Now for Number 5

The 5th Most Embarrassing Moment of Ohio History is…

5. No One Believes the Passenger Pigeon Will Go Extinct … Until it Does

Cincinnati (1914). The Columbus medical doctor, John Maynard Wheaton was a founder of the American Ornithological Union and author of two important works on Ohio’s birds. Wheaton was not immune however to the prevailing lack of understanding of ecology and extinction. In his 1860 Catalogue of the Birds of Ohio he comments on the 1857 landmark Ohio legislation that provided the first real protections for select game birds, song birds and mammals. Among his comments was a terse and blunt sentence: “The passenger pigeon needs no protection.” Attesting to Wheaton’s lack of judgment, the last documented wild passenger pigeon was shot in Ohio in 1900. Martha became the last of her species when she died at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.

Buttons, the last documented wild passenger, can be seen on exhibit at the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus

Further Reading:

Ohio History Central: The Passenger Pigeon

Catalogue of the birds of Ohio. 1860. J.M. Wheaton. “From the Ohio agricultural report for 1860.” P 359-380.

Report on the birds of Ohio. 1879. J.M. Wheaton. From Report of the Geological Survey of Ohio. 628 pp.

American Museum of Natural History.

Martha, the last ever, is now at the Smithsonian in Washington, D. C.

Come back tomorrow for more from The Most Embarrassing Moments of Ohio History!

Number 10:  Ohio Antiquities are Treasured … in London

Number 9:  Rhodes’ Road to Canada

Number 8: Newark Board of Trade Finds a Curious Way to Save an Earthwork

Number 7:  Presidents and Generals First

Number 6:  Traitor Runs for Governor

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One Response to Now for Number 5

  1. Andy Miller says:

    I was so geeked about this post that I went and pulled this book off the shelf to see if the good doctor had any MORE pearls of wisdom.
    ….An interesting aside…. the passenger pigeon, as a species, outlived the good doctor, who died in Columbus in January, 1887.
    Who’s extinct NOW Wheaton? LOL

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