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New York Zoological Society. Department Of Education. National Collection Of Heads And Horns records.

Identifier: 2031

Scope and Content

The collection primarily contains correspondence and inventories documenting the attempts of the New York Zoological Society (NYZS) to transfer specimens from the National Collection of Heads and Horns to other institutions in the 1970s. Institutions interested in the collection included numerous colleges and universities, museums, and sportsmen’s associations such as Safari Club International. The most serious negotiations appear to have been with the Carnegie Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Boone and Crockett club. Correspondents represented in the collection include James W. Waddick (Curator of Education, 1974-1977) and William Conway (Bronx Zoo Director, 1961-1999, NYZS General Director, 1966-1999). The collection also includes some earlier materials, such as correspondence from the 1960s regarding building renovations and early efforts to whittle down the collection, as well as a 1912 issue of the Zoological Society Bulletin and a photocopy of a portion of a 1922 issue, both containing articles by William T. Hornaday about the National Collection of Heads and Horns. Finally, the collection includes lists and photographs of some of the specimens.


  • 1912, 1960-1978 (bulk 1974-1978)


Access Restrictions

Please contact the WCS Archives regarding possible access restrictions.

Usage Restrictions

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Historical Note

The National Collection of Heads and Horns was established in 1906 by William T. Hornaday (Director of the New York Zoological Park--better known as the Bronx Zoo--1895-1926) and Madison Grant (Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the New York Zoological Society (NYZS), the Bronx Zoo's parent organization, 1895-1925, and President, 1925-1937). The collection featured big game trophies from animals such as the rhinoceros, giraffe, elephant, and mountain sheep. Both Hornaday and Grant donated specimens from their own collections, and Hornaday took the lead in soliciting donations of both specimens and funds from other sportsmen. Hornaday also raised money for the construction of a building specifically designed to house the Head and Horns Museum. (Originally, the collection was housed in the Administration Building.) Due to increases in construction costs during World War I, as well as disputes over the design between Hornaday and the Executive Committee of the Society's Board of Trustees, the building did not open until 1922. The Heads and Horns museum building had two halls; specimens were arranged zoologically in one hall, and geographically in the other. In 1924, American Bison Society secretary Martin S. Garretson was hired as full-time attendant of the museum.

The high point for the collection was in the early 1940s, when it had over 2,300 specimens. However, interest in the collection waned over time, and by the mid-1950s the building had been closed to the public. In 1958 John Tee-Van (Bronx Zoo Director 1952-1956; NYZS General Director 1956-1962) reopened the exhibit under the curation of Herbert Knobloch (Curator of Education, 1947-1971). The number of heads in the collection was drastically reduced for this exhibit, which featured a highly-edited selection of around 260 specimens. The vast majority of mounts were deaccessioned and transferred to other organizations during the late 1950s and early 1960s; for example, in 1960 the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) chose six specimens for itself and another 162 for the Carnegie Museum in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately the re-opened exhibit remained unpopular, and the building was closed again in the late 1960s by Fairfield Osborn (NYZS President, 1940-1968).

During the 1960s the building had also been renovated to accommodate the growing Education Department, and by 1970 the building housed its offices and additional space dedicated to its programs, including an auditorium, art gallery, and the headquarters of the Friends of the Zoo. In 1974, with space at a premium, the Society initiated attempts to transfer the remainder of the collection--down to around 230 heads after deaccessions of some missing and severely damaged specimens and transfers of others to the Education Departments of the Bronx Zoo and the New York Aquarium--to an institution that would use them for scientific and educational purposes. These efforts were coordinated by the Curator of Education of the time, James Waddick, who started the search by reaching out to AMNH and the Boone and Crockett Club. While initial interest from these two institutions was limited, the search continued and expanded over the next few years; the Society received several inquiries following an announcement placed in the Journal of Mammology in 1976. A few pieces were transferred at this time, and efforts to find a home for the bulk of the collection continued. In 1977 AMNH finally agreed to accept the collection in full, however in the interim Lowell Baier--an active member of Safari Club International who would go on to become a leader in the Boone and Crockett Club--intervened.

Throughout 1977 Baier campaigned to get the Boone and Crockett Club, Safari Club International, or some other hunting-related organization to accept and be given control of the collection. Eventually he was successful; in early 1978 the Boone and Crockett Club took the 34 remaining North American mounts, while Safari Club International received the rest of the collection. After a series of temporary exhibitions, the Boone and Crockett portion of the collection went on permanent display at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming in 1991. After a long run of the National Collection of Heads and Horns in that location, in 2015 the Boone and Crockett club announced plans to transfer the collection to America's Wildlife Museum and Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri.


0.2 Linear Feet (1 half-Hollinger box)

Language of Materials



The National Collection of Heads and Horns was established by Bronx Zoo Director William T. Hornaday and New York Zoological Society (NYZS) Secretary Madison Grant in 1906. The Heads and Horns Museum building was opened in 1922. By the early 1970s, the collection was closed and the building was being used for other purposes. The collection primarily contains correspondence and inventories documenting the attempts of the Society to transfer specimens from the National Collection of Heads and Horns to other institutions for educational and scientific use in the 1970s. It also includes 1912 and 1922 articles about the collection by William T. Hornaday and a list and photographs of specimens.


This collection is arranged in one series.

Acquisition Information

Internal transfer, 1993 (Acc. 1993.005)

Related Collections

Collection 1001. William T. Hornaday and W. Reid Blair incoming correspondence and subject files, 1895-1940.

Collection 1012. William T. Hornaday and W. Reid Blair outgoing correspondence, 1895-1939.

Guide to the Records of the Department of Education National Collection of Heads and Horns, 1912, 1960-1978 (bulk 1974-1978)
Finding aid prepared by Processing and finding aid by Helen Schubert Fields, Simmons College MS Intern. December 2014.
December 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Wildlife Conservation Society Archives Repository

WCS Library/Archives
2300 Southern Blvd
Bronx New York 10460 United States