Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines
|Photo property of the Author
Charles Aiken. Have you heard of him? He presents an example of examing history through a modern lens, while still trying to understand the time in which he lived.
Charles E. H. (Edward Howard) Aiken was born September 7, 1850, in Vermont. The family was in Illinois by 1853 when the family had their daughter Katherine. After the 1871 Chicago Fire, which destroyed the family business, they moved to Colorado.
In 1868, at the age of eighteen, he began his study of birds. His method, shooting and collecting them. He continued his studies after the family moved to Colorado.
|Photo from Find A Grave
Personally, the thought of killing an animal just for study purposes is like being back in high school biology class and dissecting frogs. I found that so creepy. Yet, in Aiken's time, that was the standard practice. Was that right or wrong? I think you might find people who would answer in the affirmative in both cases.
Yet, Aiken, because of his love of birds ended up making an impact on the knowledge of Birds of the West. Aiken not only studied birds but also mounted a number of them. AT the time of his death he had a collection of some 5,700 skins, mounted specimens, nests, and eggs.
According to the Audobon Society, his hearing was keen, he could recognize birds by their plumage, and could imitate many of them. For those who are interested, you can see an online version of his book "The Birds of El Paso County, Colorado. Bird of El Paso County
|Headstone in Evergreen Cemetery
Aiken died in 1836 at the age of eighty-five in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His collection was purchased in 1907 by Colorado College. (Yes, I've seen a portion of it)
So the question is, how do we look at Aiken and his contribution? Was he what we might call a 'bird whisperer? Where does his destruction of a bird fit in? There were no cameras, as we know it when he began his journey. That he made major contributions is undeniable. I still have not made up my mind about the questions.
|Photo property of Author
Colorado and Women's History