Dorothy Sloan -- Books

AUCTION 22

 

One of the Most Sought-After Texas Quadrupeds

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30.     AUDUBON, J[ohn] W[oodhouse]. Dasypus Peba, Desm. Nine-Banded Armadillo. Male. Natural Size. [at top] No. 30. | Plate CXLVI. [below] Drawn from Nature by J.W. Audubon. | Lithd. Printed & Cold. by J.T. Bowen. Philada. 1848. Philadelphia, 1848. Hand-colored lithograph. Image: 44.2 x 64.2 cm; image and text: 48.1 x 64.2 cm; overall sheet size: 54.8 x 69.4 cm. Light browning to blank margins, stab holes from binding present, one repair to verso in upper margin (affecting a few letters of the plate number but no losses); other than these few minor flaws, a fine copy with excellent color. Matted, maple frame, and under Plexiglas.

     First edition. The print is included in Dr. Ron Tyler’s preliminary study of nineteenth-century Texas lithographs, in which he comments: “Two of the most famous Quadruped prints are the jack rabbit and the armadillo…. The armadillo, which the Rev. Bachman described as resembling a ‘small pig saddled with the shell of a turtle,’ may well be the most sought-after Texas quadruped print, so it is something of a disappointment to learn that, although Audubon did see armadillos in Texas, the painting was made from a domesticated one belonging to a friend in Philadelphia, rather than one taken in the wilds of south or west Texas.”

     We dislike showing disrespect to the venerable armadillo, yet the Handbook of Texas Online article does point out some aspects of the armadillo and popular culture:

Before the mid-1850s the armadillo was known only along the lower Rio Grande valley. By 1880 it had extended its range across South Texas, and it reached the Hill Country and Austin before the turn of the century. Continuing its movement northward and eastward, the armadillo spread throughout most of Texas and into Louisiana and Oklahoma during the 1920s and 1930s.

Armadillos are adaptable animals. They have few natural enemies; hunters, dogs, coyotes, and automobiles are among the chief agents of mortality. Armadillos are able to survive and reproduce in a variety of habitats….

Human beings have contributed significantly to the spread of armadillos. Some have been captured or purchased as curious pets and later escaped or been intentionally released. In these ways breeding populations were initially established in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Some people may have carried armadillos into new territory for human consumption. The animals have long been considered a legitimate game animal in Mexico, and the practice of eating armadillos was adopted by residents of South Texas when the animal migrated there. During the Great Depression, East Texans stocked their larders with armadillos, which they called “Hoover hogs” because of the animal’s supposed pork-like flavor (some say chicken-like) and because they considered President Herbert Hoover responsible for the depression. Currently, barbecued armadillo and armadillo chili are popular foods at various festivals in parts of Texas, Arkansas, and the southeastern United States….

Armadillos have been promoted as a Texas souvenir since the 1890s. Charles Apelt, inventor of the armadillo-shell basket, first displayed his wares at the New York World’s Fair in 1902. His family operated the Apelt Armadillo Company near Comfort until 1971. In addition to baskets, Apelt’s catalog listed lamps, wall hangings, and other curios fashioned from the armadillo’s shell. His farm was also a principal supplier of live armadillos to zoos, research institutions, and individuals.

Armadillo racing became a popular amusement in Texas during the 1970s. Several organizations, notably from San Angelo, began promoting races throughout the United States, in Canada, and even in Europe. As a result, the animal is strongly associated with Texas. The Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, a rock and country music establishment decorated by the “Michelangelo of armadillo art,” Jim Franklin, was from 1970 to 1980 a monument to the association between Texans and the armadillo. In the late 1970s the Texas legislature voted down attempts to make the armadillo the official state mammal, but in 1981 it was declared the official state mascot by executive decree.

     This is one of the quadrupeds painted by John Woodhouse, Audubon (1812-1862), son of John James Audubon. See Handbook of Texas Online: John Woodhouse Audubon.

($2,000-4,000)

Auction 22 Abstracts

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