May 4, 2023 | Last updated May 19, 2023

Lessons From the Northwestern School of Taxidermy

The Northwestern School of Taxidermy was incorporated in 1903 by J.W. Elwood, Paul F. Greve, and R.H. Smith, and was located at 1202 Howard Street in Omaha, Nebraska. The school sent lesson books to students with instructions for cleaning, preparing, and mounting animal skins, until it closed in the early 1980s. It also sold taxidermy supplies including glass eyes, tools, paints, wax, and panels for mounting.

Many of the items in History Nebraska’s Northwestern School of Taxidermy collection are from the early 1930s. Though most of their advertisements were aimed at men and boys, women were also encouraged to enroll. A page in this advertisement leaflet dedicated to women students states, “Many of our most enthusiastic students are ladies, either teachers, sportswomen, naturalists or bird-lovers. Their sense of the artistic, and their ability to arrange tasty and attractive surroundings, cause their work to attract much attention from the first.”

Taxidermy was advertised as a lucrative career path that didn’t require the extensive amount of schooling and training needed in other professions. It was an uncrowded field and could be learned and practiced during spare time. While most of the lessons focus on true-to-life taxidermy, there were also recommendations for novelty taxidermy, which entails posing animals in creative or human-like situations. These mounted specimens were often displayed in store windows.

 

 

The Northwestern School of Taxidermy also offered lessons in creating and restoring fur garments, and in the below pamphlet from circa 1931 it was promoted as a way to make money during the Great Depression: “the very business you have been looking for to solve your financial problems.” The pamphlet indicates that women of the time were particularly interested in having their furs restored since they didn’t have the funds to purchase new garments.

 

History Nebraska’s Northwestern School of Taxidermy collection largely consists of lesson books, advertisements, and catalogs from the school. You can see the finding aid here and the digitized collection here.

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