The following post has been written by Maggie Bester, a student completing her Masters degree at Sydney University. Maggie has alligned herself to the society for the remainder of the year. This is the first of a number of interesting posts she will contribute.
An unusual incident on the night of the 6th of December 1915 caused quite a disturbance among the residents of Marrickville. Mrs. Emily Russell, a local to the area, died during the pursuit of an escaped performing chimpanzee named “Casey”. The event was detailed with great zest in a New Zealand local newspaper several days later (sandwiched between a notice from the postmaster and an advertisement for the display of exotic wares):
(Fig. 1. “Local and General News”, Wairarapa Times, December 22, 1914, 4.)
Casey belonged to a Mr. Thomas Fox, and before this incident was widely advertised in Australian papers as a spectacle to which visitors, for a price of 6p, could purportedly come to see with their own eyes Darwin’s “missing link”.
(Fig. 2. “Amusements”, The Sydney Morning Herald, March 31 1911, 2.)
Darwin’s theories, and the question of situating man’s place within the evolutionary process was one of much fascination across the world in the early twentieth century, as exemplified by this extract from the South Bend News-Times, of Indiana, in 1922. Within this article, ‘Animal Student’ Ryley Cooper is interviewed on his efforts to scientifically liberate the “man in the beast” and thus create a “low type of humanity” – an objective achieved, he asserted, by rearing in civilization several generations of chimpanzees.
The chimpanzee featured in this article appears to be the one and the same “Casey” of Mr. Fox from Marrickville. (Fox and his wife had moved to the States by this point in time.)
(Fig. 3. “He’d Make a Man of a Monkey – and in our Generations”, South Bend News-Times April 30, 1922, 39.)
Following Mrs. Emily Russell’s death, her husband sought damages against Mr. Fox under the Compensation to Relatives Act of 1897. He was awarded damages of £450 by the jury, who heard the case in September of 1915:
(Fig. 4. “An Escaped Chimpanzee”, The Farmer and Settler, October 1, 1915, 4.)