Report of the Special Agents of the House Committee of Expenditures in the Department of Commerce, upon the Condition of the Fur-Seal Herd of Alaska and the Conduct of the Public Business on the Pribilof Islands…Washington: Government Printing Office, 1913 Stock Code: 131367
NotesFirst and only edition. Seemingly the author's copy, with added documentation and his own original illustrated wrappers, subsequently inscribed on the title page, "For Judge Cooper with the warm personal regards of the author, Henry W. Elliott, Oct. 25, 1913." Laid in is a memorandum in Elliott's hand, on Department of Commerce stationery, denouncing the misconduct of Charles Nagel, Secretary of Commerce and Labor.
The enclosed autograph note and the captioned image on the back wrapper, both concerning betrayal of the public trust, epitomise both the report and the life of selfless dedication to the cause of wildlife conservation, specifically the preservation of the Alaska fur seal population, for which Elliott (1846-1930) is remembered today. Elliott became interested in Alaska in the early 1870s, after serving as official artist with the Hayden Geological Survey of 1869-1870. In the latter year, the Alaska Commercial Company was given a 20-year lease to harvest seal-fur on the Pribilof Islands, formerly known, descriptively, as the Northern Fur Seal Islands, and recently acquired for the United States in the Alaska Purchase. Elliott was confident that the company would assure survival of the herd out of enlightened self-interest. Between 1873 and 1910 he published widely on Alaska, its people, and the seal fishery. Though not a government official, Elliott submitted frequent reports to Congress and testified before Congressional committees, especially after 1890, when he became fully aware of the depredations committed by the Alaska Company and its successor.
The alarm was sounded by a Treasury agent who reported tersely, on a visit to Alaska in 1889, "The seals are about gone." It was then that Elliott began the one-man crusade that culminated in the present report which in turn led to the passage of a law in 1913 ending the lease system and placing the seal harvest on land under government supervision. His efforts "helped save the Alaska fur seal from probable extinction." (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, online.) Earlier, seal hunting on the seas had been placed under international control in 1911 with the adoption of the North Pacific Fur Seal Convention, also known as the Hay-Elliott Fur Seal Treaty; the first international treaty dedicated to the conservation of wildlife. The agreement had been drafted by Elliott and Secretary of State John Hay, but was not ratified until six years later. From 1890 to 1910 Elliott had repeatedly warned government officials about the dire situation in the Pribilof Islands, to no avail. Finally, he went public in the press (The Cleveland Plain Dealer, for which he wrote an exposé, an offprint of which is pasted in here; Elliott was a native of Cleveland).
Still the slaughter continued until 1911 when Elliott began to make his case to Congress. His bête noir was Charles Nagel, Secretary of Commerce and Labor who, like his predecessor, blocked Elliott's efforts to bring the lessees under control. It is Nagel to whom Elliott refers in the enclosed manuscript memo: "This letter puts Nagel up against it: he uses those 'loaded' skin weights to deceive a Senator... That Nagel had full knowledge of... criminal trespass is fully show by the letters appended here." Elliott is referring to the publication of his letter to Nagel dated April 26, 1909, of which a clipping is affixed. The motto inscribed on the back cover, "Elliott has bagged the bunch!" refers to Nagel, among others. This would ordinarily pass for the author's own retained copy with underlining that seems more relevant to him than to a recipient. Why he would present it so soon after publication is not clear. In any event, this a significant personal document marking a pioneering contribution to ecological awareness in the United States.
Octavo. Wire stitched in plain brown paper wrappers, manuscript title in ink "The Elliott-Gallagher Fur Seal Rept 1913" to the front panel with an original pen and ink sketch by Elliott of a seal and pups perched on an ice floe ; mounted on the back panel is an illustration, clipped from an unnamed publication, of a besuited figure at his desk, with neatly inked caption: "Elliott has bagged the bunch!"; series related clippings mounted verso of title, and to five blank pages at the end;
5 folding maps lithographed from Elliott's manuscript originals, numerous other maps in text; a number of passages underlined in red ink by Elliott for emphasis.
Wraps a slightly soiled and a touch brittle at the margins, some associated chipping, title page similarly a little chipped., pale toning to the text, overall very good.`
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