Friday, January 28, 2011

The Sparrow Plague in 1886

Now here is a curious document from the Archives. It is a letter sent from the federal board of agriculture to onetime local poet-farmer William Lambie. Dated October 2, 1886, the form letter thanks Lambie for the receipt of his count of English Sparrows.

The non-native English Sparrow was a serious farm pest, consuming volumes of grain from farm fields. It was such a problem that there was enough material for me to write a whole story about it over at the Chronicle.

Of course, yesterday my husband filled up our bird feeder and there are a whole passel of English Sparrows hungrily pecking up the grain right now...times change.

Another curious aspect is: why on earth was this inconsequential bit of ephemera saved among Lambie's effects? Much less handed down through the years? It's interesting of course, but it seems odd that this form letter would float through the years to become part of the Archives holdings. A mystery. (click for larger image).

1 comment :

Fritz said...

It might be that very few letters from official government ornithologists go to people who would lightly toss aside a letter from an official government ornithologist. :-)

I love the image of Lambie grumbling away, corresponding with poets, and officially counting sparrows. (And *English* sparrows, too.)