For as often as you’ve likely heard of, about (and if you’re on their mailing list, from) The Audubon Society, how much do you know about its founding and early history? You’ve likely read that it’s forerunner, the Massachusetts Audubon Society, was founded by Harriet Hemenway and Mina Hall in 1896. However that wasn’t it’s true beginning. It was, in fact, initially founded by George Bird Grinnell in 1886 but disbanded in 1889.
Too often neglected, and unfortunately even sometimes outrightly dismissed as irrelevant by some recent authors, this first Audubon Society is in truth a fascinating element in the history of nineteenth century American natural history and deserves due attention. Carolyn Merchant, professor of environmental history, philosophy, and ethics at the University of California, Berkeley gives it precisely this in her new book Spare the Birds! George Bird Grinnell and the First Audubon Society from Yale University Press. Reported to be “the only comprehensive history of the first Audubon Society,” Professor Merchant’s book is one I am very eager to begin reading at the first opportunity.