Throughout their prodigious 40+ year careers (and especially during the 1960s and 1970s) Charles and Libby Schwartz were kept very busy with a wide variety of projects. While much of their time was spent producing wildlife and conservation movies, they were also responsible for creating artwork and text for The Missouri Conservationist as well as many other MDOC publications and informational materials (see Figure 1), several of which I have touched on in this series of posts.
This was in addition to conducting wildlife research projects (arguably, their main line of work), producing shorts for television shows and writing and illustrating books for themselves and others, independent of their official Department duties. For a time, Charles even had a conservation-themed comic strip in newspapers throughout the state, a la Ding Darling.
The point being the Schwartzes were nothing, if not always multitasking. In the last post, I discussed sport fishing in Missouri and highlighted Charles’ trout stamps which he produced from 1969 – 1982. In today’s post we shall explore some of the other projects they undertook during this same period of time, focussing on those related to waterfowl hunting.
We shall begin by reaffirming Charles’ special connection with Canada geese and take a look at the making of one of Charles and Libby’s most critically acclaimed films, Wild Chorus, before moving on to discuss their roles in one of the most important chapters in Missouri’s unique conservation history, the New Design for Conservation.
We shall take a glimpse at Big Game of North America, yet another important wildlife book illustrated by Charles and then, to end Part Five, we shall (at your option) survey waterfowl hunting in Missouri – culminating in the events leading up to the first Missouri waterfowl stamp being issued in 1979.
When last discussing their wildlife movies in Part Three, I promised a return to this subject – which was far more than a sideline for the Schwartzes. Starting with The Prairie Chicken in 1949 and ending with Our Wild Inheritance in 1978, Charles and Libby produced 24 feature films. This alone would have constituted full-time work for most people and the fact that they were able to accomplish so much more during this same period seems to defy comprehension.
As we saw in Part Four, Charles took a special interest in Canadian Geese – an interest he shared with close friends Aldo Leopold and Sir Peter Scott – going so far as to learn how to converse with them in their own language (almost but, perhaps, not quite in the manor of Dr. Doolittle). As we shall see in this post, Canadian geese were also his favored subject whenever asked to create waterfowl-themed artwork.
In 1971 the MDOC asked the Schwartzes to make a movie about the Canadian geese. According to Libby’s memoir, “It was felt that sportsmen in Missouri didn’t appreciate the fact that their waterfowl hunting depended upon the ducks and geese in their northern breeding grounds – or their survival in southern wintering grounds.” This was a project that was right up Charles’ alley. Libby continued:
“When we went north to Churchill, Manitoba to film Wild Chorus, there were three of us: Charlie, Glen Chambers, and me… My list of baggage contained 30 parcels; we had 3 motion picture cameras, at least 3 still cameras, boxes with film for both motion picture and still cameras, tripods, sound equipment (see Figure 2), several types of blinds, plus camping gear.’
“We had a helicopter take us to where we did most of our photography. It was freezing most of the time and we were glad for our heavy parkas and insulated hip boots. We kept our cameras in our sleeping bags with us so they wouldn’t freeze and our polar bear gun was within arm’s reach. When the ‘boys’ were intent on their filming, I was on ‘polar bear patrol’ and constantly on watch…’
“On our return to the United States, we were stopped by custom officials in Minneapolis. They examined us in great detail, even to taking the component lenses apart on our telephoto lenses (which infuriated Charlie). But he had further problems to attend to [as] they insisted on opening [the] sealed cans containing our unexposed film! Finally an agreement was reached that these cans could be sent to a company in Kansas City that developed our motion picture film and be opened in the presence of a U.S. Custom official. If they had their way, this motion picture would have never existed!”
That would have been unfortunate, as Wild Chorus, released in 1973, would become one of their finest productions. It explains there are, in fact, eleven different types of Canada geese. Of these only one, the Giant Canada, both nests and winters in Missouri. Another, Todd’s Canada or “interior” Canada geese have nesting grounds in Canada and then migrate south via the Mississippi Flyway, one of the four migratory waterfowl flyways identified by Frederick C. Lincoln, to winter in Missouri. As such, it is the one that Missouri hunters are most familiar with and this movie tells their story.
It opens with some of Charles’ artwork (which is featured throughout). At the 2:45 mark it provides a rare opportunity to watch him at work, painting a Canada goose scene; at the 2:57 mark he is shown working on one of his most important pieces (a good shot, albeit in sepia, appears at the 3:10 mark):
We will be discussing the pivotal role this painting played in Missouri’s unique conservation history shortly. The recipient of many awards, Wild Chorus was voted the best “Conservation Film Program” by the Outdoor Writers of America in 1974.
The New Design for Conservation
In Part Two I stated that after learning they would be receiving additional funding via the Pittman-Robertson Act, the Missouri Conservation Commission was able to hire five new full-time biologists. As we already know, one of the young men hired on July 1, 1940 was Charles Schwartz. Another was Carl Noren who, like Charles, was passionate about wildlife conservation and had studied under Drs. Bennitt and Curtis at the University of Missouri. There, Charles, Libby and Carl all met and became close friends.
Noren was originally assigned to to the northeast part of the state and also to study raccoons statewide while Charles was assigned the seven counties just to the west of him (north-central Missouri) and to study prairie chickens. The three stayed in close contact. Noren was subsequently transferred twice; first to deer restoration which he thoroughly enjoyed and then to river basin studies – all before rising to the position of Director of the MDOC in 1967 (see Figure 3).
As the 3rd Director of the MDOC, Carl Noren is undoubtedly best remembered for overseeing Missouri’s New Design for Conservation – an updated expansion of the Department’s conservation program. Over time, Design has become inextricably linked to a valiant tax-based funding plan that, when combined with the unique make-up of the Missouri Conservation Commission (see Part One), really sets the state’s conservation management program apart from others in the U.S. It would also mark yet another wildlife conservation milestone in which Charles and Libby would play pivotal roles.
When Noren took office in the late 1960s, the MDOC was faced with several immediate concerns; their funding at that point in time was still heavily dependent upon hunting and fishing license sales (in addition to the monies they were allocated from federal aid programs such as Dingle-Johnson and Pittman-Robertson). However, the state’s population had been steadily increasing since the end of WWII – going from 3.5 million to 4.5 million in 1967 – and it was becoming more diverse.
An increasingly larger segment of the population was not interested in participating in Missouri’s traditional outdoor recreational activities of hunting and fishing (or purchasing licenses to do so). Rather, they were interested in non-game activities like bird watching, nature photography, hiking, back-packing, camping, boating, kayaking and floating (see Figure 4).
Unlike hunters and fishermen, this meant they were using the wildlife areas managed by the MDOC without paying for a portion of the costs to maintain and oversee them. This prompted Noren to think about ways in which to restructure Missouri’s conservation program to make it more inclusive of the state’s rapidly changing demographic – and continue to make it financially viable.
Fairly early in this quest, he came into contact with Warren Lammert, an influential member of the Missouri Prairie Foundation. They were simpatico in finding a solution and Lammert agreed to help. According to James Keefe, “In April, 1968, Lammert [then] met with the Conservation Commission to urge an expanded outlook, and the Commission directed the staff to develop a program for those who simply enjoyed wildlife for its own sake, as well as hunters and fishermen.”
A three-man team, headed by Starker Leopold, was subsequently commissioned to make a study of the Department, its current programs and make recommendations as to its future course of action. On May 23, 1970, their findings were presented to over 200 concerned citizens at a meeting held at the MDOC headquarters building in Jefferson City (see Figure 5).
In an article titled “The Seven-Year Night”, which originally ran in the Missouri Conservationist on September 2, 2006 and then again (revised) on November 29, 2010, author Joel Vance stated:
“The trio concluded that while the Department had done an exemplary job of providing for hunters and anglers, it had neglected the majority of Missourians who didn’t hunt or fish. It was, the study concluded, a lack of money, not a lack of desire. And the flip side was that hunting and fishing areas were being used for many activities other than those two things, but the people doing the using were paying none of the upkeep.’
“The Leopold team concluded there was an obligation to provide and mange areas for everyone, but no money to do it. So, a conservation program for the future needed to find a funding source and then develop a program [focussing much more on non-game species] that offered something for everyone.” The Department estimated the additional costs would top 20 million dollars per year. According to Vance, “It sounded like pie in the sky.”
Undaunted and no doubt emboldened by their tremendous success in the 1930s, a group of staunch Missouri conservationists immediately formed the Citizens Committee for Conservation (CCC), led by attorney and long-time conservation supporter Ted Scott as chairman. They requested input from the Business School at the University of Missouri and a tax on soft drinks was initially recommended.
While the CCC formed a legal committee and drew up a petition, Noren and others within the MDOC (including Charles and Libby) authored the Design for Conservation. It was originally published in the September, 1971 issue of the Missouri Conservationist. The summary page is shown in Figure 6 (Note Charles’ illustration at the bottom).
According to Keefe, “Design is the basic blueprint for Missouri’s outdoor future – a plan to help mitigate the adverse impacts of modern development. It was, and is, a long range plan to expand the state’s conservation program and provide more recreational opportunities for all Missourians.’
“Under Design the Department pledged to buy land for recreation [and] forestry, and to protect critical habitats for rare or endangered species of plants and animals. The Department pledged to increase its services to the public…increase research into forestry and all species of wildlife – whether considered game or not… and provide more recreational opportunities for the future.”
In its first attempt to secure funding for the plans outlined in the Design for Conservation, the CCC initiated its petition drive in October of 1971. Very similar to the one used to create the Conservation Commission in 1936, the petition sought a constitutional amendment whereby Missouri residents would impose on themselves “a one cent tax on each sixteen ounces of carbonated soft drink they bought.” The Mizzou Business School estimated the penny tax would generate $20 million annually to support the Design proposal.
Within nine months the CCC had obtained 164,000 signatures – the most ever for a Missouri citizen initiative – and filed them with the secretary of state. However, all during the signature campaign the soft drink bottling industry fought against the tax – claiming it would lead to many of them going out of business (one penny, really?) and they enlisted the state’s brewers and grocers on their side.
Ultimately, the conservationists were met with bitter disappointment, largely of their own making. According to Keefe, “A Jefferson City attorney employed by the bottling industry met with the secretary of state at the same time the petitions were turned in and told him the petitions were flawed because they lacked an eight-word enacting clause, ‘be it enacted by the people of Missouri.’ The attorney general [then] ruled that the secretary of state should not certify the petitions. The CCC carried the matter all the way to the state Supreme Court, which ruled against the petition.” Defeated by a legal technicality, it was a stunning blow (see Figure 7).
However, the CCC would prove to be indefatigable – and the steering committee immediately voted to continue on with the effort. Over the next two years (1973-1974) they conducted numerous public opinion polls in order to determine what form of tax would have the best possible chance of passing. This led them to explore options for an addition to the state sales tax – one that would be earmarked entirely for the MDOC’s new, expanded conservation program. There was broad support for such a tax increase, coming from groups as disparate as the NRA and the Sierra Club.
According to Keefe, “It was calculated that a one-eighth of one percent sales tax [addition] would provide the $20 million to fund the program outlined in Design.” The next step was to contact all of the volunteers who had helped with the previous petition and see if they would help with a new one. Nearly everyone was still onboard.
This would be a massive new undertaking, with volunteers across the state targeting a minimum of 150,000 signatures (state law required 100,000 from at least seven of the state’s ten congressional districts). Attorneys would have to ensure every “i” was dotted and “t” was crossed – there could be no more human errors. The biggest difficulty would be to find a reliable source to fund the advertising campaign necessary to ensure this second, larger effort would be successful.
In other words, the CCC needed funding to help secure funding for the MDOC. The CCC then hired a prominent public relations firm to raise the money and help win public support. In yet another blow, the firm bowed out after informing the conservationists they did not believe they could pull it off…
Charles’ Painting Plays a Pivotal Role
The CCC then decided it would try to raise the funds itself and conduct its own publicity campaign. Keefe stated, “Again, volunteers came forward. Some were associated with advertising or public relations firms and helped with publicity and advertising. Others raised money by conducting white elephant sales, auctions and chili suppers.’
“Charles Schwartz donated a painting and several [smaller] wildlife sketches that were made into prints to be sold as fund raisers… In all, about $170,000 was raised for advertising and other campaign expenses.”
In fact, it was Charles’ beautiful painting (of a subject very close to his heart) that was directly responsible for raising almost half of the money and, therefore, made the CCC’s sales tax campaign possible. Specifically, it was the sale of 3,000 prints made from his large painting of Canada geese in flight, titled Missouri Canadas, that raised over $80,000 to help save the day – thus making it possible for more Missourians to enjoy the state’s unparalleled outdoor recreation opportunities moving forward (see Figures 8 and 9).
You may recognize the piece from the opening scenes of the Schwartz’s award-winning Wild Chorus discussed above. After the soft drink tax set-back, Charles knew the CCC would likely be in need of short-term funding, so he donated the painting to them and they started selling limited edition prints (see Figure 10).
The MDOC helped publicize the print by using the image for an eye-catching wrap around cover for the November 1972 issue of the Missouri Conservationist (see Figure 11). Printed inside the front cover was the statement “Where you see one of these prints marks a true friend of conservation.”
After the public relations firm bowed out and the CCC was in a real bind, Missourians stepped-up and Charles’ print “started selling like hot cakes.” The CCC used the monies generated from print sales to help explain and publicize the the new sales tax initiative – and it enabled a small army of volunteers, led by Doris “Dink” Keefe (the wife of James Keefe), to gather an impressive 208,000 signatures which they turned over to the secretary of state.
Unlike the previous attempt, there was no challenge to the legality of the petitions. The proposed amendment was certified for the ballot and voted on by Missourians in the November, 1976 election. A Vote For Woods and Wildlife carried the day and Amendment 1 passed by about 30,000 votes (see Figure 12).
A Conservation Legacy to Be Proud Of
Over the course of 40 years (and two generations), starting in 1936 with men like Sydney Stephens, J.T. Montgomery, and Dr. Rudolf Bennitt and finishing in 1976 with men and women like Carl Noren, Warren Lammert, James and Doris “Dink” Keefe, Charles and Libby Schwartz and Joel Vance – among many others – the determined citizens of Missouri succeeded in completely transforming their wildlife conservation and management tradition into something they could be proud of.
When speaking about the sales tax amendment in her memoir, Libby commented: “At this time, our goal was to secure $21 million annually to fund our non-game program. After the tax passed, with time this amount increased until [by] 1994 it was $80 million, making the Missouri Department of Conservation the best funded conservation department in the United States.”
Vance added, “When the word finally came, conservation had won. Missourians had decided to tax themselves to ensure the diversity and health of Missouri’s woods, water and wildlife. It was and is a landmark effort, envied by every other state agency, and is still unique in its constitutional authority.”
In the introduction to Part One of this series, I quoted Heather Feeler from a 2015 article which appeared in the Missouri Conservationist:
“For those of us who have grown up in Missouri, especially the last few decades, we’ve had the privilege of enjoying conservation at its finest – healthy forests to hike, abundant wildlife to watch or hunt, and ample fish to catch. We have a beautiful state with immense outdoor opportunities. While we are lucky to live here, the rich conservation resources have nothing to do with luck. It’s because citizens have led the way, year after year, for a better conservation future.”
Establishing the bipartisan Missouri Conservation Commission in 1936 was a tremendous start. Then, 40 years later in 1976, the next generation of Missouri Citizens – including the children of many of those who accomplished that original feat – authored the Design For Conservation and subsequently voted into law the sales tax amendment to support it, effectively sealing the deal.
As highly respected wildlife biologists for the Department with long and varied resumes, Charles and Libby Schwartz were two of those next generation citizens who played a big role in “leading the way.” They both participated in authoring Design for Conservation, produced a movie with the same name in order to help publicize the need for the sales tax amendment to pass and, ultimately, provided the means (the Missouri Canadian painting) that funded much of the effort.
For the Schwartzes, the New Design for Conservation facilitated their lifelong goal of enabling more people to participate in outdoor activities and, in so doing, become more empathetic toward wildlife conservation and ecology. They firmly believed that a personal connection with the natural world made it much more likely humans would be good stewards of “the land” – as defined by Aldo Leopold (see Prologue to Part Three and Aldo Leopold – Extended Cut):
Big Game of North America
Charles then provided the illustrations for another important wildlife conservation management book. Big Game of North America: Ecology and Management was first published in 1978. Complied and edited by Douglas L. Gilbert and John L. Schmidt for the Wildlife Management Institute, Big Game was an enormous undertaking (494 p) involving chapters written by dozens of different authors – each recognized as an expert in their respective field of study.
According to the organization’s website (see Figure 13), “The Wildlife Management Institute was established in 1911 by sportsmen / businessmen gravely concerned about the dramatic declines of many wildlife populations. Its founders saw a need for a small, independent and aggressive cadre of people dedicated to restoring and ensuring the well-being of wild populations and their habitats.”
In the Foreword, Daniel A. Poole, President of the Wildlife Management Institute, wrote: “Aside from its importance as a modern and comprehensive summary of the management of North America’s interesting and spectacular large mammals, the book, taken as a whole, has still another dimension.’
“Its many chapters testify to the fact that, given public support, cooperation and adequate funding, the wildlife profession is fully capable of maintaining populations of native wildlife within the capacity of natural habitats to supply needed food, water and shelter. The record attests to this fact. Many of the species covered in this book, now abundant, were [once] at perilously low population levels.”
This was the first book devoted to the ecology and management of the North American big game species. Similar to the Schwartzes’ Wild Mammals of Missouri, although it was a highly detailed and comprehensive book – it was written and illustrated in such a way as to appeal to both academics and amateur naturalists, alike (see Figures 14 and 15).
There were two sections to the book; the first half discusses the ecology and management for each of the big game species in North America and includes such introduced “exotics” as the axis deer, desert sheep and the ibex.
The second half covers a wide range of topics, including early big game management history, nutritional considerations and the carrying capacity of various habitats, animal behavior and its implications for management, harvest management and predator control – to name a few.
All in all, Big Game of North America was an encyclopedic reference and a valuable addition to the wildlife conservation professional’s bookshelf. It was also engrossing reading for hunters, students and anyone, really, who was interested in learning more about big game animals. In what had by now become somewhat of a given, Charles’ detailed and anatomically correct illustrations served to facilitate the reader’s understanding of the points made by the experts in the text – and made for a highly satisfying read (see Photo 16).
Big Game of North America holds a special significance for our current story, as it marked the last time Charles W. Schwartz – now in his mid 60s – would agree to illustrate a major conservation work other than his (and Libby’s) own or that of the MDOC. This ended a 30-year period during which he contributed drawings which helped facilitate connections for readers of many important publications, beginning with his friend Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac (see Part Three).
Waterfowl Hunting in Missouri
The following is a brief synopsis of waterfowl hunting in Missouri to provide context for the first Missouri waterfowl stamp, issued in 1979. For a comprehensive treatise on this subject, I highly recommend Waterfowl Hunting and Wetland Conservation in Missouri: A Model of Collaboration (2014). Edited by Ken Babcock and Alan Wentz, the 450 page coffee-table book is an incredible reference for anyone interested in waterfowl or waterfowl hunting history. It is also replete with Charles Schwartz artwork – from small drawings to large paintings.
These include many renditions of his favorite subject (Canada geese) which were were provided posthumously by the Schwartz family, the Missouri Department of Conservation Archives, the State Historical Society of Missouri, the Conservation Federation of Missouri and many private collectors (see Figures 17, 18 and 19).
Market Hunters & The Swamp Acts
In Part One – Early Contact, I stated: Prior to 1800, present day St. Charles County, located just to the west of St. Louis and near the confluence of three major Rivers, the Illinois, Mississippi and Missouri, was already making a name for itself as a prime area for game hunting, attracting many early market hunters from St. Louis. Among the notable professional hunter residents was Nathan Boone – the son of Daniel Boone. It is now time to expand on this.
We have already established that Missouri, beginning on the west bank of the Mississippi River and extending westward for some 365 miles, resides within the Mississippi Flyway. Migrating waterfowl in this particular flyway may be thought to concentrate and follow the Mississippi River in much the same way as human travelers concentrate and follow each other along a busy interstate highway (see Figure 20).
The river leads them directly across the eastern part of the state in both directions of their annual spring and fall migrations, where they encounter the “Waterfowl Disneyland” that is comprised of the multiple waterways and historically abundant wetlands to be found in and around St. Charles County. Historically, after a long flight this attractive rest stop has proven hard to resist.
The Rev. Timothy Flint was a pioneer and author who helped make the legend of the elder Boone famous in his Biographical Memoir of Daniel Boone (1833). However, it is an earlier work, Recollections of the Last Ten Years (1826), that is of interest to our story. Included in his record of the frontier life as he experienced it is this passage describing the Mississippi River floodplain:
In the autumn immense flocks of pelicans, sand-bills, cranes, geese, swans, ducks and all kinds of aquatic fowl, are seen hovering over it.”
The location for the city of St. Louis was not random; it was purposefully chosen, initially, as a central location to facilitate the burgeoning fur trade industry. According to Babcock, “The city was situated above the floodplain near the confluence of the [three major rivers noted above – see Figure 21]. Flood events hampered human habitation in some areas around St. Louis, but these same events created wetlands that attracted waterfowl and other wildlife, ultimately making the city a hub for market hunting.”
Market hunters harvested obscene quantities of waterfowl and greatly impacted their populations in Missouri and elsewhere – of this there can be no doubt. While in the past I have tended to focus on this aspect (hard to resist the optics of market duck hunters armed with ridiculous-sized punt guns – see Figure 22), this was certainly not the only factor in their precipitous decline.
Babcock points out another factor that specifically affected waterfowl populations in Missouri: “During the 1800s, numerous factors worked against waterfowl and other wildlife. The federal government enacted several laws, such as the Swamp Land Acts of 1849 and 1850, which transferred title of the land from the United States to state governments with the provision that these lands be sold to individuals and made fit for cultivation.’
“The 1849 legislation involved just the state of Louisiana, but the act in 1850 provided for transfer of ‘unusable land due to swamps and flooding [my emphasis]’ to the governments of five additional states: Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri.”
Consider the timing of the 1850 act – just prior to the Homestead Act of 1862 – and remember that Missouri was one of the most popular places to homestead following the Civil War (from Part One). In this context, it is easy to understand how the two federal acts worked hand-in-hand to impact Missouri waterfowl populations especially hard.
Babcock continues, “Beyond requiring the land be drained for agriculture, the states were to use the proceeds from the sale for future flood protection projects. Subsequent legislation extended the same provisions to other states. In the end, more than sixty-four million acres across the nation were transferred from the federal government to private ownership.’
“This was the beginning of government-supported drainage of wetlands for agricultural purposes. The unintended consequence of wetland drainage was the loss of habitats important to waterfowl. Nine counties in southeast Missouri were included in the Swamp Land Act of 1850.”
Waterfowl Hunting for Sport
In Part One I – A Summary of Early Game and Fish Laws, I stated: Between achieving statehood in 1821 and 1900, Missouri’s human population had increased enormously – from 66,586 to 3,106,665 and a considerable number of these were hunters and fishermen. While most where subsistence-minded amateurs, a new breed – the sportsman – was rising up all across the country and Missouri was certainly no exception.
Now, I would like to identify and discuss a specific group of sportsmen – generally men of means (and often considerable influence) who enjoyed hunting waterfowl or “ducks”, socializing, politicking and conducting business in an organized setting – for these men will play a dual role in our story.
Such men began organizing private duck hunting clubs across the country during the 19th century. Babcock points out, “The first known duck hunting club in the United States was the Talley-Ho Hunting and Fishing Club established in 1815 on Bayou Savage near New Orleans… The first club in Missouri is believed to have been the St. Louis Game and Fish Preserving Association established in 1865 near Troy… The Cuivre Club was organized in St. Charles County in 1871.”
According to The History of Hunting in St. Charles County by Steve Ehlmann, the Cuivre Gun Club was actually founded in 1868 by Darious Heald, John B.C. Lucas and George Meyers – and was known as the “Millionaires Club.” Ehlmann stated, “The 1885 [written] history of the club boasted ‘vast quantities of water fowl and game birds of passage,’ and claimed the county had ‘nearly every variety of duck known on the North American waters (see Figures 23 and 24).”
“It went on further to explain, ‘These, twice a year, pass up and down their great line of migration, which follows the course of the Mississippi leading north and south, on their way leaving the lakes, rivers and plains of British America and the North, in the fall for warm bayous, streams and marshes of the Gulf States, and again in returning north for the spring. We are located directly under the great aerial highway of the wild fowl, and in both spring and autumn they stop in vast numbers on our lakes, rivers and prairies.”
An article which appeared in the St. Charles Banner News in November of 1902 reported: “Members of the aristocratic Cuivre Club are up at the club grounds near Richfield in Cuivre township, enjoying in-door and out-door sport in all its forms; but ducking is said to be very good there now. The Cuivre men are wealthy, and the cost of of an outing is only a secondary consideration. The club fees run up into the thousands every year [in 1902!], and each visit to the grounds costs a considerable sum. They travel in their own private car, and it is now on the siding at O’Fallon, from which depot they go to the club grounds overland. They have entertained a number of distinguished men there, and they are prepared to do it in first class style.”
The Cuivre Club was just the first of many private clubs established in St. Charles County by wealthy St. Louis businessmen. After the Cuivre Club came the Dardenne Club, the Brick House Club, the Horseshoe Lake Hunting and Fishing Club and the Hermitage Club, to name a few. It was said that the latter was located so close to an area where the ducks frequented, that the owners could “drop a brace [the cord or strap used to tie the dead birds together] of mallards from their bedroom windows – if the conditions were right.”
These became known as “The Burlington Clubs” as it was the Burlington Railroad that carried the businessmen from St. Louis across the Missouri River and then dropped them off at various stops in St. Charles County.
Wetlands Increasingly Drained for Agriculture
According to Ehlmann, “As the agricultural value of the ground increased, rather than renew their leases with the hunting and fishing clubs, farmers began to drain [more and more] wetlands and bring the land into cultivation… Thousands of acres of land were reclaimed.’
“The editor of Rod and Gun [Magazine] predicted in 1904 that the great [St. Charles hunting clubs] would be ‘drained out of existence’. Dardenne Club member Charles W. Scudder forecasted a gloomy future for the Burlington Clubs.”
This prompted some of the wealthiest St. Louis hunters, including Dardenene Club member August Anheuser Busch (son of Anhsuser-Busch founder August Busch – see Figure 25) to purchase large tracts of land in St. Charles county to prevent it from being drained. It also made influential men like Busch more aware of the need for waterfowl conservation and August Busch and the Busch family would indeed play a significant role in Missouri’s conservation future.
After the Migratory Bird Conservation Act was passed by Congress in 1929, Busch, along with former Missouri Governor Frederick Gardner, began what would prove to be a long fight to establish a wildlife refuge in St. Charles County.
In 1930, after the first year of what would turn into an extended drought led to the worst season of waterfowl hunting in recent memory (and which would culminate a few years later in the Dust Bowl) Busch hosted a meeting at the Racquet Club in St. Louis where Gardner spoke of the pressing need for new and increased conservation measures.
This meeting helped plant the seeds which resulted in the September 25, 1935 meeting in Columbia where the Restoration and Conservation Federation of Missouri was formed and Syd Stephens was elected president. Stephens then appointed the committee which drafted a petition asking for a constitutional amendment that would create a new non partisan commission charged with restoring the state’s wildlife habitat (see Part One – Restoring Missouri’s Wildlife).
The Missouri Conservation Commission
The first public wetland / waterfowl areas in Missouri were acquired and developed by the USFWS following the Dust Bowl years: Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge (1935), Swan Lake NWR (1937) and Mingo NWR (1944). The first state-owned wetland / waterfowl management area was Fountain Grove Conservation Area in 1947 – ten years after the constitutional amendment which established the Missouri Conservation Commission went into effect.
Also in 1947, the Commission purchased 7,000 acres in St. Charles County for $250,750.00. Alice Busch, widow of August A. Busch, who had worked for decades to establish a wildlife refuge there, helped make this possible with a generous donation in the amount of $70,000.00. The resulting game refuge and wildlife area was named the Busch Wildlife Area.
After these federal and state areas were developed, thousands of birds would then land on adjacent and nearby private lands owned by farmers and ranchers. It reinforced the idea that a successful waterfowl management program in Missouri would necessarily involve cooperation on the part of federal and state personnel, as well as private citizens.
The Commission subsequently assigned a state waterfowl biologist to direct “waterfowl managers” who worked with farmers and ranchers to help them improve their land in order to maximize its waterfowl habitat potential (see Figure 26).
The Missouri Model
While Missouri sportsmen like August Busch directly aided waterfowl conservation efforts, perhaps their greatest contribution was really unintentional – serving to inspire what has now become known as the Missouri Model. Ever since waterfowl populations and, more to the point, quality waterfowl hunting opportunities began to visibly decline – wealthy men began to establish private “duck” clubs.
Ehlman points out “Less wealthy St. Charles County sportsmen of every background established hunting and fishing establishments as well.” While this is true, it is also true that as men of greater means and influence – the “millionaires” invariably came to corner the market on the best locations (this situation was certainly not unique to Missouri – see The Illinois Daily Usage Stamps).
Babcock explains: “The Missouri Model began in the late 1940s when Charles E. “Ted” Shanks, waterfowl biologist [for the Missouri Conservation Commission – see Figure 27], envisioned a waterfowl hunting program on publicly owned lands that ensured affordable and quality opportunities for all Missourians equivalent to those of the best privately owned clubs in the state.”
Clearly influenced by the teachings of both Aldo Leopold and those at the Missouri Cooperative Research Unit, Shanks outlined five principles to guide a cooperative effort on the part of the Conservation Commission and its employees, the federal government (USFWS), private landowners (farmers and ranchers), private conservation organizations (especially Ducks Unlimited) and a management policy based on science:
- Acquisition, development, and management of a system of state-owned wetland conservation areas;
- A strong partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- Recognition that private landowners provide important waterfowl habitat and ultimately these lands determine the fate of waterfowl in Missouri;
- A foundation for collaboration among government agencies and non-government organizations, most notably Ducks Unlimited; and
- Commitment to science-based management delivered through strong partnerships between researchers and managers.
Richard W. “Dick” Vaught took over as state waterfowl biologist in 1955, after Shanks was promoted (he was Chief of the Game Section when he died in 1968). According to Babcock, “Vaught led efforts to implement Shank’s vision for more than thirty years. In 1970, Vaught was promoted to supervise all of the Department’s wetland areas where he helped with the acquisition of new areas, designed long-range management plans and hired staff to put the plans into action.”
Babcock adds, “As waterfowl biologists, Ted Shanks and Dick Vaught clearly understood the migratory nature [my emphasis] of waterfowl and they incorporated international cooperation into Missouri’s waterfowl and wetland conservation program. Their actions positioned [the MDOC] as a leader in promoting research and science as necessary components of waterfowl conservation.”
The Design for Conservation
The New Design for Conservation and the passage of the sales tax amendment played major roles in fulfilling Shanks’ vision. Larry Gale took over for Carl Noren as the Director of the MDOC in 1979 (shortly after the amendment went into effect). Thus, it was primarily Gale’s responsibility to see that Design’s provisions were implemented. With the added sales tax revenue to work with, Gale decided to make land acquisition and development a top priority.
According to Babcock, “The Design for Conservation called for the acquisition and development of five new waterfowl management areas with each being at least 4,000 acres in size.” Under Gale, ten new public waterfowl management areas were developed – tripling the previous number (five) and increasing the combined size of public waterfowl areas in Missouri to over 80,000 acres.
These state managed areas, combined with 60,000 acres of additional national wildlife refuge lands, helped to make Shank’s dream a reality by providing high quality hunting opportunities at a nominal cost for all Missourians – in addition to restoring and protecting habitat for migrating birds.
In summary, these projects helped to offset some of the negative impact on both waterfowl and waterfowl hunting that was created not just by market hunting and the lack of consistent game laws and enforcement – but also through the aggressive drainage and reclamation of the land that occurred in Missouri during the 19th and early 20th century.
The First Missouri Waterfowl Stamp
The first state to issue a pictorial waterfowl stamp was California in 1971; it was self-adhesive and featured a duotone pair of pintails designed by Department of Fish Game staff artist Paul Johnson. (see Figure 28). As discussed in A Set of Stamps for the Ages – Extended Cut the following year, 1972, the Iowa State Conservation Commission made a request of native son Maynard Reece to design the first state waterfowl stamp in multicolor. This decision was heavily influenced by the popularity of Charles Schwartz’ multicolor trout stamps – a series which had been, in part, inspired by Reece’s 1959-60 federal waterfowl stamp featuring King Buck.
Soon, it would Charles’ “turn” again. When Missouri conservation leaders learned of the Iowa waterfowl stamp – they wanted one too. According to Keefe, “Back in 1972, the waterfowl committee of the Conservation Federation of Missouri [the same organization that was formed in 1935 and spearheaded the initiative to establish the Missouri Conservation Commission] issued a resolution requesting the [MDOC] to create a waterfowl hunting stamp similar to the federal duck stamp [and the Iowa waterfowl stamp], with proceeds to be used to enhance waterfowl hunting in the state.’
“At about the same time Ducks Unlimited [DU] had asked for such a stamp, also. The commission was deeply involved in the Design for Conservation program then, and didn’t want to tackle anything that might affect those efforts.”
Glenn Chambers writes in Waterfowl Hunting and Wetland Conservation in Missouri, “The fate of that [Conservation Federation] resolution is unclear, and there is little evidence it was formally adopted and advanced. In November 1974, leadership from Missouri DU petitioned the MDOC to adopt a state duck stamp. The proposal was for a $3.00 stamp that would be required of all waterfowl hunters sixteen years and older.’
“Proceeds would be allocated in a three-way split: 10 percent for MDOC administrative fees, 45 percent for waterfowl and wetland enhancement in Missouri, and 45 percent for habitat improvement on the breeding grounds in Canada.”
Once again, the DU’s timing was bad as the Commission was now focussed on the sales tax initiative to fund the Design for Conservation program – so the state waterfowl stamp was rejected for a second time. In 1975, after three more states had issued pictorial stamps, including another neighbor (Illinois – see Figure 29), Missouri DU made another request and the Commission refused for the same reason as before.
After the sales tax initiative passed in 1976, the Commission was more receptive to the stamp. However, it was decided they should obtain feedback in the form of two surveys to determine whether the state’s hunters supported the idea – especially since the Department’s legal council expressed reservations as to whether the fees could be distributed according to DU’s proposal (almost half of the net proceeds would fund conservation programs in another country).
The surveys indicated widespread support among the state’s waterfowl hunters (in no small part due to the education they received from watching Wild Chorus, produced by Charles, Glenn and Libby and released in 1974). According to Glenn “At least two-thirds of the respondents to both surveys were in favor of the duck stamp proposal. Based on this [unequivocal] information, the Wildlife Division recommended the establishment of a state duck stamp consistent with the 1974 proposal from DU. [However], in spite of the strong support among waterfowl hunters, [now] the Department’s Regulations Committee rejected the proposal.”
After more discussions between determined Missouri DU members and the Commission, at a February 16, 1979 meeting of the Commission (and Larry Gale’s first meeting as Director), the Commission finally approved creating a $3.00 waterfowl stamp with the proceeds to be distributed per DU’s original request – with the proviso that fees charged Missouri hunters only help fund projects in Canada that produced birds migrating through Missouri.
According to Keefe, “The Commission contracted with Ducks Unlimited for two water projects that could enhance duck flights into Missouri, the Bethel Project and the Two-Mile Chain Project, both in southern Manitoba… proceeds from waterfowl stamps are providing breeding and gathering sites for ducks that make their way to Missouri, and providing feeding and resting places for the birds when they get here.’
“Missouri waterfowl stamps also have added to the treasury of waterfowl art, as prints from the stamps help recognize Missouri artists and enrich the lives of their purchasers. It was one waterfowl flap with a happy ending.”
Charles W. Schwartz Selected to Design…
And now we have reached a part of our story that is of prime interest to many of our readers. According to fellow research biologist, frequent film collaborator and close friend Glenn Chambers, “It is no surprise that Director Larry Gale selected Charles W. Schwartz to design and paint the first Missouri Waterfowl stamp.’
“Neither is it a surprise Schwartz chose the Canada Goose for his subject because of his love for the birds [that deepened] through [his] association with them while filming Wild Chorus, a feature-length motion picture about the life history of the birds that nest in the Hudson Bay Lowlands near Churchill, Manitoba.”
In Wildlife Drawings (1980), Charles states: “When I started designing the first Missouri waterfowl stamp, I decided that Canada geese would represent our waterfowl very well. What you see here is one of a number of preliminary drawings I made (see Figure 30)…. From this I did an oil painting (see Figure 31), and the stamp was made from that.”
Often, it is left to me to explain and / or critique the stamp art which is found throughout this website. Today, in a rare treat (thanks to his comments in Wildlife Drawings), we get to learn more about the 1979 Missouri waterfowl stamp in Charles’ own words:
“Though I made quite a few preliminary sketches, they were all pretty much alike. All of them show geese landing, and all of them show the same location – the partially flooded wheat field in central Missouri, with the bluffs and the pecan trees and the cottonwoods in the background.”
“I chose just the three geese in order to keep the design simple. The figures need to be large for a stamp; otherwise, by the time it’s reduced to actual stamp size, you lose all the detail. Stamp designs need to be simple and bold – always, of course, keeping in mind that there has to be room for lettering and such, too.’
“What’s interesting to me in this are the postures of the geese. They’re just braking their descent, starting to back-peddle. They’ve lowered their feet, spread their tailfeathers and cupped them in – all of which helps them slow their glide. Each one has picked out the spot where it wants to land; you can see that in the position of their heads. They’ll settle down shortly.”
The stamp was put on sale in October of 1979. At that time, Missouri joined four other states (Alabama, Florida, Nevada and Tennessee) in issuing their first pictorial waterfowl stamps, bringing the total number of participating states to 17 and helping to create a new philatelic niche – initially serviced by fledgling stamp dealers Barry Porter, David Curtis and Richard Houk (As I write this, in 2021, Rich is still an active “duck stamp” dealer).
The stamps were printed in panes of five (1 x 5) with a tab at the left, similar to the Missouri trout stamps printed from 1981 – 1996. Two panes were stapled between covers to form a booklet. It should be noted that the 1979 stamps were produced in at least two separate printings, easily distinguished by their color or “hue.”
Stamps numbered 1 – 1,000 have soft, “muted” colors, consistent with Charles’ original art. According to Richard Houk, these were given to those working for the Conservation Commission, the MDOC and those with people with government connections who would get a stamp with the same number every year.
Stamps numbered 1,000 – 3,000 were sold with prints (stamp #1001 went with print #1 and so on). On these stamps the colors are more saturated and the stamps have a distinct violet hue.
Stamps numbered over 3,000 were sold to hunters and they appear very similar (if not the same) as those numbered under 1,000 (see Figures 21 – 25).
Charles contracted with Countryside Studio in Cottontown, Tennessee to publish a “limited edition” (2,000) print of his 1979 waterfowl stamp art. Charles also signed and numbered a separate edition labeled “Artist Copy.” There were only 65 prints in this edition and they are analogous to artist proofs. It should be noted that the stamps he furnished with prints from this smaller edition were from those numbered under 1,000 provided to him by the MDOC.
At this point in time the collecting of duck stamps and duck stamp prints was in its heyday and Charles’ 1979 print was welcomed by collectors and wildlife art enthusiasts who seemingly could “not get enough” to satisfy their passion (see Figures 26 and 27).
Unlike Charles’ trout stamps, the 1979 Missouri waterfowl stamp remainders were not heavily discounted for collectors. However, the 40 cent agent’s service fee was waived when ordering stamps directly from the Department’s fiscal section (see Figure 39).
This helps to explain why (in addition to Charles’ compelling art) after the number of states issuing pictorial waterfowl stamps doubled in the next seven years and collectors, dealers and print publishers combined to turn the niche hobby into a veritable feeding frenzy during the late 1980s – the 1979 Missouri waterfowl stamp was one of the most sought after and most difficult to acquire.
Creating the artwork for a “first-of-state” waterfowl stamp and print marked another significant milestone in Charles’ venerable career. From his perspective, it was (no doubt) simply part and parcel of a job he loved – one which allowed him to make continuous contributions toward facilitating our connection with the natural world.
For those who were interested in duck stamp and prints, however, this contribution was especially meaningful – for it enhanced the journey.
To Be Continued…