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Offbeat History: The American Hippo Ranch Plan, Part 2

2020-03-19 | 🔗

We continue out offbeat 2015 story. Once the effort to import hippos to the U.S. got the backing of a politician, two men with intertwined histories, Frederick Russel Burnham and Fritz Duquesne, were brought on board to serve as experts and advocates.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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viewing story of the attempt to bring him to the? U S: has little hives talk animal in the first part of this to partner. We talked about the meat shortage in the? U S and the early nineteen hundred that initiated this desire to brainstorm new animals I feel that meet gap, and we talked a lot about one of the men in particular, who worked to bring hippos from Africa who was Frederick Burnham and today we're gonna be with another man who was brought onto the project by Louisa, Representative Robert Broussard, and then we will discuss how all these men work together and what happened to this hippo plan. So there's a little uncertainty about exactly when Frederick Duquesne was born. Allegedly it was December 21st, one thousand eight hundred and seventy seven in the Cape Colony in South Africa there's some confusion in part because his life was more like a series of concocted details and varying identities all
All of his biography comes with question marks. Even his physical description shifts, depending on the source, his hair color is pretty universally described as dark, although sometimes dark means blackened. Sometimes it means Brown likewise has eye. Color is sometimes brown, and sometimes blue and Times hazel depending on who is doing the telling yeah he's we ve talked about common before and how its often difficult to pin down their biographical details, and he definitely falls in line with that whole system from his father. a hunter, and he was often away from the family, and
his mother and his blind uncle yawn raised him for the most part and during his youth he watched his hippo. Carcasses were butchered for meat and he and the other kids would collect the unused fat to sell to suit makers from France. See. However, things connected again, I didn't mean to connect to our bodies turning to soap episode, but I kind of deal on that. One by accident, Duquesne was in Belgium and military. in eighteen, ninety nine, on whose families than for him to come home. He was needed to serve in the boar military in the second bore war. So at this point, the Boers were being run into prison camps by british forces in the homes that they were forced out over being destroyed, its estimated that at their fullest, these prison camps contained a hundred and sixty thousand bores twenty five thousand whom did not survive the ordeal to deal with being vastly outnumbered by the british forces. The boar military, which was pretty ragtag, ticks
a more guerrilla approach to warfare, Duquesne, really exe. held at this looser, more stealthy style and he went up working Islamic. Harry Courier. This conflict could be it's an episode easily, but during this conflict the british warfare tactics against the Boers were brutal and refining and Duquesne's family was not immune. His father I had not long after Fritz had been called to war and became eventually learn that british troops had brutalized and murdered his uncle that had helped raised him and his sister as well, and that they had brutalized and kidnapped his mother disguise. there's a british soldier Duquesne found his mother in a concentration camp. She was at this point. Barely clinging to life she had an infant with her. There was conceived with one of her captors who had raped her both of them
were suffering from syphilis to a point that they were too far gone to be saved at so they were basically dying, the most horrible imaginable- and this not surprisingly, is believed to have significantly harden Duquesne. This event really is always pointed out as like the moment where he shut down a little bit. He became a much colder human being at this point, despite being captured on several occasions, there were two documented and then more were suspected. He, managed to escape. Although one of his escape attempts involved using a spoon to dig a tunnel in a wall only too the wall Collapse and pin him there when he tried to go out the tunnel he had dug. There's also a team All that during one of his senses, a captive he managed to seduce the jailers daughter. You are basically everything you might read like, but penny novel of the time happened to him.
So again we dont these are largely his account, so we don't know how much midstream and and how much it it isn't, but both of those are funded think about Duquesne's biggest escape, though, which is said to have happened after he was captured, while plodding particularly massive explosion was actually orchestrated through Morse code. He collaborated using the code with prisoners, they were other cells, at least man. There were three of them altogether jumped into the sea. They were still bound at this point and they managed to live on the run for several weeks before they reach the port town. Where did Cain actually became a pimp for a brief, while I can't history is so wacky. He only had that job. For about a week just look so that he could steal the identity of one of the Johns involved in this prostitution plan and set sail for the. U S under that assumed name
the Keynes charm was so effective that he ended up after a time becoming an adviser to President Theodore Roosevelt on a plan to travel to Africa and Hunt wild game once he had run elbows at the White House. He used back credential to bolster his image in his career. At first he wrote newspaper columns about the President's trip, and then he turned his position and started writings, mere pieces about how Roosevelt was actually a pampered tourist even went so far as to try to have the president prevented from returning to the United States, suggesting that he was going to bring back a badly contagious disease. Yes see, like D was not so much about loyalty. Is is about maximizing his own benefit in any given situation, and this is just one example: and around the same time, con man Fritz had also started up a one man touring stayed show in this was called east.
Africa, the Wonderland of Roosevelt's hunt, so he was still trying to capitalize on kind of the fervour and excitement of around this trip. Roosevelt was taking, and it's actually because This one man show that Louisiana representative Broussard found him. So at this point, as you may recall, from our first episode in this to partner at this point, the? U S, was dealing with what they called the meat question, which was: how are they going to feed all of these people that had immigrated in the? U S and the bolstering population? as they were running out of meat and this meat question as it was called in the press really threatened. A chip lay at the idea that the U S could sustain its own people and continue to grow. You know it was kind of a point of right, as well as being an issue just of survival for a lot of people and so rubber It Broussard, like many other Politicians really
and to solve this food gap problem. Once the idea of introducing hippos to the south came up beside centre, field? Advances survey the Louisiana Swamp Land and given assessment about how viable it was going to be to introduce hippos into that environment. The report was titled. Why and how to place have apart and now we re in a low lands and indicated that the swaps would provide a great environment for hippos. It was actually two by an official at the agricultural department that a herd of hippos eating through the swamps free range would produce, and s made a million tonnes of meat each year word. All circulated that hippo meat was delicious as well as potentially plentiful, particularly the boy skip area, so just in case anyone does. It know cuts of meat. The brisk it is normal
a cut of meat from the lower chest of an animal and the New York Times Dub. These proposed cuts of hippo meat from this brisket area as lake cow in their representative Broussard, was winning people over with this idea. His supporters really thought it was an ingenious solution to the multiple problems that was set out to address a lot of whom volunteered to help with capture and transport of these beasts. He had not only come up with a plan that seem like it could solve. meat shortage and the water hyacinth problem, but it also appealed to the sense of american pride and problem solving the whole can do attitude hello. This is round burgundy and you were listening to my voice, which commands trust and respect. Guess what my broad gases back in that
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its held so idyllic, but if it does its homely as a steamroller that is going to charge your face and trample unity, ye hear these. They the mistaken impression that they were very docile. Nor has there big, lumbering in most depictions if you ve ever seen, hippo, run it's terrifying, but in most depictions you see them floating in the water. Looking very chill. I think that lead people to believe yet, if there false testimony along the way that they were going to be completely easy to handle. If there were a word for like the the most angry dangerous herb of, I think it might go to to hippos so In March, nineteen ten a bill was introduced in the. U S: House of Representatives called HR: twenty three to sixty one by Broussard. This bill proposed that
Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars be appropriated to import animals into United States were useful purposes. They came to be known as the hippo bill, with Barnum's info whence the bill was endorsed by former President Teddy Roosevelt and prominent news outlets, which included the New York Times, work raising the hippo concept, plans for a hypocrite thing we're starting to gain serious support, mutual friends connected Broussard, who was called cousin Bob by his constituents with Burma, and the men first met the morning that the bill was introduced for discussion and Burnham. It previously attempted to secure funding for an animal import project of his own like completely separate from this, but it actually got bogged down by politicking and washing
ten, but now Burnham felt like would Broussard, he had a political ally and they might actually get some traction. When Burnham spoke to the congressional committee, he urged them to consider the fact that most of the animals Americans eat were imported from Europe, with the exception of the turkey. So why should hippos be seen any differently he felt like after the initial adjustment. Hippo me would come to seem just as natural a part of the north them can buy it as beef or chicken. I have to admit when I read that very where research it gave me such a giggle, like just the thought. Of course, hippos are a natural part of our lives because they're so not Additionally, Burnham pointed out that other seemingly exotic animals had been imported in more recent times, such as ostriches. He actually brought up the camels that we talked about in our: U S camel core episode and to bolster the argument
that imported animals, no matter how alien they may initially seemed to the. U S often fared well, once they were imported, he mentioned that he himself had seen camels. These word the offspring of those that had been part of the abandoned military plan to use them thriving on their own in the american southwest, so to burn em. This absolutely sealed the case. It provided clear evidence that adaptation of imported animals was absolutely possible and even highly likely beyond what we expected I guess they were not really aware of what was happening with rabbits in Australia. So Duquesne's testimony before the committee was more theatrical. Here's how it opened quote. I am as much one of the african animals as the hippopotamus end quote He told the hearing that hippos were easy to raise and domesticate and that they were perfect animals for livestock and that the meat was delicious. So obvious.
We know that this is about evidence balls Hippos was why we regarded as one of the most dangerous species in Africa. He also suggested numerous other animals they could consider importing from Africa and killed, including giraffes and elephants, so between Barnum's, confident, logical approach to the issue at hand and decades to use the attic flair and alleged expertise in handling wild animals. They really convince a lot of people that hippo ranching had a very real future in the United States. So the two men travel the Louisiana with Broussard, to discuss next steps so that they can set up a new food society. despite having been enemies literally assigned with killing one another during wartime. The pair of them to seem to have a lot of respect
for one another, and they were really united by this one. Common hippo goal, yeah alot of a council, say that Burnham really felt like Duquesne, had gotten kind of a raw deal out of life and that if he could kind of help him along this path of kind of like legitimate enterprise, that he would help make a better man out of him, and he could really help him turn his life around. But of course he was a flimsy even during this, as evidenced by the fact that he was talking about how he credibly easy. It is to domestic gate hippos at some point. While they were forming this new society, an inventor named Elliot Lord joined. The group is unclear how this exactly Ben how he became part of it. And there are some speculation that he kind of just managed to insert himself into what had been a trio with Invited all he does seem to have rubbed
of the wrong way in part, because he wanted to go immediately to potential financial backers asking for money, whereas Burnham wanted to take a little time before doing that and put together a full detailed plan for what they were then calling the new food supply society before they started asking people to donate. He did not want his friends and associates because it was a lot of people that Burnham knew that they were gonna, be approaching to feel pressured to buy into something that was it thought through and could potentially cave in its infancy and basically be throwing their money away during a lecture at the Humane Association of California, burdens desire for a clear plan was really apparent. He said quote: let us not make the same mistakes again. This nation has reached a stage and its development, where we should take stock of our assets and make all use of them in an intelligent manner. The country had really over use of resources that is as it established and then
we're throttled the beef industry. So with the hippo plan, Burnham was insistent that a more careful strategy should be established from the very outset. Now, if you have ever been part of start up or a fledgling project had difficulty getting off the ground. The way things start to play out at this point may sound very familiar these four men all had very different approaches to this new venture and it caused a lot of problems Elliot Lord. seem to want to do a lot of glad handing in hustling for backers without much in the way of actual money. Materializing from these efforts to Kane was riding art.
Go after article about african animals and their adaptability, and he felt like he was the only one doing any real work and he was doing it at his own expense, though he started to feel put upon about it, which is very funny to me because he was making things up here. Was that lucky with spending a lot of time on research now he also grew frustrated that some papers were crediting other men for this idea and he wanted to get there tradition, especially because he felt like it was his personality that had given the hippo plan real credibility YE year. He wanted pretty much all the credit, even though really he was just kind of a jazz hander in that whole group, Burnham me. When I was speaking with colleagues, he was giving an occasional talks about organizing the new food supply society and he kept trying to stay positive, but he was really getting frustrated at the lack of real progress as well, and he even kind of sympathize with Duquesne. It was like
no. This is not going. The way we fought. Broussard, who you know had initially put this whole thing together, seem to be really busy with politics, so he answer queries from Burnham, but he would simply tell him that nothing was really happening. Yet he was delaying grow work. He was no real progress had materialised burn. I went Washington and early spring of nineteen eleven to talk to restart about reintroducing the hippo bill as part of the plan would go to Africa once again to look for suitable animals and gain additional information to help build up a plan. But he never made the trip because the revolution in Mexico, men had to drop everything and look after some other business dealings there yeah, just as Barnum's other work called him away from the hippo plan. The men. They were involved in this project, eventually got absorbed in their other activities as well
They Hippo bill was never like the entire focus of any of it. Work or lives either they also other things going on the side. So, in short, the whole thing just kind of fizzled out. I would like to say, thank goodness knows, because based. I like I, don't actually know whether hippos would wander flourishing in the South Eastern United States, but based on other efforts to do things by introducing new native species. I just imagine a giant your wall? walling off all of what used to be Louisiana and party adjacent states also with like a big sign, sang Louisiana is overrun with hippos that will kill you. I feel like you're. Gonna have hippo nightmares after this I might, but first we're going to have a break for a word from a sponsor
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go out there who would love to do them for you, but we're really not talking about tax specialists. Here, I'm talking about fibre criminals and identity. Thieves during a taxis in Europe not invoke could be emailed and shared a lot more than normal. That's why you need Norton three, sixty with lifelong to help, protect your devices and restore your identity. No one can prevent all cybercrime or identity theft, but dont make taxis and extra taxing save up to twenty five percent off your first year at Norton dot com, flash history, while things had kind of fizzled out, that's not really the end of the story. As has focused on setting up the new food supply, society waned, Frederick, Burnham worked in Mexico. He was setting up copper mines and other projects before he moved a Tillier county, California, for a quieter life than Pasadena offered. Pasadena had been quiet when he and his wife first moved there, but eventually a grew into a big
town, and he didn't like that. He wanted to live out the middle of nowhere, so he also became heavily involved in the preparedness movements became had been a very busy man, both before and after the Hippo Bill Initiative ground to a halt. So, as we mentioned earlier, he was a con man and that kept him busy for awhile Oh yeah, I an addition to using his connection to the hippo bill to get funding for a variety of ventures from things like banquet events, where he would speak about his knowledge of african animals to trying to stage a trip to South America where he would film and then returned to the? U S to make it into a multi media event detailing his trip. He basically was just in a parlay, his connection to all of these people into more activities and money for himself start of world, where one really shifted, Duquesne's, Alias work into high gear he was inside
America, when the war broke out with his wife and he sent her home to the states. He still held a firm hatred for Britain left there from the Second World WAR and the destruction of his family so tat the: U S should join forces with Germany to crush Britain, and if the, U S wooden, he would do his part to bring his sworn enemy down. it's a whole other story that could easily be its own episode, but he basically assumed more than a dozen other identities he attempted to sabotage Britain using his explosives knowledge. yeah. He was busy. He had. Some connections with the Germans was basically on kind of revenge trip still based on that previous war, that he was part of and work led him eventually to being wanted for murder by great Britain, so He did the only sensible thing for a con man, any faked zone death. He basically
entered the story in the media using one of his aliases as a byline, and he like sent this in as a freelance writer, so it got picked up and reported, but then he decided pretty quickly after that daily, actually didn't wanna be dead. So he instead made up crazy story. That kind of painted him is this hero and that he survived this attack and know now what we thought he was dead, but really he barely survived decay was finally arrested in New York were insurance fraud and late. Nineteen, seventeen Burnham had been consulted by police when they realise that the man they were hunting had worked with him and Broussard on the hippo bill. There
so much more to both Burnham in Duquesne stories. Each of these men, as I've said a couple times, could easily be in episode on their own. It has a very well maybe at some point because, like seriously Duquesne even ran a spy ring in World WAR Ii, there is a lot to talk about with both of these gents to hippos. Now we have plenty of meat in the United States and we don't have hip. Is so. How did this happen so eventually the idea that people had been focusing on for such a long time of bringing in non native species into a space that couldn't be far too to traditional means? I e the swamp, lands was replied, by the idea of landscape engineering. So, instead of finding uses for seemingly unformable land agricultural income, three found ways to turn that land into usable pastures and feed lots. As for the
water hyacinth at the hippos, were supposed to be eating. That is still a problem. Cool temperatures outside of the south keep it from spreading quite as far but in the country more warm moist areas in the south. It has to be really carefully managed. Frederick Russell Burnham eventually died of a heart attack and nineteen forty seven, he was eighty six. It time and became died, and nineteen fifty six of the age of seventy eight after he had done a student in prison. Like I said, there's a lot of interesting tales, the go along with those two men and actually hoped to tell them,
at some point time. Thank you so much for joining us today for this classic. If you will have heard any kind of email address, or maybe a facebook url during the course of the episode that might be obsolete, it might be doubly obsolete because we have changed our email address again. You can now reach us at history, podcast that I heart radio, dot com and we're all over social media at missed in history, and you can subscribe. to our shared on Apple POD, CAS Google podcast the eye heart radio app and wherever else he wasn't, the pod casts a few months than history classes of production up. I heart radio for more time casts from my heart radio visit. I her radio, Hap Apple pie casts or wherever you listen to your favorite show. This episode is brought to you, but
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