2007 02:45 am (UTC)
It's the monkeys that disturb me the most. -.-
Mar. 27th, 2007 03:36 am (UTC)
Mar. 27th, 2007 03:48 am (UTC)
wow.... I've never seen anything like that before.
Mar. 27th, 2007 04:30 am (UTC)
Wow, that's totally insane! That giraffe one is just... wow.
Mar. 27th, 2007 01:15 pm (UTC)
Amazing, the last word in bad taste; I've waste paper baskets made from elephant's feet, but these are something else again.
Mar. 27th, 2007 01:18 pm (UTC)
PS I've seen those bins, would never think of owning such an appalling object.
Mar. 27th, 2007 01:18 pm (UTC)
the giraffe is freaky and so tragic!
Mar. 27th, 2007 05:51 pm (UTC)
I now better understand Billy Bob Thornton's phobia of antique furniture.

Mar. 27th, 2007 07:11 pm (UTC)
I love this stuff. Where in hell did you find them??? WOW. And to think I was contemplating a mere stuffed kitty (in sweet repose) at Evolution over the weekend.
Mar. 27th, 2007 07:28 pm (UTC)
those are hysterical! I like the bear best.
Mar. 28th, 2007 08:10 pm (UTC)
Far too creepy for me to ever consider trying to buy one (and I hate monkeys) but very cool.
Mar. 30th, 2007 08:51 pm (UTC)
Creepily beautiful!;)
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 6th, 2007 08:28 pm (UTC)
I know! My gut reaction was, "How'd you like someone to do that to your dog?!" But then, judging from the rest of the article, he probably would like it.

Aug. 11th, 2007 04:43 am (UTC)
Amazing stuff. Although taxidermy furniture always seem degrading to the animal in any form, the bear looks like a well done piece. And the giraffe- OH the giraffe. Thank you oodles for sharing.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )