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Historic Unedited Photos They Don’t Want You To See
Publication: HistoricalHistory. Posted by
760a631d0dea2ae92cb6e9f7b157b927
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Entertainment
Historic Unedited Photos They Don’t Want You To See
Publication: Historical History.
Posted by
760a631d0dea2ae92cb6e9f7b157b927
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Bison Skulls

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Where:
Great Plains, USA
When:
1870
Summary:
Tens of millions of buffalo were hunted to near-extinction by American settlers in the nineteenth century.

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Bison Skulls



  Where:
Great Plains, USA

  When:
1870

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The United States wouldn’t be what it is today without the American Bison. While the country was expanding westward, this animal also known simply as the buffalo was instrumental in a lot of different developments. At one point, there were millions of buffalo that roamed the midwest in herds, though they could be found in just about every part of the country. In some of these Great Plains states where food was scarce, the buffalo was used in a variety of ways.Advertisements:


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It’s estimated that during the 1500s, there were nearly 30 million buffalo in North America. That number dwindled rapidly as westward expansion began, and by the end of the 19th century, there were fewer than 100 buffalo left. Outside of being a food source, though, what made the buffalo so attractive to settlers?

While food was indeed the main appeal for buffalo to be hunted, they were also skinned to be used in clothing (especially in the colder months) and their tongues were taken. Whatever was left of the buffalo was left to decay, and eventually nothing was left but bones. These bones would also prove to be valuable to many, as they could be used in fertilizer.

In the image that you see here, a man is standing atop a pile of buffalo skulls that was to be turned into fertilizer. While you might think that this photo was taken in one of the middle states such as South Dakota or Nebraska, this actually comes from suburban Detroit. The image was first taken in 1892, and was then archived in the Detroit Public Library. On the back of the photo, it reads “C.D. 1892 Glueworks, office foot of 1st St., works at Rougeville, Michigan.”

The theory is that this pile was used for fertilizer as many other similar companies were doing at the time, but buffalo skulls and bones were also used for refining sugar and making fine china. The United States Fish & Wildlife Service said that “Bison bones brought (anywhere) from $2.50 to $15.00 a ton. Based on the average price of $8 per ton they brought $2.5 million into Kansas alone between 1868 and 1881. Assuming that about 100 skeletons were required to make one ton of bones, this represented the remains of more than 31 million bison.”

It was a lucrative business for many to kill and collect bison, and it was also incredibly easy for hunters. Though they would travel in herds, a singular bison would tend to roam a bit when the herd had settled. When it did, hunters had no problems picking one of them off, and when they did, the rest of the bison would come over to the dead body to observe. A barrage of bullets would then rain down on the herd, taking out large amounts of them in the process.

Not only were settlers that were heading west hunting down the buffalo, but Native Americans were also learning how to hunt them themselves, causing a further increase in hunting and a decrease in the buffalo population. In 1872 alone, more than one million bison were killed and shipped off for profit, though there were some that saw the writing on the wall that this type of slaughtering of a species wasn’t sustainable.

That didn’t include President Ulysses S. Grant, however, who shot down a bill that would’ve protected the buffalo back in 1874. Even as Natives were losing land and food left and right, it would be years before any serious action was taken to preserve the buffalo population. In 1887, William Temple Hornaday said that the buffalo would be extinct at the beginning of the 20th century if hunting weren’t stopped, and his theory picked up steam thanks to President Theodore Roosevelt, who championed conservation more than any other American president in the country’s history.

Toward the end of the 19th century in South Dakota, small herds were being reintroduced into the wild to allow them repopulate. Over the course of just over 10 years, James Philip had been able to take a herd of five buffalo and turn it into more than 1,000. There would be others that introduced small herds back into the wild, and it helped to increase numbers dramatically in the 20th century.

Herds had become privately owned, and many of them still are today. Even though there were only around 500 left, the number has grown to an estimated half million in the United States these days, though only around 15,000 of them are considered to be wild and free. A 2014 treaty between Canadian First Nations and United States Tribes have helped these numbers jump up even further in recent years.

Though it’s unlikely that we’ll see the buffalo population as high as it once was due to human population growth and westward land expansion, it’s still a good sign that the population has increased dramatically in the last century. To think that photos such as the one here were commonplace just over 100 years ago is pretty surprising, and shows you just how fast society can change, especially when it comes to its main economic source.

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