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Effort to Save America’s Bison Had an Advocate in Meriden

  • Ernest Harold Baynes is pictured driving a buffalo team.  A scrapbook belonging to Baynes about the camapign to save the buffalo was found in a Meriden attic five years ago.  <br/>Valley News - (Jennifer Hauck)

    Ernest Harold Baynes is pictured driving a buffalo team. A scrapbook belonging to Baynes about the camapign to save the buffalo was found in a Meriden attic five years ago.
    Valley News - (Jennifer Hauck)

  • A newspaper clipping about the effort to save the buffalo.<br/>Valley News - (Jennifer Hauck)

    A newspaper clipping about the effort to save the buffalo.
    Valley News - (Jennifer Hauck)

  • A photo of Ernest Harold Baynes is now on display at the Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden, N.H.. A scrapbook made by Baynes about saving the buffalo is now on display at the museum.<br/>Valley News - (Jennifer Hauck)

    A photo of Ernest Harold Baynes is now on display at the Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden, N.H.. A scrapbook made by Baynes about saving the buffalo is now on display at the museum.
    Valley News - (Jennifer Hauck)

  • At the Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden, N.H. from left, Martha Doolittle and Margaret Drye  look at one of the photographs on display on Sept. 3, 2013. <br/>Valley News - (Jennifer Hauck)

    At the Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden, N.H. from left, Martha Doolittle and Margaret Drye look at one of the photographs on display on Sept. 3, 2013.
    Valley News - (Jennifer Hauck)

  • Photos of Ernest Harold Baynes are now on display at the Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden, N.H.. A scrapbook made by Baynes about saving the buffalo is now on display at the museum.<br/>Valley News - (Jennifer Hauck)

    Photos of Ernest Harold Baynes are now on display at the Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden, N.H.. A scrapbook made by Baynes about saving the buffalo is now on display at the museum.
    Valley News - (Jennifer Hauck)

  • Ernest Harold Baynes is pictured driving a buffalo team.  A scrapbook belonging to Baynes about the camapign to save the buffalo was found in a Meriden attic five years ago.  <br/>Valley News - (Jennifer Hauck)
  • A newspaper clipping about the effort to save the buffalo.<br/>Valley News - (Jennifer Hauck)
  • A photo of Ernest Harold Baynes is now on display at the Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden, N.H.. A scrapbook made by Baynes about saving the buffalo is now on display at the museum.<br/>Valley News - (Jennifer Hauck)
  • At the Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden, N.H. from left, Martha Doolittle and Margaret Drye  look at one of the photographs on display on Sept. 3, 2013. <br/>Valley News - (Jennifer Hauck)
  • Photos of Ernest Harold Baynes are now on display at the Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden, N.H.. A scrapbook made by Baynes about saving the buffalo is now on display at the museum.<br/>Valley News - (Jennifer Hauck)

Tucked into the corner of an exhibition of materials about the Meriden Bird Club and its founder is a huge scrapbook that has nothing at all to do with birds and not a whole lot to do with Meriden, either.

The worn book’s title page announces that it contains material pertaining to the effort to save the buffalo, materials compiled by Ernest Harold Baynes, an ardent animal preservationist and founder of the bird club. Baynes, who lived in Meriden at the turn of the last century, hired a clipping service, and the scrapbook is a record of his drive to save the bison from extinction and return it to the American West.

Members of the Meriden Bird Club haven’t yet looked through the entire scrapbook, currently on view at the Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden, but even a skim of its contents this week revealed copies of letters between Baynes and President Theodore Roosevelt, articles from newspapers around the country, magazine covers devoted to the bison, all part of Baynes’ campaign to further the work already done to save the bison.

“We don’t know everything that’s in here because we haven’t played around with it that much,” said Margaret Drye, president of the Meriden Bird Club. The book is on display through Sept. 15, partly to show its historical value, and partly to support the bird club’s budding effort to conserve it and to digitize its contents, work estimated to cost $10,000.

The scrapbook was among the countless boxes of Baynes’ papers found in the attic of the Annie Duncan house five or so years ago, when ownership of the home transferred to Kimball Union Academy. “It was in brown paper tied with twine and it was marked ‘buffalo scrapbook’ in Baynes’ unmistakable hand,” Drye said.

If the book proves anything, it’s that Baynes played a far larger role in saving the bison than he’s been given credit for. While Austin Corbin, William Hornaday and Teddy Roosevelt are often recognized for their contributions, Baynes has escaped notice.

He began compiling the scrapbook in September 1904. Corbin, the Newport native turned robber baron who established Corbin Park, first brought 30 head of bison to his private game preserve, which still covers parts of Plainfield and five other Sullivan County towns, in 1890. By 1905, Baynes wrote, the herd had increased to 160 head, including bulls brought in from the Canadian Rockies. Hornaday studied the bison in the 1890s.

But it was Baynes who did the legwork to return buffaloes to the Great Plains, where an estimated 4 million bison were killed for their skins and bones from the 1860s to 1880 or so. By the time Corbin brought his bison to New Hampshire, there were thought to be only 1,000 or so left, most of them in private preserves. Baynes’ efforts consisted mainly of keeping the issue in the public eye and in the corridors of power. He wrote op-ed pieces for papers around the country, and also wasn’t shy about contacting Roosevelt and his cabinet secretaries.

“I congratulate the buffalo upon having such an efficacious man as you to champion him,” the president wrote to Baynes on Aug. 31, 1905. Baynes founded the American Bison Society that year; Roosevelt was its honorary president.

A piece of primary source material like Baynes’ scrapbook is an unusual item to find on view in the Upper Valley, except at Dartmouth College’s Rauner Special Collections Library, which often showcases historical documents. For the past two years, the scrapbook has resided in climate-controlled storage at the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, Mass. The center has told bird club officials that it would cost $5,000 to conserve the scrapbook and another $5,000 to digitize it for wide use by scholars.

In addition, among Baynes’ files are two thick manila envelopes, full of clippings and other documents about saving the bison. “He really was a normal person and didn’t finish his scrapbook,” Drye said.

One of the final entries was a 1907 news item headlined “A National Buffalo Herd Established in Oklahoma.” The herd was a gift from the New York Zoological Society, which Hornaday directed, and was the first wild animal reintroduction in the United States. Bison from Corbin Park were among those returned to the wild.

Baynes moved on to found the bird society, which led to the establishment of many bird societies around the country and a growing awareness of the damage done by commercial hunting of birds.

There are 17 crates of Baynes’ papers squirrelled away in Meriden. Why not put them in the hands of Rauner Library’s staff? “For a long time, the idea was that Meriden stuff should stay in Meriden,” Drye said.

But Drye also called the scrapbook “a national treasure,” and she acknowledged that it raises a question: “Is it Plainfield stuff, or is it his?” Baynes’ papers and other effects, including glass plate negatives from his extensive work as a photographer, could form the core of a small museum, Drye said.

Starting a museum would take a lot more planning and money than the $10,000 cost to preserve and digitize the scrapbook. Consider the current effort a prelude. Contact Drye at 603-675-9159 for more information.

The scrapbooks is displayed as part of “Service to the Birds: Meriden’s Bird Story,” which celebrates Meriden’s pivotal role in the effort to protect wild birds from commercial harvest. The show includes materials from historical societies, the Upper Valley’s national parks, art museums and the Meriden Bird Club and is on view through Sept. 15. The museum is open Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment.

Aidron Duckworth Art Museum also hosts an installation by Randolph artist Mark Goodwin that pulls together work in a variety of media to create “a study in collecting, paying attention and relationships,” and “Interiority,” large works on canvas from 1979-1981 by Aidron Duckworth. An outdoor exhibition of sculpture by Fitzhugh Karol, an Orford native now living in Brooklyn, N.Y., remains on view into the fall.

Of Note

The Woodstock Art and Wine Festival takes place around the town green this weekend, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

The Main Street Museum’s Kickstarter fundraising effort has reached its preliminary goal of $7,000. Now, the museum’s supporters are pushing for more funding. While $7,000 is enough to renovate the museum’s small stage, raising another $1,000 will pay for new seating, and another $2,000 beyond that covers new LED lighting for the stage. One of the true gems of the Upper Valley’s cultural landscape, the museum has set out a tall ladder of more ambitious goals, including money for recording equipment that would permit live Internet streaming of museum events. The Kickstarter drive continues through Oct. 7.

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish plans a three-part sculpture workshop titled “From Head to Toe: The Full Figure,” over the next three Saturdays. Contact the site at 603-675-2175, ext. 106 for information about times and fees.

Openings and Receptions

AVA Gallery and Art Center opens “4 Artists, 4 Decades,” an exhibition celebrating the work of AVA co-founder Elizabeth “Lili” Mayor, and three other longtime AVA artists chosen by Mayor — Colleen Randall, Joe Keenan and the late Clifford West. A reception is planned for Saturday evening, 5 to 7. A gallery talk is planned for Wednesday evening at 6.

“A Garden Bestiary,” macro photographs by Peggy Richardson, is on view at the Hotel Coolidge’s Zollikofer Gallery. A reception is planned for Friday.

Last Chance

The Woodstock Gallery hosts an exhibition of oil paintings by John Olson through Sunday.

ArtisTree Gallery in Woodstock hosts “Unbound III,” a juried exhibition that encourages artists to reconsider the idea of the book, through Sept. 7.

Ongoing

Springfield, Vt., native Jamie Townsend is the featured artist at Sculpturefest, the annual exhibition at the Woodstock home of Charlet and Pe ter Davenport and the nearby King Farm. Sculpturefest adds a third venue this year with a small exhibition of sculpture opening at the Woodstock History Center with a reception Sept. 12, starting at 5 p.m. Charlet Davenport will give at talk at 7 that evening on the local afterlife of sculpture from previous years’ shows.

Directions to the Sculpturefest sites are available at www.sculpturefest.org.

Barnard-based BarnArts Center for the Arts is producing performances of ART , by Yasmina Reza in the King Farm Barn. For tickets and information call 802-332-6020 or go to www.barnarts.com.

∎ Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art is hosting a pair of exhibitions that examine Cubism. Foremost of the two is a show of Picasso’s “Vollard Suite,” a series of etchings made between 1930 and 1937, when Picasso was at his most fertile, along with prints by Rembrandt and Goya that inspired the Vollard prints. Accompanying the Picasso show is “Cubism and Its Legacy,” which features work by artists who developed cubism and others who followed their angled path. An opening party for the Vollard show is planned for Oct. 2. Also at the Hood; “Shadowplay: Transgressive Photography from the Hood Musem of Art,” an exhibition organized by Dartmouth studio art professors Virginia Beahan and Brian Miller, and “Evolving Perspectives: Highlights from the African Art Collection at the Hood Museum of Art.”

∎ “Chisel, Brush and Pen,” an exhibition of work by Winkie Kelsey, is on view in the stone carving studio at AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon. The show is a benefit for AVA. Also, AVA has organized “A Celebration of Upper Valley Artists,” a group show at Pompanoosuc Mills in East Thetford, through Sept. 22.

∎ Tunbridge Library hosts an exhibition of photographs by Tunbridge native Emily Ferro.

∎ Giovanna Lepore shows “New Small Works,” recent oil and watercolor paintings at Galleria Giovanna Fine Art in Canaan. Sales benefit the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. The gallery is located at 313 River Road, Canaan. For more info visit giovannalepore.com.

∎ Windsor’s Cider Hill Gardens and Art Gallery hosts a mixed media exhibition featuring limited edition prints by Gary Milek, pottery by Susan Leader, Holly Walker and Stephen Procter, and sculpture by Patrick Johnson, through Sept. 15.

Gifford Medical Center in Randolph shows watercolors by Greg Crawford of Stockbridge, Vt., through Sept. 25.

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site is commemorating the 150th anniversary of the death of Col. Robert Gould Shaw with an exhibition dedicated to Saint-Gaudens’ Shaw Memorial. The original memorial is on Boston Common, but the historic site at Saint-Gaudens’ former home in Cornish has the only other bronze casting of the massive relief sculpture. An exhibition in the site’s Picture Gallery incorporates some of Saint-Gaudens’ preparatory work, as well as historical artifacts from the period the memorial represents. Admission to the park is $5 for visitors ages 16 and up.

∎ Scavenger Gallery in White River Junction shows recent paintings, sculpture and woodware by Ria Blaas, and jewelry and work in bronze by gallery owner Stacy Hopkins.

∎ BigTown Gallery in Rochester, Vt., exhibits “Folk Vision: Folk Art from New England and Beyond.”

∎ “Watercolor Stories,” paintings by members of the local chapter of the Vermont Watercolor Society, is on view at West Lebanon’s Kilton Public Library.

Art Notes appears in the “Valley News” on Thursday. Send email to artnotes@vnews.com.