The Conservative (Nebraska City, Neb.) 1898-1902, February 16, 1899, Page 4, Image 4

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The observance of Arbor Day by the
schools has been so successful that it has
been suggested that a Bird Day , to be
devoted to instructing the children in
the value of our native birds and the
best means of protecting them , might
with propriety bo added to the school
calendar. The idea of setting apart one
day in the year for the planting of trees
was first suggested nearly twenty-five
years ago by , T. Sterling Morton , ex-
secretary of agriculture. More than a
million trees were planted on the first
Arbor Day , and the importance of the
day has gradually increased until it lias
come to be observed in nearly every
state and territory in the Union. One
of the greatest benefits of Arbor Day is
the sentiment and interest aroused in
the subject of trees and in the broader
study of nature , It is believed that the
observance of a Bird Day would appeal
to our people particularly our youth
even more strongly.
Bird Day is more than a suggestion.
It has been already adopted in at least
two cities with
History of lllril Da.\ . . ,
marked success ,
but as yet it is still an experiment. Ap
parently the idea originated with Prof.
C. A. Babcock , superintendent of schools
in Oil City , Pa. , who wrote to the de
partment of agriculture in 1894 urging
the establishment of such a day , and
stating that May 4 would be observed as
Bird Day in Oil City. In reply , the sec
retary of agriculture sent the following
letter :
WASHINGTON , D. C. April 2U , 1894.
Supt. of Schools , Oil City , Pa.
DEAR Sin : Your proposition to estab
lish a "Bird Day" on the same general
plan as "Arbor Day" has my cordial ap
Such a movement can hardly fail to
promote the development of a healthy
public sentiment toward our native
birds , favoring their preservation and
increase. If directed toward this end ,
and not to the encouragement of the
importation of foreign species , it is sure
to meet the approval of the American
It is a melancholy fact that among the
enemies of our birds two of the most de
structive and relentless are our women
and our boys. The love of feather orna
mentation so heartlessly persisted in by
thousands of women , and the mania for
collecting eggs and killing birds so
deeply rooted in our boys , are legacies of
barbarism , inherited from our savage an
cestry. The number of beautiful and
useful birds annually slaughtered for
bonnet trimmings runs up into the hun
dreds of thousands , and threatens , if it
has not already accomplished , the exter
mination of some of the rarer species.
The insidious egg-hunting and pea-
shooting proclivities of the small boy are
hardly less widespread and destructive.
It matters little which of the two agen
cies is the more fatal since neither is
productive of any good. One looks to
the gratification of a shallow vanity , the
other to the gratification of a cruel in
stinct and an expenditure of boyish en
ergy that might be profitably diverted
into other channels. The evil is one
against which legislation can bo only
palliative and of local efficiency. Public
sentiment , on the other hand , if properly
fostered inx the schools , would gain
forceMith4fl\d \ growth and development
of ouiix > ys aud girls , and would become
j f vr
a hundredfold more potent than any law
enacted by the state or congress. I be
lieve such a sentiment can be developed ,
so strong and so universal , that a re
spectable woman will be ashamed to be
seen with the wing of a wild bird on her
bonnet , and an honest boy will be
ashamed to own that ho ever robbed a
nest or wantonly took the life of a bird.
Birds are of inestimable value to man
kind. Without their unremitting ser
vices our gardens and fields would be
laid waste by insect pests. But we owe
them a greater debt even than this , for
the study of birds tendsto _ develop some
of the best attributes and impulses of
our natures. Among them we find ex
amples of generosity , unselfish devotion ,
of the love of mother for offspring and
other estimable qualities. Their indus
try , patience , and ingenuity excite our
admiration ; their songs inspire us with
a love of music and poetry ; their beauti
ful plumages and graceful manners ap
peal to our esthetic sense ; their long
migrations to distant lands stimulate our
imaginations and tempt us to inquire
into the causes of these periodic move
ments , and finally , the endless modifica
tions of form and habits by which they
are enabled to live under most diverse
conditions of food and climate on land
and at sea invite the student of nature
into inexhaustible fields of pleasurable
The cause of bird protection is one
that appeals to the best side of our na
tures. Let us yield to the appeal. Let
us have a Bird Day a day set apart
from all the other days of the year to
tell the children about the birds. But
we must not stop here. We should
strive continually to develop and intens
ify the sentiment of bird protection , not
alone for the sake of preserving the
birds , but also for the sake of replacing
as for as possible the barbaric impulses
inherent in child nature by the nobler
impulses and aspirations that should
characterize advanced civilization.
Respectfully ,
Secretary of Agriculture.
Of the success of this first experiment
there can be no question. "The day
was observed in the Oil City schools
with a degree of enthusiasm which was
good to see. The amount of informa-
tion about birds that was collected by
the children was simply amazing. Or
iginal compositions were read , informal
discussions were held , talks by teachers
wore given , and the birds in literature
were not forgotten or overlooked. * * #
The idea simply needs to be known to
meet with a warm welcome akin to that
with which we greet our first robin or
song sparrow in the spring. Journal of
Education , May 24 , 1894.
Bird Day was observed in 1895 and
again on May 8 , 1890 , with such success
that it bids fair to become a regular fea
ture of the schools of Oil City at least.
In speaking of the third anniversary ,
Superintendent Babcock says :
"The exercises this year (1890) ( ) , as
upon previous ones , varied somewhat in
the different grades. They consisted of
original compositions by the pupils , con
taining the results of their observations
of birds , of talks by pupils and teachers ,
comparing observations , giving localities
of bird haunts , and general exchange of
bird lore ; of recitations from eminent
prose writers on birds , and from the
poets ; finally many of our schools closed
their exercises by a trip to the woods to
listen to the vesper concert of our feath
ered brothers. * * * We begin the
study of birds on January 1 and con
tinue till June , studying those that stay
all winter and trying to keep account of
the new comers as they arrive. We de
vote two periods , of twenty minutes
each , per week , to this study. Bird Day
is a summary or focusing of the work
of the year. * * * The results of
bird study and of Bird Day are interest
ing. Our children generally know most
of our bird residents , they also love
them , and feel like protecting them.
There has been a complete change in the
relations existing between the small boy
and the birds. "
Other suggestions regarding the study
of birds and the observance of the day
will be found in two interesting articles
on Bird Day , one by Superintendent
Babcock , in the Journal of Education
for April 4 , 1895 ; the other by A. E.
Wiuship , in the Outlook for April (5 ( ,
1895 , p. 560.
Last spring (1890) ( ) , the movement was
started in Iowa by Prof. C. H. Merrill ,
superintendent of schools at Fort Madi
son , who was apparently unaware of the
experiment in Pennsylvania. He set
apart May 29 , 1890 , as Bird Day in the
schools under his jurisdiction , and describes -
scribes the result as follows :
"I never saw children more enthusias
tic in preparation or happier in render
ing. They brought their pet birds , the } '
decorated the rooms with flowers and
green branches , they ornamented the
boards with drawings of birds , birds'
nests , flowers , etc. * * * The build
ings rang with bird music all day , the
children wore happier than over before ,
and visitors came until standing space in
many of the rooms was at a premium.
* * * It is safe to say that we shall