Millinery Coffins

On June 2, 1900, Frank Chapman “startled” his audience at the annual meeting of the New York State Audubon Society. In his lecture, which — still a novelty at the time — was illustrated with photographs, Chapman, cold man of science that he was, pushed as many rhetorical hot buttons as he could, citing, for example,

a shipload of ten tons of the willow grouse wings, the birds killed for the plumage…. [hawks and vultures] were trapped … the feathers pulled out, and then they were let go, but unable to fly.

On a single winter afternoon in Virginia, plumers “destroyed” 1400 gulls, their snowy breasts destined to ornament hats. “Is it fair,” Chapman concluded, “to deprive a beautiful bird of its life to make a hat like that?”

And the women in the audience clapped heartily to show their disapproval of millinery coffins.