“I couldn’t help it. I happen to have been born to do it.

I am sure that I would have been a rotten failure doing anything else.”

~ Ends Of The Earth ~

Sunday, July 24, 2011

J. McKenzie Young ~ Shocking, Shell Shocking Indeed

Watertown, New York, Daily News.  December 22, 1923

I found this newspaper article this morning while searching the excellent site:  Fulton History,  operated by Thomas M. Tryniski.

Obviously yet another version of Mac's story, involving Shell Shock, or what is in modern parlance referred to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Not to make light of Shell Shock, but I find it hard to believe that the Northwest Mounted Police would have taken Mac in if he was so disoriented.  In addition, his United States Marine Corps file shows that on application to the force Mac knew exactly who his parents were and where they were living.

Truly, fact is stranger than fiction.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

John McKenzie Young: Gobi Explorer [ Part 4 of a series ]

'Mac' Young standing with a Chinese officer of the Trail Guard, Chap Ser, Outer Mongolia

As recounted in "This Business Of Exploring" by Roy Chapman Andrews.  1935.

[After being robbed in Seattle] "Mac was hungry, his head ached like the devil, his spirits were far, far below zero. He passed a Marine Corps recruiting station "Join the Marines and see the world." "Well," thought Mac, "I can always go back to the army." "What's your experience?" asked the recruiting officer. "Four years of the war. Big guns. Six-inch howitzers." "Sure, we want you." "What post is farthest from the U. S. A.?" asked Mac. "Peking, China, the Legation Guard." "All right. I'll join if you  send me there. But you've got to promise. China for me." So as an enlisted man for three years Mac joined the U. S. Marine Corps. But he didn't get to China at once. A station on the Pacific coast, training men to handle artillery, was where he landed first. As usual, he was too valuable; they didn't want to let him go. But Mac held them to their promise and one brilliant day in autumn he arrived in Peking. Colonel (later Gen- eral) Hal Dunlap was in command. Hal was one of my most intimate friends. We shared a temple together, which rejoiced in the name of "The Temple of the High Spirited Insects." Colonel Dunlap soon discovered that Mac was an expert motor mechanic, promoted him to Corporal and put him in charge of all the Legation Guard automobiles and trucks. I saw Mac often at the Insects temple. I needed a man to take charge of our cars on the second expedition to the Gobi Desert. Colonel Dun- lap suggested Mac as I hoped he would. We got him assigned on detached duty to the Expedition and thus began our friendship."

One would think that Mac kept his family informed of his comings and goings.  From what I have read, his parents were good people, and well liked by their community.  Yet, it appears that Mac did not tell his parents where he was, as is evident by this article from the Jefferson County Journal, Weds. January 2, 1924.

Having worked with the media myself, I know that they are sometimes prone to muddying a story by getting the facts wrong, or by conflating facts; thus the reference to working for the government and the American Museum.  Or, was Mac given to telling tall tales on a regular basis?

What prompted Mac to suddenly get in contact with his parents?  A search of my collection reveals that in the January 1924 issue of Asia Magazine, in the article by Roy Chapman Andrews "Where The Dinosaur Hid Its Eggs" is a large group portrait of the expedition crew.  J. McKenzie Young is dead center, and is clearly named in the caption.

I have no idea if Young's parents read Asia Magazine.  It was a well written, wholesome publication that had a large circulation in the 1920's.  If Mac's parents would not have seen it, likely one of his Father's congregation would have.  In addition, having returned from Mongolia, Roy Chapman Andrews would be giving public lectures to raise funds, lectures that included lantern slides and film.

Certainly, if Mac intended some level of anonymity by going to China, it was not going to last long.

In an article published after his death, September 4, 1931, in the Humboldt Standard, Eureka California, Mac's Father, a Presbyterian Minister remember, provides some information to the reporter:

"Mr. Young was born in Toronto and served in the Canadian Army during the World War.  Afterward he joined the Northwest Mounted Police.  Later he was sent to Texas by an Oil company and there he joined the United States Secret Service and was sent to China."

Is this possibly the 'government' referred to in the earlier article?  A fellow enthusiast, Don Arp Jr., contacted me some years back and we exchanged letters and e-mails regarding Mac Young's mysterious Suicide/Death.  Don did some investigating into the 'Secret Service' story and found that each state once had a Secret Service, but New York and Texas had no records of Mac Young.  Nor did the Secret Service who we all associate with dark sunglasses, ear pieces, and protecting the American Presidents.

An interesting sidelight to my search of Newspapers involved the incident when Mac froze his hands driving in Mongolia and had to have the ends of some fingers amputated due to severe frostbite.

"As a result of this incident Young became the first explorer ever to receive an award from the Labour Department under the compensation Act in this state [New York]"

A likely event, but again, not something I have been able to substantiate.

An endorsement for the Exide Battery.  Fulton Patriot, October 30, 1929

1930 was the last year that key expedition members would be together on an expedition into the Gobi.  While Andrews tried to negotiate new terms with Chinese authorities, the museum staff members were sent back to New York, while contract staff such as John McKenzie Young were let go.

Andrews was not about to turn his back on Mac Young, and wrote to several potential employers on Mac's behalf, recommending him as an excellent worker and all round reliable under the most trying of conditions.

I have in my collection an original letter that Mac wrote to Andrews on November 25th, 1929, prior to the last expedition of 1930.  The return address is in Chelsea, London, England, an exclusive neighborhood even today.  In thanking Andrews for a copy of his recent book Ends of the Earth [published September 1929] Mac writes that his own book was due for publication in January.

I have found no record of anything authored and published by Young.  I expect that Andrews would have mentioned it in one of the biographies he wrote about Mac Young.

At the time, Mac was living?, involved with? a woman named Violet.  No last name given, and although he refers to they did this, and they visited so and so, he mentions her by name only once.  I have encountered no other mention of Violet in over thirty years of collecting and research.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

J. McKenzie Young. Part Three: "Mac Of The Mounted"

Roy Chapman Andrews tells the following version of Mac Young's life between the end of the First World War, and Young joining the United States Marine Corps:

[Excerpt from This Business of Exploring.  G. P. Putnam's Sons., 1935.  pp. 104 - 106]

So he wandered northward to Canada, lured by the legends of the Northwest Mounted Police. But it wasn't what he hoped it would be. He was too valuable at headquarters. For several years he was a "mountie" but did not reenlist.

There at the edge of the great country stretching northward to the Arctic Ocean tales came down of 
trappers and fur traders in the Mackenzie River region. Mac and two of his buddies decided to seek their fortunes in the north. None of them knew much about trapping but they could learn. They did learn too and it was a bitter experience during a long winter. 

They got plenty of furs, but Indians stole a cache of food. They struggled to a trading post just on the verge of complete starvation. The trader did not run true to the traditions of the north. In return for enough food to take them out he made them give him their best furs. At last they arrived in Seattle and the remaining skins were sold. Eight hundred dollars apiece was the net profit. 

Of course they had a night of celebration. Until I had been on a long cruise myself and away from civilization for many months I never could understand why sailors at the end of a voyage want to raise Cain and spend every cent of money they have worked so hard to make. I found out because that was just what I wanted to do. Every shop looked enticing; every girl was beautiful; all music was intoxicating. The contrast and the sudden change upsets one's sense of values. You are happy to be back and you have to show it or burst. It is a natural human outlet, just as a volcano explodes when too much steam has accumulated. 

Mac awoke next morning in a hotel with all his money gone. He never knew just what happened or how he got there but the fact remained that he did not have a nickel. It was one of Seattle's grayest days, than which nothing can be grayer. Mac was hungry, his head ached like the devil, his spirits were far, far below zero. He passed a Marine Corps recruiting station "Join the Marines and see the world."

[It is a great story - but only that, a story.  But who told it?  Did Mac Young spin this yarn over Gobi campfires?, or did Andrews conflate events with other tales he had heard from other men of adventure?]

R.N.W.M.P. 1919 - 1920

Unfortunately due to a type of institutional insanity, the Original Personnel Records for the Royal North West Mounted Police [a precursor of our modern Royal Canadian Mounted Police] were destroyed in accordance with government regulations. 

In 1986, I received a reply from S. W. Horrall, Historian at the RCMP in response to my request for any information on Young.  I was told that from 'scattered sources' at the Public Archives he could tell me that Young had enlisted in at Toronto in August 1919, was transferred to the training Depot at Regina, and after basic training was employed on office duties until he purchased his discharge on August 5th, 1920.   No photographs existed of Young in Royal North West Mounted Police archives.

In 2004, I was introduced to Don Klancher, a retired RCMP officer, and major private collector of the Forces' history, documents, photographs, and uniforms.  I learned that not all information had been destroyed, and that there was an ongoing effort to compile as much information on all the force's personnel from day one onwards.  A daunting task indeed.

Don Klancher had known a fragment of Young's story, and I traded him what I knew for what he could access from the project's files.  

Young had joined the RNWMP / RCMP service on August 11, 1919, was assigned Regimental Number 8592, as a Sgt., and purchased his discharge from a 5 year stint, on August 5, 1920.  His burial place was given as Fortuna, California.  However, as I will reveal, that is not where he is buried.

Undated photo of Mac Young in the Gobi

From this point on, the story told about John McKenzie Young, or the story he put around about himself, begin to have large and small inconsistencies.  

I have a photocopy of Young's complete Marine Corps service record.  In the file it shows that Mac Young applied in person to join the USMC, in Seattle, Wash., on August 31, 1920.  

This allows a scant twenty-six days between leaving the Mounted Police Depot in Regina, Saskatchewan and arriving in Seattle.  Certainly not enough time to spend a winter trapping furs in Canada's Arctic..... 

I do not know what it would have cost Young to buy out his remaining four year contract with the RNWMP, but I expect he did not have much money put aside, and that after visiting family and friends, Mac Young was looking for gainful employment that needed the skills of a former soldier and Mounted Police officer.  The Marine Corps was likely more enticing than returning to being a bank clerk.

Or, did Mac Young actually join the Secret Service?

Stay tuned.....

Sunday, May 15, 2011

John McKenzie Young 1894 - 1931 Part Two.

"Mac" [John McKenzie] Young.  1930.

In Part One I presented the story of John McKenzie Young as published by Roy Chapman Andrews.  There is no doubt that Young's death deeply affected Andrews, and members of the Central Asiatic Expeditions, Marine Corps, and one suspects, many of the female members of the Peking Foreign Legation social circle.

For longer versions of Young's life and assorted adventures see Andrews:  J. McKenzie Young - Explorer, in: This Business of Exploring, 1932.  Chapter 7, pp. 102 - 118; and Bravest Man I Ever Knew, In: American Magazine June 1955.  I also have a lengthy manuscript by Andrews which is titled "He Danced With Death A Dozen Times"  It has Andrews' handwritten notation that it was sent to Argosy sometime in the 1950's but I can not read the date clearly.  If anybody knows I would be grateful to hear from you.

I have contacted all of the agencies that Young was said to have been a member of.  
I have a copy of his Canadian Military Service Record, his Service Record in the United States Marine Corps., and what little information remains available from the incredibly short-sighted archives and records of the North-West Mounted Police, now known as The Royal Canadian Mounted Police.


S. S. JUSTICIA Dazzle paint, headed for U Boat infested crossings of North Atlantic.  1917

Young volunteered for the Canadian Expeditionary Force, Siege Artillery Draft, at McGill University, on May 21, 1917.  He states that at that time he was a member of the McGill Canadian Officers Training Corps.  He gave his place of Birth as Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  His parents at that time were listed as living in Pittsburgh, PA.

Along with approximately 3, 999 other troops, Mac climbed onboard S. S. Justicia at Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada on June 25, 1917, and disembarked at Liverpool, England on July 17, 1917.
Initially placed in reserve Artillery stationed at Shorncliffe, Kent; in less than a few weeks Young was absorbed into the 13th Siege Battery, which itself was later absorbed into the second 10th Canadian Siege Battery.

His AFB records that about August 21, 1917 a Field Warrant was issued against him, but why is not specified.  CANCELLED was written through it, and Young is still Bombadier Private 2nd class the next day.  It appears that Young did spend a lot of time at various Camps in England, as his record shows arriving in France for the first time on March 15, 1918.

9.2 inch howitzers of a Siege Battery in action on the Western Front.

In a letter to The Major General Commandant, United States Marine Corps., Washington, D.C. dated May 17th, 1926, Young states that he was Twenty-two months overseas, and took part in major engagements at Paaschaendale, Vimy Ridge, Arras, Amiens, Cambrai, and several minor ones.

Major engagements occurred at:
- Paaschaendale:  July and November, 1917
- Vimy Ridge: April 9 to 12, 1917
- Arras: April 9th to May 16 1917
- Cambrai: 20 November to December 7 1917
- Amiens: August 8th 1918

While Young's official military record is difficult to translate; there is a lot of acronyms. it is clear to me that Young was not wounded, and would not have been in any of the 'big' engagements, with the possible exception of Amiens.

Young was field promoted to sergeant  on August 5th, 1918 on the advice of a Sgt. Marshall, but reduced to ranks on August 29th, 1918; no explanation why.

Young did in fact apply to join the Royal Air Force on October 27th, 1918, and did make it back to England, and was about to start training when the War ended.  His record does not show that he ever received any instruction on flying, or was ever in an aeroplane during war time.

Mac Young was demobilized at Toronto in May 1919.  He was given an honourable discharge, ranked as a Sergeant, and awarded the British War Medal, and The Victory Medal.

I conclude that the World War One portion of Mac's story is mostly correct, save for any true involvement in the 'big' battles, and probably never did learn to fly.  It would appear that as told, Mac spent a great deal of time at training depots itching to see the war.

If somebody reading this has expertise in reading military personnel records from World War One, I would be more than happy to put Mac's Records at their disposal for analysis.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Personalities ~ John McKenzie Young. Part One.

Earliest verifiable image of John McKenzie Young.
Identity photograph from his USMC Service Record. 
Photograph taken October 1, 1920.  
Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration.

Possibly the most enigmatic member of the Central Asiatic Expeditions was John McKenzie Young, 1894 - 1931.  Despite nearly 30 years of research, I am still unable to determine what parts of Young's life are real, what are outright fabrications by Young and or others, and what may have been intentional obfuscation by agencies as yet unknown, for reasons as yet also unknown.

In Part One, I present a brief overview of Mac's life as it was popularly presented during and shortly after his lifetime.  I have included the entire text of an article written by Roy Chapman Andrews published shortly after Young's mysterious death in 1931.  In Part Two I will point out inconsistencies in the popular mythos, and present what I do know, and what remains to be verified.


Central Asian Explorer - John McKenzie Young.

The Arctic explorer, Admiral Peary, said : "The three most important qualities which an explorer must have are loyalty, unselfishness and dependability."  Peary might also have been describing members of the United States Marine Corps., in particular John McKenzie Young.

"Mac", as his friends called him, was a veteran of France, and a former member of Canada's famed Northwest Mounted Police.  After W.W. I Young became uncomfortable in civilian life and enlisted in the Marine Corps.  However, Young had an unusual request; the Marines must send him to the furthest posting possible from America, the Legation Guard in Peking, China.

Unbeknownst to Young, his desire to escape would propel him into an extraordinary, but little known chapter of Marine Corps history.  Within a few short months, Young found himself  playing a role in the largest non-military expedition to ever leave America at that time, the Central Asiatic Expeditions of the American Museum of Natural History, bound for the barren wastes of Northern China and Outer Mongolia.

Officially the expedition's chief mechanic, Young also had secret orders from his commanding officer to make a reconnaissance of the area traversed by the expedition, the first ever conducted by U.S. military personnel in the area.  Young became the confidant of the expedition leader, Roy Chapman Andrews, and because of his abilities, was placed in charge of the entire expedition during the winter of 1925 - 1926.

Young was present during numerous important scientific discoveries that included: discovery of the first dinosaurs east of the Himalayas, the first dinosaur eggs, and the first evidence of ancient man in Central Asia.

Young returned to America in 1931, a Captain in the Marine Corps Reserve, at Mare's Island.  Mysteriously, one year later, Young was found dead on a lonely road in Northern California.  The official cause was suicide, but Young's friends and family would not believe it.  

J. McKenzie Young Just After The Great Blizzard in Mongolia.

J. McKenzie Young
A Gallant Comrade in the Field of Exploration - A Resourceful Worker - A Steadfast Friend.
By Roy Chapman Andrews.  Natural History Magazine.  1932

Mac Young is dead. It is difficult for me to realize that, for he was ever filled with joie de vivre. Mac always laughed at life, taking the good with the bad, the thick with the thin, never complaining when Fate played him a scurvy trick. Kind-hearted, generous to a fault, loyal, affectionate, sympathetic, faithful to his friendships, — that was McKenzie Young. I shall not write a formal biography of Mac. He would not want that. He was overmodest and if I said anything at all, he would infinitely prefer that I spoke of him as I knew him in the life we lived together. 
Our friendship meant a great deal to us both. It was the kind of friendship that never hesitates to ask a sacrifice each of the other, knowing that it will be given gladly. For six years we were companions in the field and out of it. We shared the joys and disappointments, the pleasures and the hardships of life in the desert. In Peking he had a courtyard in the Expedition's beautiful old Manchu palace. We lived there together, Mac and I, in harmony and happiness. Therefore we knew each other as few men ever get to know their fellows. 
Mac's life was always full of color and romance. He was a typical rolling stone, gathering no moss, but as he often said; "Who wants moss, anyway?" He had been in school in Canada and during the first year of the World War he joined the Canadian forces. Hardly did he land in France before his unit went to the front. Wounded almost immediately, he was sent back to England to recover. Twice more he stopped pieces of shell, for he was a gunner in a battery of six-inch howitzers. Those experiences were interesting and he told them well. On our long trips together across the desert, he kept me fascinated for hours with accounts of his big guns and how they fought them in historic battles. 

At The Expedition's Headquarters.
Mac Young with his dog "Pat" in Peking.

After the war, life in a city was flat and stale.  Like so many others, he sought excitement again. This time he turned to the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, that splendid patrol "who always get their man." From there a fur hunting expedition took him into the tundras of the Arctic where he learned to know the hazards of a trapper's life. Back in Seattle, robbed in a hotel of his hard won share of the sale of furs, he turned again to the Service. In the U. S. Marine Corps, he went to China and there I met him. 
The Colonel of his detachment, my old friend Hal Dunlap, who as a Brigadier-General recently met a tragic death in France, knew and liked him. Colonel Dunlap arranged his detail to the Central Asiatic Expedition when he found that we needed a motor expert. This work is the most arduous of any job on the expedition. At the end of the day's run, when the other men can rest and make themselves comfortable, the motor experts must fill all the tanks with gasoline and inspect every car minutely. If any- thing is wrong it must be repaired that night. A motor man must accompany every reconnaissance trip. If a car is mired he is the one who gets it out. Always the hardest and the most disagreeable work falls to his lot. Mac did it cheerfully and with skill, never complaining. In the later years I depended upon him more and more for every conceivable task. 
During the winter of 1926-7, I was in America. Word came down from the frozen reaches of the Mongolian plateau that our camel herd had been taken by a brigand. Mac knew that the bandit chief was a friend of mine; that he never would have driven off our camels if he had known that they belonged to the Expedition. So into the Gobi he went. It was forty below zero and he found the bandit's yurt. The chief said it was all a mistake and that he would return the camels at once. Mac started back but a blizzard caught him before he was half way to Kalgan. While he was driving in the bitter cold and snow, all the fingers of both hands were frozen. The Wan Chuan Pass, where the trail drops 3000 feet to the lowlands, was a hell of driftcd snow and ice. Suffering tortures, Mac somehow got down the Pass and into Kalgan. The frozen bodies of eight Chinese who were caught in the blizzard on the trail were found some days later. Only a man with a magnificent physique and indomitable courage could have got through alive.

Halfway to Kalgan.
Caught in a Blizzard, Young's car stalled in the Snow drifts.

At Kalgan Mac waited twenty-four hours for a train. Then in an open steel ear packed with Chinese herded like sheep he rode fourteen hours in below zero weather to Peking. By that time he was half delirious with pain. Before he could be persuaded to go to the hospital, he insisted upon sending me a cable that our camels were safe. Devotion to the Expedition and loyalty to me were ever the most important factors in his life. At the hospital the doctors believed it necessary to amputate all the fingers of both hands. Gangrene and certain death would follow if the dead black stumps were left. Mac said "No." He would rather die than go through life with only his two thumbs left. 
Dr. Harold Loucks, the Expedition's surgeon, examined him carefully. His blood was pure, his body as hard and fit as a trained athlete. Doctor Loucks reported that there was just a chance of saving his fingers but that it would mean weeks of pain. 
"Let's go," said Mac with a grin. 
He did not escape the pain. Night after night I would find him pacing the courtyard. Together we would walk in the moonlight until from sheer exhaustion he could sleep. Thus it was for weary months but no one ever heard Mac complain. 
"I'm better," was the invariable reply to his legion of sympathizers. 
All Peking paid homage to his splendid courage. Seven months later, when the last operation had been performed, only the ends of four fingers were taken away, and he could use his hands almost as well as ever. 
Mac had physical, as well as moral, courage. We had many experiences together which made me feel that he and Walter Granger were the two men of all the world I'd like to have at my side in a serious row. 
Young's Car Breaking Through The Ice.

In 1930 we were coming down from Mongolia alone in two cars. We had been warned that the trail swarmed with bandits. When we passed the Mongol village belonging to our caravan men, Bato's brother ran out to signal us. He said that the previous night thirty brigands had killed two Chinese and robbed their cars only ten miles south on the road. They might still be there; he did not know. Mac and I went on with our rifles and revolvers ready for action. We were not asking for trouble, but we did not intend to be driven off the road by thirty Chinese bandits. The cars had been held up near a mud house which had long been a brigand rendezvous. When we arrived, all was quiet and the place seemed deserted, for even the Mongols from several yurts had gone or kept indoors. We went by at full speed and passed Chap Ser in the same way, reaching Kalgan with no difficulty. 
A week later Mac went back. Ho drove one car and Liu Hsih-ku, one of our Chinese, the other. I had a presentiment that something would happen, and asked Mac to be particularly careful on the road. Two days of rain had made the trail like grease. He fought mud all the way where we had driven over a hard, dry terrain. On the second morning after passing Chap Ser, two Mongol children told him that bandits were robbing a caravan just ahead. It was at the familiar place of the mud house. 
The ground was so soft that Mac could not leave the road and circle over the hills and he decided to go on. The mud house appeared half obscured by a train of oxcarts. Several men stood about. Mac had nearly passed the house when from behind a low wall thirty yards away three Chinese opened fire with Luger pistols. Bullets sang all about him, but he was not hit. He slowed down, swung about in the seat and took a snap shot at one fellow who was doing the most persistent shooting. His bullet struck a small stone in the mud wall an inch from the man's head. Either the steel jacket or fragments of rock hit the bandit's face. He fell backward, but the other two kept on firing. 
Mac dared not take his hands of the wheel, for the car was skidding dangerously. Holding his rifle in one hand like a pistol, he fired three more shots. In the meantime a dozen brigands standing near horses on the other side of the road began shooting with rifles and pistols. Some had mounted and were riding after him when Mac slowed down, took a good aim and killed a horse. That ended the matter. The bandits stopped and galloped away. 
When the Expedition returned a month later, they learned that there had been eleven brigands in the mud house. They expected an easy time when the two cars approached, and got the surprise of their lives. Instead of finding sheeplike Chinese who would have stopped at the first shot, they had figuratively grabbed a viper by the tail which proceeded to sting them unmercifully. 
Unselfishness was one of Mac's most outstanding virtues; it is, I may remark, a sine qua non for an explorer. Time after time when we have been crossing the desert together, when water was short, when the sun had turned the sand into a glaring furnace, when our throats were parched and our mouths like cotton, I have had to watch Mac to see that he took his share. I have slept with him in the open on the summit of the Altai Mountains where the cold bit like a knife, and waked to find myself with more than my half of the blanket. Those are the things that one never can forget; the things that endear a man to his fellows as nothing else can. Mac returned to New York from China early in 1931. The Chinese had forced a temporary suspension of the Expedition and, until we could see our way clear to resume operations, the headquarters had been closed. 

En Route To Mongolia
McKenzie Young and AMNH President Henry Fairfield Osborn at the barrier outside of Kalgan, in 1923

In August he started to drive alone in his car from New York to California. In Nevada he met two nice-looking young men who asked him for a lift. Mac never refused a kindness to any human being. Of course, he agreed. Near Lovelock they suggested that it would be well to fill his water bottle from a spring beside the road. While he sat in the car, one of the men doped the canteen and offered him a drink. A short time later the drugged water made him so sleepy that he could not go on. He stopped the car beside the road and, while one of the men effusively thanked him for the ride, the other stepped behind, bashed him over the head, robbed and left him in the motor. 
He never recovered from the blow. During the following two weeks he complained of an unendurable headache, but continued on his way westward. On September 3 his body was found in his car in a lonely lane near Eureka, California, with a bullet in the back of his head. Murder or suicide? The coroner reported it to be the latter. Personally I cannot believe that verdict to be true. Unless it were done when he was temporarily insane from the pain in his head, he never would have taken his own life. Of that I am sure. Mac was only thirty-seven years old and he had much to live for. With his passing I have lost a dear friend. His place on the Expedition never can be filled. When we return to Mongolia, something vital which we loved will be gone from the life on the desert. 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lion's Paws: The Story of Famous Ink-Covered Hands.

Nellie Simmons Meier

Among many varied pleasures involved with building my Andrews collection has been the discovery of various quirky individuals that were in one way or another associated with Roy.  Today I introduce a Palmist [Fortune Teller] Palm Reader - Nellie Simmons Meier.

Meier published: Lion's Paws;  The Story of Famous Hands in 1937, published by Barrows Mussey, New York. Her act was somewhat popular among the well-to-do, and she managed to convince sixty-six celebrities from Movies, Sports, Dance, Literature, etc, to allow their hands to be inked up, and leave their impression on paper.  Among those who submitted to this were Irvin S. Cobb, Elbert Hubbard, Margaret Sanger, Alexander, Grand Duke of Russia, Walt Disney, Jascha Heifetz, George Gershwin, Howard Chandler Christy, Burton Holmes,  Amelia Earhart, and Roy Chapman Andrews.

Being able to peer into an inky print of somebody's palm, and divine their future would be a really great trick if anybody could actually do it.   To be very effective, it should be a controlled experiment with a double blind, where neither the palmist or his/her assistant knows the name or the sex of the individual.

Alas, this is not what Meier did.  Working with already well know celebrities, she expounds on character traits, and lifestyles that would have been easier to divine by picking up a newspaper.  

However, Ms. Meier did leave us a very interesting collection of autographed prints of famous people's palm prints.    Among Roy's fellow Explorinkers were  William Beebe, Raymond Ditmars, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, Harvey W. Wiley, and Bernarr Macfadden.

Here is the entire write up on Roy Chapman Andrews as printed on pages 122-123.


Chapter 18. On Unknown Trails

"How," demanded an Editor who was considering the publication of some of my work, "do you get people who are scientists and great men of affairs to lend themselves to a thing like hand reading? Do they believe in it?" Many of them do not," I replied dryly, "and they have their hands read for that very reason." "But I don't see that."

"Scientists," I informed him, "and inventors, as well as men and women of great affairs, are and must be open minded persons. Most of them know nothing at all about the—as I believe and call it—SCIENCE of hand reading. They know something of the work of charlatans, but they also know of charlatans in medicine, in general science and in all affairs. Rather than cast a doubt upon a possible science of which they know nothing, they have extended their hands to me and have allowed me to read them. The very qualities that sent them out upon unknown trails and returned them as Lions made it imperative that I, as a hand reader, should have the opportunity to demonstrate my work. Some of these people have been impressed by my readings to a point where they have made a further investigation of the subject. But the most of them withhold judgment, in perfect courtesy to a possible fellow scientist upon a trail unknown to them, but not a false trail until it is proved to be false.

Dr. Roy Chapman Andrews, recently appointed head director of the Museum of Natural History in New York City, a scientist whose years of work have been crowded with honors, was perfectly willing to have me come to his office and read his hands. He readily made an appointment. After that I had to wait with patience. For the whimsical character who roamed the oceans from the Arctic to the East Indies in studies of whales, and who after that led the largest expeditions ever sent to Asia into the Gobi Desert, opening up that unknown region of the earth to motor traffic and bringing back to us knowledge of wide and varied character, from fossils to gold, proved to be a bit elusive. I kept three appointments before I saw Dr. Andrews, but it was not from lack of interest on his part or indeed on the part of the people who work with him. As I began the reading, the group grew in numbers. Dr. Andrews as a real sport of a scientist, did not mind. What I found in his hands I might shout to the listening world. But I felt a bit disturbed in making a frank reading. I said so, and the crowd melted away.

I was looking at the hands of a man of power—I think that the reader will know that by the prints shown. They are hands with many conflicting characteristics but dominated by few: firm hard square palms, the palms, of the man who sees the necessity for a practical foundation for what he does, and who will work out the plans essential to that foundation. Great independence in thought and action is shown in the wide flare between the third and fourth fingers, and coolness and courage in time of danger is disclosed in the high development of upper Mars, just under the heart line on the outside of the hand. Add to these a definite whorl shown upon the Mount of the Moon, into which the headline dips—indeed the whorl seems almost an obstruction to the headline in the left hand—and you have a man whose foresight is pronounced along intellectual lines. And top this with the most significant sign of all, the spatulate tip of the third finger, that certain indication of originality, and the double joints of the thumbs, an equally certain indication of love of the dramatic, and you have a condensed picture of Andrews, a courageous, independent, practical character with a gift of prescience and decided originality which will develop along dramatic lines. Certainly Andrews' expeditions have been dramatic.

There are less obvious traits that speak more intimately of the man himself. The thick, long first phalange of the thumb is that of a possessor of the power of iron discipline. The practical palms indicate a love of order; the short fingers show that he wants someone else to maintain that order. But if he must maintain it himself, he can. The length of his first finger shows a strong sense of responsibility and the length of the nail phalange of that finger adds integrity and a high sense of honor. Andrews will always live up to all responsibilities he undertakes, even against mighty odds. The length of his fourth finger, Mercury, shows tact, and the length of its first phalange, the gift of words. He prefers talking to writing. The nails are broader than they are long. Andrews is argumentative and introspective, sometimes mentally irritable, and apt to become belligerent. However, he has a very flexible thumb, and suavity comes to his aid accompanied by a delightful sense of humor that has saved him again and again, a sense of humor which is shown in the development of the mount of Mercury beneath the fourth finger.

On the hands of most famous men and women are definite lines under the third fingers. There are none in the hands of Dr. Andrews* But upon the mount under the third finger is a less usual sign, a circle upon the mount of Apollo, an indication of glory and of lasting success. 


Did she warn Roy that he would never return to Mongolia?; did she warn him that he would die of a painful heart attack?   Sadly, I expect not.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Comical Renderings ~ Modern Dragon Hunter. 1950

By popular demand, here for your edification and enjoyment is another rendering of the Andrews biography rendered into unintelligibility.  Roy Chapman Andrews Modern Dragon Hunter.  True Comics, No. 81, February 1950 [Copyrighted 1949] Anonymous.  I think this is a reprint of an earlier wartime printing, but have temporarily misplaced my reference.  If anybody knows, please drop me a line.

I am unsure of what sources the cartoonist [or his editor] drew upon for images to render this story, perhaps the previously presented Andrews of Asia.  It is a kooky rendering, and yet in its own way endearing.  With thanks to my old friend Staq Mavlen at Atomic Surgery who made all of the original scans.  Enjoy.

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