During the years 1942-1999, Boys’ Life, the magazine of the Boy Scouts of America, published at least 20 items referring to the California condor. By doing so, this magazine reached an important audience with information about the condor.
This post offers an overview of what boy scouts learned about the California condor from their magazine during the 20th century.
Among the 20 items, 2 are fictional. “Greatwing” by J. Paul Loomis (November 1956) provides a condor’s perspective on life when Europeans began living among Native Americans in what is now Ventura County, California. This short story is accompanied by Carl Burger’s artwork, including:
(Another illustration from this story can be found in the post Illustrations from magazines: 1950-2000.)
A full-page cartoon by Bill Walsh (July 1955) offers information about California condors within a telling of the life of “Gryph”, from egg to adult condor. Here is the top row of panels:
Walsh’s cartoon ends on a pessimistic note:
Some day soon, Gryph and his kind may be extinct. There isn’t much man can do to help save the species. California condors, the largest birds that fly, seem doomed.
Some of the items are about collecting. For example, a column in the December 1996 issue announces a new California condor postage stamp (this stamp is show in the post First day cover art: 1996).
A column about books in the November 1980 issue notes Robert M. McClung’s America’s Endangered Birds. This fine book profiles people working to save endangered species, such as the California condor.
The majority of the 20 items are informational and typically highlight the species’ rarity. Arthur H. Fisher’s article “The Rare California Condor” (June 1942) begins:
Not many living naturalists have seen this bird in flight …
This article is accompanied by a photo of a condor in the National Zoo.
Durward L. Allen’s “Birds of Bygone Times” (December 1958) is mostly about extinct species. But there is a paragraph about the California condor that includes this:
Ever heard of the California condor? About 60 of them are left. The condor is a magnificent vulture …
“Summer in California” by Paul Wellman (July 1964) also mentions the condor:
… far back among the peaks of the Coast Range, if you know just where to go and will make the effort, you may see the greatest of all flying birds, now unfortunately almost extinct, the California condor, in its own domain.
Of the 20 items, 5 are by George Laycock. His article “The Vanishing Condor” (November 1979) describes the plans for rearing condors in captivity for eventual release into the wild. The article concludes:
If this plan fails, the gliding shadow of the giant condor may soon be gone forever from its mountain home.
In the June 1988 issue, a letter to the editor from Sean Glinka requested an article about California condors. A substantial article, “The Last Wild Condor” by Robert Gray, appeared in the same issue. Here’s the 1st page:
(The photo above is by J. Grantham.)
The articles published in the 1990s reported on the success of recovery efforts for endangered species, including the condor. Among these are “The Condor Flies Again” by Burt Heim (February 1992) and “Buzzard Buffets” by Melaine Ryther (March 1999). The latter describes “vulture restaurants” around the world and notes a condor feeding station near the Grand Canyon.
Long ago I was a subscriber to Boys’ Life. I do not recall reading there about the California condor (or, I’m afraid, any other topic). But I expect that many boy scouts first developed an interest in the California condor from their magazine.
Since 1999, Boys’ Life has continued publishing articles about the California condor. Perhaps I’ll consider these in a future post.