Cobblestone Museum will celebrate restored Akeley fox as part of Heritage Fest

Photo by Tom Rivers: The restored fox, a work of taxidermy by famed Clarendon native Carl Akeley, is back on display at the Cobblestone Museum after a restoration effort.

Staff Reports Posted 7 September 2017 at 8:32 am

GAINES – A fox that is the work of Carl Akeley, the famed taxidermist from Clarendon, will be highlighted at the Cobblestone Museum as one of the event’s during the upcoming Orleans County Heritage Festival.

Provided photo: Carl Akeley is pictured with a leopard in Africa that he killed with his bare hands after it attacked him.

The museum is holding a “welcome home” celebration for the restored red fox that was originally mounted by Akeley when he was a teen-ager about 140 years ago. A native of Clarendon, Akeley established himself as one of the most influential taxidermists in the history of the United States. His major works exist in museums throughout the country including the Akeley Hall of African Mammals in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

The red fox was mounted by Akeley at the age of 16 and was procured for him by Francis Harling of Albion. The mounted fox diorama represents one of Akeley’s earliest works still existing in Orleans County. This amazing diorama was donated to the museum in 1979 by John Seager, great-grandson of  Francis Harling, in memory of his parents Agnes Harling Seager and John Seager.

The Museum worked with taxidermist and conservator George Dante of Wildlife Preservations in New Jersey alongside two conservators from the American Museum of Natural History to have the piece fully restored to its original beauty.

A reception with the Clarendon Historical Society will take place at the 1834 Cobblestone Church on Saturday, September 16, at 5 p.m.

Two years ago, the fox was in a display case at the Cobblestone Museum and was missing an eye, with its fur matted. The animal was in rough shape and wasn’t given a prominent spot at the Cobblestone Museum.

But it was an early example of Carl Akeley’s taxidermy work. The fox was an ambitious effort after Akeley started with birds. Akeley would become one of the world’s most renown taxidermists and remains an industry legend 153 years after his birth.

This fox was mounted by Carl Akeley nearly 140 years ago. It is back on display at the Cobblestone Museum after getting some needed attention. The fox used to be in Farmer’s Hall at the museum, but now is displayed inside the Cobblestone Universalist Church, the most prominent building at the museum on Route 104 in Gaines.

He earned acclaim after stuffing the giant elephant Jumbo, and made several trips to Africa, hunting animals and displaying them in New York City at Akeley’s Hall of Mammals in the American Museum of Natural History.

Locally, he gained renewed prominence three years ago when the Clarendon Historical Society celebrated his 150th birthday.

Jay Kirk, author of the Carl Akeley biography “Kingdom Under Glass,” was the featured speaker during a program about Akeley on May 21, 2014. Kirk chronicled Akeley’s life during the golden age of safaris in the early 20th Century.

Akeley’s adventures connected him with Theodore Roosevelt, P.T. Barnum and George Eastman. Akeley died in 1926 and is buried in Africa.

The taxidermist community worked with the Clarendon Historical Society last year to put a monument at Hillside Cemetery in honor of Akeley. Donors, many of them taxidermists around the world, contributed to have the $8,000 monument in Akeley’s honor. The monument is in the shape of the African continent and the stone is black African granite.

The memorial includes a quote from Akeley, who survived being mauled by an elephant and vicious bites on his arm from a leopard. “Death Wins! Bravo! But I Laugh In His Face As He Noses Me Out At The Wire.” The stone will note Akeley’s birth, May 19, 1864, and his death, Nov. 17, 1926.

Photo by Kristina Gabalski: This monument for Carl Akeley was dedicated at Hillside Cemetery in May 2016. Taxidermy historian and Carl Akeley expert John Janelli (back left), Ken Edwards of, and Clarendon Historian Melissa Ierlan pose behind the Carl E. Akeley Memorial Stone. Edwards designed the memorial stone and was instrumental in rallying the support of taxidermy professionals behind the project to honor Akeley, who was born in Clarendon in 1864.

When Clarendon made a big push to recognize Akeley, retired Orleans County Historian Bill Lattin told Clarendon Historian Mellisa Ierlan the Cobblestone Museum had an early example of Akeley’s work.

The community was able to raise abut $6,000 to give the fox some needed attention. In July 2015, Ierlan took the fox to George Dante, a professional taxidermist in New Jersey. Dante, owner of Wildlife Preservations, gave the fox new life. When the case with the fox was opened, the fox’s missing eye was found. Dante put the eye back where it belonged.

He gave the fox a new tail, which had to be dyed to match the fox’s body. Dante also had to replace the fox’s feet and fill in some gaps by the ears.

He vacuumed the body and the fur popped back up. He also replaced the bird as part of the display. Akeley had the fox with feathers in its mouth. Dante kept the scene created originally by Akeley nearly 140 years ago.

To see the schedule for the Heritage Festival, click here.

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