American Museum portrait of a young R. C. Andrews during his 'Whaling Days'.
Dinosaurs interest more people today than ever before, and books about dinosaurs, and the expeditions sent to find them continue to be popular. Titles such as The Dinosaur Project [Macfarlane Walter & Ross, 1993], and Dinosaurs of the Flaming Cliffs [Doubleday 1996], offer enjoyable non-scientific accounts of expeditions to collect dinosaurs in Asia. Their subtitles; “The story of the greatest dinosaur expedition ever mounted”, and Doubleday’s more restrained; “The thrilling account of one of the largest dinosaur expeditions of the 20th century...”, might lead us to suppose the expeditions were in competition with each other. However, the two accounts were published roughly four years apart and documented the joint Sino-Canadian expeditions in China, and the American Museum’s return to Mongolia respectively.
Both expeditions operated in a remote area of the world, the rugged naked outcrops and shifting sands of the Gobi desert that lay on the borders of northern China and southern Mongolia. Long proven to contain enough fossil treasure for numerous expeditions, the Gobi has also been explored by Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Polish, and Russian teams. Under this intense scrutiny it has revealed a trove of unique and exquisitely preserved fossilized skeletons.
Despite the superlatives used by their publicists, all expeditions to the Gobi follow in the wheel ruts and camel tracks of one truly monumental expedition, the Third Central Asiatic Expeditions [C.A.E.] of the American Museum of Natural History, New York [1922 - 1930]. Despite having withdrawn from the field eighty years ago, the C.A.E. continues to cast a long shadow across the orange sands of Mongolia and China. The organizer and leader of the C.A.E., Roy Chapman Andrews, was a daring American explorer of the 1920’s who is often identified as the model for the movie hero Indiana Jones, a rumor that co-creators Steven Speilberg and George Lucas have denied. While Indiana Jones may be an unintentional amalgam of real men like Roy Chapman Andrews, Sven Hedin, and Langdon Warner, the four movies undeniably follow in the tradition of “Adventure” movies made popular during the 1930’s.
While Indiana Jones is a creation of Hollywood, Roy Chapman Andrews was the flesh and blood equivalent. He actually did fight off a plague of poisonous snakes, sand storms, bandits, hostile armies in remote corners of the world, and was every bit as ruggedly photogenic as Harrison Ford. Andrews led a remarkable life, a quintessential American success story, beginning his career at the American Museum of Natural History mopping floors, retiring 35 years later as its Director. Expeditions led by Andrews to Korea, Northern China and Mongolia explored and mapped lands previously unknown to Westerners, discovered many new living animals, fossil mammals, dinosaurs, and the first dinosaur eggs described by science. All of these remarkable accomplishments by the time Andrews was 39 years old.
First Edition First Printing
Although a mammologist by training, Andrews is most often associated with dinosaurs, and it is his dinosaur books for children that may be his greatest legacy. Many of today’s leading dinosaur specialists like Philip Currie of the University of Alberta, in Canada, acknowledge their adult fascination with dinosaurs is in part due to reading Andrews’ All About Dinosaurs, or All About Strange Beasts Of The Past.
First Edition First Printing
When writing for adults, Andrews had an uncommon ability to record what he saw and did in a manner that was popular and accessible to non-scientists. Many of his books were written hurriedly on trains and ships in the precious spare time between expeditions, fundraising, and lecturing. Andrews was not a great statesman or philosopher. His writing has few pretensions to literary graces, but it is vivid and full of action and adventure. In today’s world where bookstore shelves groan under the weight of the travels of mediocrity, Andrews’ writing still strikes an authentic note. Virtually in continuous print since 1929, his first autobiography Ends Of The Earth has proven a good investment for at least seven domestic and foreign publishers.
First Edition, First Printing. G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1929
With twenty-two books, and well over 200 magazine articles, Andrews did more to popularize dinosaur hunting than any professional palaeontologist, and generated more interest in Central Asia than any writer previously. Sadly, despite the current frenzied interest in all things related to dinosaurs, this body of work is poorly known by book collectors, and book dealers.
Roy Chapman Andrews was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on January 26, 1884. His parents, Charles Ezra, a rural wholesale druggist, and Cora May Chapman Andrews, were gentle, intelligent people, but there was nothing in his background or surroundings to indicate what he would become. He grew up along the banks of the Rock River with the fields and woods of southern Wisconsin as his playground. Two books made an impression on the young adventurer, Handbook of Birds of Eastern North America by Frank M. Chapman, and William T. Hornaday’s Taxidermy and Home Decoration. Frank Chapman, considered the foremost ornithologist in America at that time, inspired Andrews to wander the woods, binoculars and notebook in hand, studying the habits and migrations of local bird species. Fascinated by nature early in life, Andrews taught himself taxidermy by reading Hornaday’s book, and while still in public school became proficient at realistic bird mounts. From as early as he could remember, Andrews wanted to be an explorer, living out of doors and working for a natural history museum.
In the summer of 1906, two months after graduating from college, Andrews arrived in New York with only thirty-five dollars in his pocket, determined to work at the American Museum of Natural History. Granted an interview with the museum’s director, Herman C. Bumpus, he asked for a job, scrubbing floors if nothing else was available. Bumpus observed that college graduates should not scrub floors. Undaunted, Andrews replied “ I don’t want to wash just any floors, but the Museum floors are different”. Andrews was hired as an assistant in the preparation department, where his duties were washing floors, mixing clay, and helping to set up exhibits. Tenacity paid off and he was soon given a field assignment to assist with collecting the skeleton of a beached whale at Amagansett, Long Island. It was an experience that exhilarated Andrews. His enthusiasm for his work and for the museum were immediately apparent, and he quickly advanced within the institution.
Coloured postcard of A.M.N.H. mailed in 1906Andrews sailed on expeditions to the Pacific Ocean in order to study whales and the whaling industry in British Columbia, Alaska, Korea, and Japan. Thriving on difficult work, Andrews stalked whales at sea and dissected, sketched, and recorded their characteristics at the rendering factories on shore. He persisted with research despite almost constant torment from seasickness and a number of harrowing experiences; most dramatically, on the deck of a whaler, escaping death by inches when the carcass of a whale slipped from the tackle, crushing the man standing beside him. Throughout his life he made light of the perils of exploration, claiming that he found it more dangerous to live in a modern city than in the wild. He eventually sent back enough whale specimens to fill a large exhibit hall, and built the museum’s collection into what is still regarded as one of the best in the world.
Endowed with enormous energy and ability, Andrews soon established a reputation in the study of cetaceans, and by age twenty-seven he was a recognised authority on whales.
Hand-coloured lantern slide: Baleen. Photo by Roy C. Andrews 1912As a result of these extensive studies he published two major monographs in the prestigious Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History: The California Gray Whale, and The Sei Whale . This pioneering work became the basis for his master’s degree from Columbia University, and seven scientific papers on various Cetacea. Despite early acclaim, Andrews’ wrote years later that his heart was not in pure research, a fact born out by publishing none after he was thirty years old.
Andrews’ photograhs in The New York Times created a sensation. The pictures of live whales, swimming, eating and mating were the only images of the giant and poorly known mammals published at that time. Andrews’ star began to rise when Walter Hines Page, editor of World’s Work magazine, asked him to write an article about modern whaling practices. Andrews’ first submission written in scientific jargon was a dismal failure that was rejected outright. However, with the patient guidance of Page, Andrews learned to write in a manner that interested the general public, and conveyed his own personal enthusiasm for the work. Success with his first published periodical story, Whale Hunting As It Is Now Done , led to 13 additional articles in popular magazines such as Harper’s, Metropolitan, and Outing, as well as science magazines that include Nature, Scientific American, and National Geographic. It was at this time that Andrews became popular as a public lecturer. His ability to instil an audience with excitement about science and exploration would serve him well when it came time to raise funds for future expeditions.
Glass Lantern Slide Gray Whale, Ulsan Korea. Photo by Roy C. Andrews
During 1909-10 he served as special naturalist aboard the research ship U.S.S. Albatross on a voyage to the Dutch East Indies, Borneo, and the Celebes. The Albatross made a three year journey around the Philippine Islands, a new American territory recently acquired from Spain, and Andrews was involved in conducting the first survey of life in those waters. He was one of only two people aboard the ship that published a narrative about the history making voyage. During 1911 - 12 he explored northern Korea to collect existing mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and plants in a region never before entered by an outsider. In 1913 he was with the Borden Alaska Expedition, and continued his study of whales and other water mammals until 1914. In 1914 he married Yvette Borup, sister of Arctic explorer George Borup, who had accompanied Admiral Robert E. Peary during his journey to the North Pole. Yvette, a talented photographer whose work appeared in Andrews’ early books and popular magazine articles, was also a lover of the great outdoors, and in the early years of their marriage travelled with her husband to remote corners of the world.
Gilt embossed cover of First Edition, First Printing. 1916
Illustrated dust jacket of First Printing. D. Appleton & Co., 1916.
Andrews’ first book; Whale Hunting With Gun And Camera was a gamble for D. Appleton & Co. The as yet unknown Andrews had written an ambitious book, that until the 1960’s, would remain the most comprehensive study of whale behaviour published. The compelling and exciting images of whale hunting, and previously unseen images of living whales were a departure from Appleton’s normal stock. Ahead of its time, it would have been a risk to publish in the best years, and 1916 was not a good year. America had not yet joined the fight against Germany, but the global effects of W.W.I had already driven the cost of book publication up by 25%. Few publishers could risk committing to a new writer who may not sell. However, Whale Hunting With Gun and Camera does appear to have sold well enough, as there were five printings between 1916 and 1935. Now difficult to obtain in any condition, the first edition, first printing of the heavy photo-illustrated book is scarce. In thirty-one years of collecting Andrews I have located only one first edition copy in the original illustrated dust wrapper. All subsequent printings were issued in a sickly green wrapper with blue titles and no illustration, and the cloth binding lacks the gilt design on the cover.