Skip to content

Missouri’s Audubon – Part Three

In today’s post we shall focus on the decade of the 1950s, wherein Charles and Libby Schwartz would come into their own as a highly productive, influential and respected team within the closely interrelated fields of wildlife conservation and ecology. This period would be highlighted by their special ability as a couple to connect in a heartfelt way with people of all ages – both within the borders of Missouri and beyond.






As an amateur naturalist growing up in St. Louis during the 1920s, Charles learned about the decimation of Missouri’s once abundant wildlife resources (see Part One) from mentors such as Marlin Perkins. Libby, who grew up in Ohio, moved to Missouri to accept a position as a professor in the Zoology Department at the University of Missouri during the Great Depression. At this point, Charles and Libby both witnessed the tail end of this process – exacerbated by the Dust Bowl which greatly impacted Missouri’s remaining wildlife, especially in the western part of the state.

After Charles joined Libby at the University of Missouri as an undergraduate, together they came under the influence of two senior professors, Dr. Winterton C. Curtis and Dr. Rudolf Bennitt; men who had already dedicated their lives to the nascent wildlife conservation and game management movements based on science and the teachings of Aldo Leopold.

After leaving the university to pursue a career in game management, the Schwartzes (now married) would soon meet and develop close personal and professional relationships with Aldo Leopold, himself, and Sir Peter Scott – regarded as the “fathers of the conservation and ecology movements” on the American and European continents, respectively. Now, the Schwartz’s desired to personally assist in developing an empathetic populace to help support wildlife conservation efforts.

Their approach was logical and straightforward; they would attempt to reach and educate as many people from all walks of life as possible while fulfilling their duties to the Missouri Game Commission (later the Department of Conservation or MDOC). Awareness and education were the keys, the Schwatz’s believed, towards securing lasting, widespread support for Aldo Leopold’s teachings – particularly his Land Ethic, a moral compass intended to guide humans as they moved through their lifetime on this earth (see Figure 1).



Figure 1. Aldo Leopold quote from A Sand County Almanac, published in 1949.



Charles was a gifted artist and photographer and Libby possessed a special ability to write in such a way as to appeal to everyday people as well as scholars and scientists. Together, they would employ a multifaceted approach consisting of Charlie’s thought-provoking (predominantly) black and white pencil and pen and ink drawings and sketches used to illustrate important books by kindred spirits; pages and articles within magazines and journals and entire books written and illustrated completely by themselves; a series of children’s books and, perhaps most significantly in terms of their reach – dozens of movies, documentaries and television shorts.

It should be noted that for much of their career, they were tirelessly multitasking – working on multiple projects at the same time. This was the especially true during the 1950s, when their prodigious output would be bookended by projects undertaken for their close friends Aldo and Starker Leopold. As we shall see, their work was invariably well-received by their target audience and critics alike.


A Sand County Almanac

When the Schwartz’s left Hawaii to return to Missouri, they shipped their car to the Bay Area and later obtained a flight to San Fransisco. According to Libby’s memoir, “Our friend from Missouri, Starker Leopold, had returned from his wildlife survey in Mexico and was living in Berkeley, California. He assisted us by claiming our car from the boat and meeting our plane. We were happy to have time to share his experiences in Mexico and to make plans for Charlie to illustrate a book Starker was going to write on the Wildlife of Mexico.’

“Also, we had been in contact with his brother, Luna who was living in Honolulu. (Luna’s son, Bruce Carl, played with our son, Carl Bruce). Luna was interested in having his father’s essays published and asked Charlie to illustrate them. We made plans to visit Aldo when we got settled again.”

On the way home, the Schwartz family visited Yosemite and also relatives in St. Louis and Columbus before arriving back in Jefferson City, Missouri on August 13, 1947. Upon his return from Hawaii, Charles went back to work for the Conservation Commission, where he was made Senior Biologist and Libby completed the manuscript for A Reconnaissance Of The Game Birds of Hawaii. In addition to helping with Saving the Nene Goose, it was selected as the “Most outstanding publication in Wildlife Ecology and Management during 1949-50” by the North American Wildlife Society.

After re-settling in Missouri, Charles and Libby returned to Wisconsin to visit with Aldo Leopold and discuss plans for some elaborate illustrations that Charlie had worked up for his book of essays, originally titled Great Possessions. According to Libby, “Unfortunately, Aldo died suddenly.’

[On April 21, 1948, just one week after learning that Oxford University Press had agreed to publish his book, Aldo had a heart attack and died while fighting a brush fire that had started on a neighbor’s property and was making it’s way toward his beloved farm – where all of the essays in the first part of the Almanac take place – see Figure 2].



Figure 2. Aldo talks to grad student Robert McCabe (later a Professor of Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin) next to The Shack, circa 1940. Courtesy of The National Endowment For The Humanities.



“Now, Oxford University Press (New York) wanted to bring the book out right away and did’t want to wait for the elaborate illustrations that had been planned. Charlie was instructed to draw something ‘fast’, which he did. They changed the name to A Sand County Almanac and published the book in 1949; Charlie always regretted that this important book wasn’t illustrated to it’s potential.”

Despite Charles’ humble misgivings about the illustrations, they were quite charming and effective (Charles Schwartz, arguably, drew “fast” as well as any artist who ever lived) and they helped the Sand County Almanac to become a venerable work (many accounts say “classic” or “the Bible”) for guiding the modern ecology and environmental movements. Aided by a paperback edition in 1968, Aldo and Charles’ book would be translated into 14 different languages and go on to sell well over two million copies (see Figure 3).



Figure 3. A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold with Illustrations by Charles W. Schwartz – first edition, circa 1949.



Prior to Aldo’s death, he intended for the book to include only those essays involving his experiences on his farm; thus the name A Sand County (Wisconsin) Almanac. These were written when he was a the chair of game management and, subsequently, wildlife ecology at the University of Wisconsin (from 1933 to 1948) and his rustic farm and its iconic “shack” served as a weekend escape.

However, after he died his family wished to include more of his thought-provoking essays on ecology and ethics. This resulted in a manuscript divided into three distinct parts. While generally enjoying the first part, several publishers initially passed on the book because they believed the third part, in particular, was “too far ahead of its time” and would thus appeal to only a relatively small audience.

In the Almanac, Aldo’s essays are comprised of observations he made around his farm on a monthly basis, starting in January and ending in December. Some of the essays are more simplistic and easy to understand his point – especially those concerning wildlife conservation – while others are more complex and food for deep philosophical thought and analysis (hundreds of interpretations may be found both in print and on the internet).

In The Geese Return (March), Aldo comments on how wild Canada geese behavior has been shaped by human behavior: “The Geese that proclaim the seasons to our farm are aware of many things, including the Wisconsin [hunting] statutes. The south-bound November flocks pass over us high and haughty, with scarcely a honk of recognition for their favorite sandbars and sloughs… November geese are aware that every marsh and pond bristles from dawn till dusk with hopeful guns.’

“March geese are a different story. Although they have been shot at most of the winter, as attested by their buck-shot-battered pinions, they know the spring truce is now in effect… They weave low over the marshes and meadows… and glide silently to [our] pond… Once touching water, our newly arrived guests set a honking and splashing that shakes the last thought of winter out of the brittle cattails… Once the first geese are in, they honk a clamorous invitation to each migrating flock, and in a few days the marsh is full of them (see Figure 4).”



Figure 4. “Canada geese beckon for others to join them.” Selected for the cover of A Sand County Almanac, this drawing by Charles W. Schwartz has become one of the most iconic pieces of wildlife art produced during the 20th century.



The common theme is Aldo’s concern for how (many, most?) humans have lost intimate contact and understanding over time for nature and the ecosystems we share with plants, birds, animals, soil, trees and water and how important it is to regain such a frame of reference and empathy for the good of not just the rest of the non-human planet – but for our quality of life and, perhaps, even our very survival (although Aldo could not foresee climate change, his teachings are purposefully constructed in such a way as to be subject to continuous analysis, review and interpretation and, therefore, applicable to changing and new events – see final quote from The Land Ethic, below).

Following the Almanac, Part II is titled Sketches Here and There. In this section the essays involve descriptions of landscapes in various places where Aldo spent considerable time throughout his life. In order: Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, Arizona and New Mexico, Chihuahua and Sonora, Oregon and Utah, and Manitoba. The common theme is how stunningly beautiful (and of therapeutic value) these places either were or still are – and how disrespectful, short-sighted actions by humans have either made them or threaten to make them less so.

Part III is titled The Upshot and is divided into four subsections: Conservation Ethic, Wildlife in American Culture, Wilderness and The Land Ethic. It is here that Aldo points out that humans are but a part of an interrelated community that includes plants, birds, animals (all the living organisms and creatures found on our planet) as well as the soil, trees and bodies of water. Aldo further argues that as the most highly evolved and dominant species on earth – humans can do better when it comes to respecting and caring for the natural world.

Charles contributed 35 illustrations to one of America’s best known conservation and ecology books, may of them full page, and the reviews were very positive. According to a review which appeared in the Kansas City Star on December 3, 1949, “The selection of Schwartz, a biologist for the Missouri Conservation Commission, to do the art work conforms the opinion of many Middle Westerners that he is among the country’s finest wildlife artists (see Figure 5).”



Figure 5. A land snail by Charles W. Schwartz. This cool illustration enjoys a rather lofty position in conservation lore – positioned right above the introduction to Aldo Leopold’s The Land Ethic in A Sand County Almanac, circa 1949.



The Land Ethic, Aldo argues, is the missing or final piece in a logical ethical sequence developed by human civilizations over time (ethics are defined as moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity):

“The first ethics dealt with the relation between individuals; the [Ten Commandments] is an example. Later accretions dealt with the relation between the individual and society. The Golden Rule [Do unto others as you would have them do unto you] tries to integrate the individual to society; democracy to integrate social organization to the individual [societal code of conduct]… There is as yet no ethic dealing with man’s relation to the land and to the animals which grow upon it [my emphasis]. The land-relation is still strictly economic, entailing privileges but not obligations…’

“The extension of ethics to this third element in human environment is, if I read the evidence correctly, an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity. It is the third step in the sequence. The first two have already been taken… I regard the present conservation movement as the embryo of such an affirmation.”

“I have purposely presented the land ethic as a product of social evolution because nothing so important as an ethic is ever ‘written.’ Only the most superficial student of history will suppose that Moses ‘wrote’ the [Ten Commandments]; it evolved in the minds of a thinking community, and Moses wrote a tentative summary of it for a ‘seminar.’ I say tentative because evolution never stops. The evolution of a land ethic is an intellectual as well as an emotional process.”

According to a post titled “Understanding the Land Ethic”, which was added to the Aldo Leopold Foundation Website on May 29, 2015, in order to facilitate this intellectual and emotional process, “Leopold knew that direct contact with the natural world was a key factor in shaping our ability to extend our ethics beyond our own self-interest.” In other words, a greater familiarity with the world around us helps us to become more deeply invested in it’s well-being.

While a comprehensive treatment of A Sand County Almanac is beyond the scope of this blog series (sorry, no more Aldo Leopold Extended Cuts), I would like present another sample from the Almanac – as his participation represents one of Charles Schwarz’s most notable accomplishments and the one for which he will most likely be remembered within dedicated conservation and ecology circles.


Part I: A Sand County Almanac


Part I opens with a simple walk around the farm, following the trail of a skunk who has come out of hibernation. This is a favorite of many – standing on the shoulders of Henry David Thoreau’s concept of walking or “sauntering” through nature – but has the potential to go a “little deep” for our purposes. Therefore, I have selected an essay that is more straightforward to serve as an example of Aldo’s wildlife conservation prose and Charles’ collaborative illustrations (for those who may be interested, all of the essays found in A Sand County Almanac are revealing and inspirational):


Sky Dance

“I owned my farm for two years before learning that the sky dance is to be seen over my woods every evening in April and May. Since we discovered it, my family and I have been reluctant to miss even a single performance.’

The show begins on the first warm evening in April at exactly 6:50 p.m. The curtain goes up one minute later each day until 1 June, when the time is 7:50. This sliding scale is dictated by vanity, the dancer demanding a romantic light intensity of exactly 0.05 foot candles. Do not be late, and sit quietly, lest he fly off in a huff.’

“The stage props, like the opening hour, reflect the temperamental demands of the performer. The stage must be an open amphitheater in woods or brush, and in its center there must be a mossy spot, a streak of sterile sand, a bare outcrop of rock, or a bare roadway. Why the male woodcock should be such a stickler for a bare dance floor puzzled me at first, but I now know it is a matter of legs. The woodcock’s legs are short, and his struttings [sic] cannot be executed to advantage in dense grass or weeds, nor could his lady see them there… (see Figure 6).



Figure 6. “The woodcock has short legs” by Charles W. Schwartz – from A Sand County Almanac, circa 1949.



“Knowing the place and hour, you seat yourself under a bush to the east of the dance floor and wait, watching against the sunset for the woodcock’s arrival. He flys in low from some neighboring thicket, alights on the bare moss, and at once begins his overture; A series of queer throaty peents [sic] spaced about two seconds apart, and sounding much like the nighthawk.’

“Suddenly the peenting ceases and the bird flutters skyward in a series of wide spirals, emitting a musical twitter (see Figure 7). Up and up he goes, the spirals deeper and smaller, the twittering louder and louder, until the performer is only a speck in the sky. Then, without warning, he tumbles like a crippled plane, giving voice in a soft liquid warble that a March bluebird might envy. At a few feet from the ground he levels off and returns to his peenting ground, usually to the exact spot where the performance began, and there resumes his peenting.’



Figure 7. “Sky Dance of the Woodcock” by Charles W. Schwartz – from A Sand County Almanac, circa 1949.



“It is soon too dark to see the bird on the ground, but you can see his flights against the sky for an hour, which is the usual duration of the show. On moonlight nights, however, it may continue, at intervals, as long as the moon continues to shine…’

“The drama of the sky dance is enacted nightly on hundreds of farms, the owners of which sigh for entertainment, but harbor the illusion that it is to be sought in theaters. They live on the land, but not by the land.’

“The woodcock is a living refutation of the theory that the utility of a game bird is to serve as a target, or to pose gracefully on a slice of toast. No one would rather hunt woodcock in October than I, but since learning of the sky dance I find myself calling one or two birds enough. I must be sure that, come April, there be no dearth of dancers in the sunset sky.”


Prairie Birthday

Before moving on from A Sand County Almanac, I wish to share a couple of more lines Aldo wrote in another essay (Prairie Birthday) included in Part I:

“The erasure of a [species] is largely painless – to us – if we know little about it…. We grieve only for what we know.”

This brief passage provides an insight into the motivation behind Charles and Libby Schwartz’s lifetime of tireless conservation work; for as I stated in the introduction above, they strongly believed that public awareness and education were the keys towards securing lasting, widespread support for Aldo Leopold’s teachings – which, as true kindred spirits, they were very much in agreement with.


The 1950s – A Busy Decade

By the end of the 1940s, the team of Charles and Libby Schwartz had already published two widely-acclaimed books, The Prairie Chicken in Missouri and The Game Birds in Hawaii, made one of the first wildlife movies in the U.S., The Prairie Chicken in Missouri, helped to save the Nene goose from extinction and illustrated one of the best-selling and most influential conservation and ecology books of all time, A Sand County Almanac. For most people, that would have been a remarkable career. However, Charles and Libby, ages 35 and 37, respectively, were now entering the prime of their lives and just getting started…


They would use movies, television (the first year following WWII, 6,000 tv sets were sold in the U.S. – by 1950, the number was 5 million and television was rapidly becoming an important medium for influencing public opinion) and combine Libby’s ability as a writer with Charles’ talent as an artist to capture the imagination of not just Missouri residents but people across the country and the globe; thereby encouraging them to became empathetic and interested in supporting wildlife conservation (to include both game and non-game species) and better stewards of the natural world.


Motion Pictures

According to Libby’s memoir, “The next phase of our lives involved the production of motion pictures. I say ‘our lives’ because whatever project Charlie undertook, I became involved in it sooner or later. And the same was true for projects I considered mine; they always became ‘ours’…

As told in Part Two, the Schwartzes collaborated on their first move, The Prairie Chicken in Missouri, with Monsanto founder Edgar Queeny in 1948. Libby continued, “[Queeny] had the money and equipment but lacked ‘know-how’ in the field. Charlie was willing to supply ‘know-how’ in return for learning about making motion pictures… The Conservation Commission looked with favor upon Charlie learning this technique and gave him the freedom to accompany Edgar on some of these projects.”

The partnership with Queeny and their subsequent independent productions would often take the entire Schwartz family (their second son, John, was born in 1952) to exotic locales around the world. These experiences would create a treasure-trove of wonderful family experiences and memories. One such experience involved a movie made for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) an was titled The Rhesus Monkeys of Santiago Island.

“To film monkey behavior throughout the year, we made short trips to Puerto Rico at various intervals. On one of these, we took John with us. We lived in a decrepid [sic] hacienda with a crumbling swimming pool – a reminder of better days. The house was inhabited by large cockroaches that ate a whole loaf of bread in one night! John became enamored of some small lizards (or geckos – see Figure 8) that lived on the screed porch and wanted to take some home… We agreed that he could take three.”



Figure 8. A Puerto Rican gecko. Courtesy of The Culture Trip.



According to John, “While we were standing in line awaiting our departing plane, I watched the customs officials confiscate some plants from the people ahead of us. All of a sudden I realized I couldn’t take my lizards. I panicked! So Mom opened the jar, grabbed the three lizards and stuffed them down her bra… This was typical of Mom – coming through in a pinch [On the next trip Libby smuggled them back in the same way and released them in the exact same place john found them].”


“We hoped each picture showed improvement over the preceding one as we did more of our own production and relied less on others. Charlie specialized in the photography and I did the sound recording. Together we did the research, wrote the shooting script and did picture and sound editing but found it helpful to have someone skilled with words convey our thoughts for the narration… We added another photographer to out team, Glenn Chambers, and over the years produced some 24 motion pictures. We also used our extra footage for tv shorts and programs (see Figures 9 and 10).”



Figure 9. Charles and Libby set up for filming, circa early 1950s. Courtesy of The First 50 Years.



Figure 10. Libby would become “an excellent sound technician.” Photo courtesy of the Schwartz family.



It would not take long for Charles and Libby Schwartz to get really good at making wildlife movies. As told by James Keefe in The First 50 Years, the story of the Missouri Department of Conservation, “Charles had developed his artistic and photographic skills, and Elizabeth was an excellent researcher and sound technician, capturing natural sounds of the wild for films. Several shorts were made but they hit the big time in 1952 [actually released in 1953] with the feature motion picture, Bobwhite Through The Year.”

Libby explained, “One of the major game birds in Missouri was the bobwhite quail and [following the success of The Prairie Chicken in Missouri] the Conservation Commission wanted to tell the story of this bird – in the past and up to the present. Charlie was given the assignment to do this motion picture.” The resulting film would catapult the Schwartzes onto the world stage as wildlife film makers and set a precedent for the wildlife movies and television programs that would become so ubiquitous in the last half of the 20th century.

Libby continued, “The United States Department of State selected this film as its entry to the International Sports Film Festival held in Cortina d’Ampesso, Italy, where it received the coveted [CONI] Grand Medal.” The movie also was awarded “Best Conservation Motion Picture of the Year, 1953″ by the National Association of Conservation Education and Publicity, the 1953 Woodsmen of the World Conservation Plaque”, presented to “outstanding leaders in the service of our nation”, the “Conservation Education Award for 1954”, presented by the North American Wildlife Society and  numerous other awards from organizations around the globe:





Charles and Libby were soon asked to make a similar movie about the cottontail rabbit, which Charles had done his graduate work on at the University of Missouri. The finished film, titled Cottontail, was released in 1955 and was, once again, a multiple international award winner – receiving the Diploma d’Honor at the International Sports Festival in Cortina d’Ampezzo and the “Superior Film Production” presented by the American Association for Conservation Information, among many others:





And so it went; for three solid decades the Schwartzes (Libby’s name was on every single one) produced one high quality educational wildlife film after another. While the films were fun and entertaining, they served the greater purpose of explaining important conservation and ecology principles such as how good soil is necessary for producing adequate food and cover and stressing the need for continuous wildlife habitat improvement.

Perhaps most important, their films allowed people to gain an understanding for the fact that they (humans) were just a part of a larger community consisting a wide variety of organisms and that the ceiling for each species’ welfare was related to the health and prosperity of the whole. Further, many of these other species were not only “cute” or “beautiful” but also exhibited highly evolved behaviors based on cognitive abilities and were, therefore, “interesting.” Thus, Charles and Libby’s wildlife films (in addition to being entertaining) fostered empathy for nature and underscored the importance and value to mankind for wildlife conservation and game management.

According to conservation writer Joel Vance (past president of the Outdoor Writers of America), the husband and wife team would eventually win “about every wildlife movie award, both national and international” and, together, became known as “the Steven Spielberg[s] of wildlife movies.” Later in this series, we shall come back to two of their greatest film achievements, Wild Chorus (1973) and More Than Trees (1976), along with presenting a complete filmography.


The Missouri Conservationist

When Irwin T. Bode was organizing the Missouri Conservation Commission in 1938, he clearly understood the need for public education and information. He directed Townsend Godsey, head of the Information Division, to develop an official Department publication and soon a quarterly tabloid called [The] Missouri Conservationist was introduced (on July 1 – see Figure 11).

Then, after Bode received Charles’ letter of recommendation from Dr. Rudolf Bennitt advising “Our [University of Missouri] Art Department people say frankly that [Charles Scwartz] is the best artist they have had… (see Part Two)”, it was only a matter of time before Charles’ anatomically correct, incredibly detailed and, yet, completely natural drawings would find their way into the publication.



Figure 11. The first issue of The Missouri Conservationist was published in July of 1938.



In  April of 1943 (during the middle of WWII), The Missouri Conservationist appeared in a magazine format for the first time. The first issue had a circulation of 10,000. Starting in February of 1950 and continuing through June of 1953, C.W. (and Libby) Schwartz provided illustrated lessons on wildlife, conservation and ecology to readers in a now monthly publication (see Figures 12 and 13).



Figure 12. Charle’s first page of illustrated lessons appeared in February of 1950. Courtesy of Missouri Digital Heritage.



Figure 13. Charle’s “What Conservation Means” appeared in the May 1953 Issue. Courtesy of Missouri Digital Heritage.



These pages proved to be very popular with the public and an enjoyable way of learning about conservation and ecology. In 1950 and 1953, the Missouri Conservation Commission gathered and published Charles’ single page features into books, the first and second Conservation Sketchbooks (see Figures 14 and 15).



Figure 14. The first Conservation Sketchbook was published in 1950.



Figure 15. This article appeared in the September 3, 1953 issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.



Although Charles received the printed credit for these “lessons”, there can be little doubt that Libby contributed a great deal. By 1950 she had finally become a full-time employee of the Conservation Commission (as such, one of the first women in the nation and a role model for young girls and women everywhere) and regardless of wether she was credited or not – they were always a team.

According to the article Libby Schwartz – Partner and Pioneer by Laurie Peach, “No matter what Charlie and Libby worked on, they complemented each other. Charlie was the creative genius, seeing beauty and a potential drawing or movie in everything around him… Libby was the managerial mastermind. She was the how behind Charlie’s what… When Charlie illustrated a book [or a page?] Libby wrote the text. If Charlie wrote, Libby edited. If Charlie worked on a film, Libby wrote the script.”


The Wild Mammals of Missouri

Starting with the May, 1953 issue and continuing through the May, 1957 issue, Charles was named on the Editorial Page as “[Staff] Artist for the publication (along with Jim Keller).” Starting with the July, 1953 issue and continuing through the September, 1957 issue, the Schwartz’s contributions were greatly expanded into a regular (monthly) multi-page feature titled The Mammals of Missouri (see Figures 16, 17 and 18).



Figure 16. Enlargement of the introduction to The Mammals of Missouri – July, 1953.



Figure 17. The educational text was greatly expanded over multiple pages.



Figure 18. Charles’ remarkable drawings on Opossum Development.



According to Keefe, on November 14, 1957, the Missouri Conservation Commission okayed joint publishing of The Wild Mammals of Missouri by Charles W. Schwartz and Elizabeth R. Schwartz with the University of Missouri Press. On December 16, 1959, the Schwatzes presented the first copies of their definitive 353 page book to the Commission. Wild Mammals remains, arguably, the Schwartz’s greatest literary achievement and a tremendous contribution to wildlife conservation.


In Libby’s Own Words…

According to Libby’s memoir, “While I was busy working on our Hawaiian reports and helping Charlie with motion pictures, another request came to Charlie to write and illustrate a book about the mammals of Missouri. Obviously, this was a big assignment so I was asked to help out… In all we spent 9 years from the inception of The Wild Mammals of Missouri to its publication. Before we decide on the format, we canvassed all available books on mammals, both technical and popular.’

“In his youth (when Charlie was a novice naturalist) he had wished for a book that showed a picture of the mammal, told him how to identify it, where it lived, and general information about its habits. This seemed like a good approach, so we started. Charlie planned a full-page illustration of each species with identifying [characteristics] clearly shown; then specific details about the feet and tracks, as well as the skeleton.’

“In order to do this well, we wanted to see each one alive. We set another goal: we wanted up-to-date information about the distribution of each species in Missouri. Thus, we had a lot of field work to do along with work in the library and the mammalogy laboratory at the University of Missouri.’

“Progress was slow because we were making motion pictures at the same time. We realized the task had to be conquered bit by bit so we arranged to have [at least] two pages [printed] in each issue of The Missouri Conservationist devoted to the mammals of Missouri. In this way, we had to finish the drawing[s] of one mammal plus accompanying text [each month – see Figures 19 and 20].’



Figure 19. Charles makes bat drawings for The Wild Mammals of Missouri, circa 1959. Courtesy of The First 50 Years.



Figure 20. Libby working on text for The Wild Mammals of Missouri, circa 1959. Courtesy of The First 50 Years.



“From July 1953 through September 1957 we had illustrations and accounts of 47 species [already] published and, after this, could see the way clear to complete the remaining ones. The first edition of The Wild Mammals of Missouri, covering 66 species, was published by the University of Missouri Press and the Conservation Commission in 1959.” Upon its release the landmark book was named “The Most Outstanding Wildlife book in 1959” by the American Association for Conservation Information. A perennial bestseller, it has been revised and reprinted three times.

In the foreward to the first revised edition (1981), Larry Gale (the Commission’s fourth director) stated: “The first edition of The Wild Mammals of Missouri was published in 1959. William E. Towell’s foreward to that edition expressed the hope that the book would aid both laymen and technician, that it would afford a better understanding of nature’s ways, and that it would lead to a better appreciation of wild creatures.’

“The Wild Mammals of Missouri has fulfilled all of these hopes and a great deal more… The book had been adopted  as a standard text by many universities and colleges, and it has become a frequently cited reference for mammal research…’

“Since the publication of the first edition, new information about the wild mammals has been discovered through ongoing research, and eight new species have been recorded in the state… Charles and Elizabeth Schwartz have not only revised the text to reflect present-day knowledge, but Charles has added to his outstanding illustrations of the first edition (which now numbered over 400 – see Figures 21, 22 and 23).”



Figure 21. The Wild Mammals of Missouri (first revised edition, 1981) by Charles and Elizabeth Schwartz.



Figure 22. The Big Brown Bat page Charles is shown working on in Figure 18 – finished product (Plate 14).



Figure 23. White-tailed deer (Plate 66). Charles’ attention to detail was unprecedented in the history of wildlife art. Perhaps, rivaled only by Audubon, himself.



According to a blog post by Juliana Schroeder (The Opulent Opossum on September 2, 2010), “Since its debut in 1959, The Wild Mammals of Missouri has been required reading for anyone who wants to learn about the state’s mammals. Missourians purchased this book as a matter of course, just as they purchased their copies of Peterson’s guide to Eastern birds and their Denison wildflower guides.’

“Foremost are the official portraits that Schwartz created for each species – in the book they are numbered as “plates” – these are fully rendered, incredibly detailed, full-body drawings of each mammal in a natural setting…’

“Next there are there are the more technical illustrations – easily skimmed over by the nonspecialist, but deserving of more than a second glance. These are the close-ups of forepaws and hind feet, teeth, skulls, jaws, track patterns, scats, and other details that help one to really identify a mammal. These detailed works prove that each of Schwartz’s illustrations are taxonomically and anatomically accurate.’

“Finally, there are numerous vignettes that show animals engaging in characteristic behaviors and other fascinating scenes… In these small scenes, Schwartz often betrays his personal feelings about the animals. A scene of a bobcat pawing playfully at an overturned tortoise shows us he identifies with the animal’s curiosity and thrill of discovery. A scene of a mouse leaping from a drawer, and human hands frozen in a gesture of surprise, captures a startled fear we can all identify with. And when we see these same hands cradling a young cottontail or sleeping baby raccoon, we know he feels warmly toward these vulnerable innocents (animals).’

“By taking the time to study and render these scenes, the artist lets us know it’s okay for us to feel the same way [my emphasis]. Not many science illustrators are able – or permitted – to venture that far today.”

If Charles and Libby’s goal was to produce a work that would capture the attention of readers and educate them; thus allowing them to become more empathetic or (in the words of Aldo) help readers to “know a little about them” – they hit it way out of the park with The Wild Mammals of Missouri.


Children’s Books

While Charles and Libby were working on the first edition of The Wild Mammals of Missouri, they were contacted by Helen Gentry, owner and editor of Holiday House – the famous publishing company in New York City that is focussed on “books for young readers.”

Helen had become aware of Charles’ drawings and asked if he would be willing to illustrate some children’s books for them. After talking it over, Charles and Libby must have realized this would be a great opportunity for them to teach young people about wildlife, conservation and ecology – so they informed Helen they preferred to both write and illustrate their own series of books.

“According to Libby’s memoir, “Our first one was entitled Cottontail Rabbit [1957]. Because we had completed our motion picture Cottontail in 1955 we were primed to tell the life cycle of this animal. But this turned out to be a real challenge, Although we had read books of all kinds to our children, we had not tried to write for children. Fortunately, our editor was sympathetic and patient.”

As with their movie career, it did not take Charles and Libby long to “get up to speed.” The book is both educational and charming – and Charles’ children’s illustrations are both exquisite and thrilling (see Figures 24, 25 and 26).




Figure 24. Charles and Libby’s first children’s book was titled Cottontail Rabbit, circa 1957.


Figure 25. Libby did most, if not all, of the writing for this series of books (click to enlarge).


Figure 26. Charles’ illustrations were incredible and, Like a Disney movie, must have left quite an impression on the kids.



The next book in the series (there were six in all), was titled Bobwhite – from Egg to Chick to Egg (1959). As with Cottontail Rabbit, it was derived heavily from one of their movies, the award-winning Bobwhite Through the Year (see Figure 27).



Figure 27. Charles and Libby’s second children’s book, Bobwhite – from Egg to Chick to Egg.



By 1970 Charles and Libby Schwartz would become accomplished writers of children’s wildlife books and their publication for that year, the timeless classic When Water Animals Are Babies, became a Junior Literary Guild Selection (see Figures 28 and 29).



Figure 28. The Schwartz’s fourth children’s book, When Water Animals Are Babies, would become an instant classic, circa 1970.


Figure 29. Charles’ lovely illustrations proved to be captivating for young (and old) viewers.



This series of books really gave Libby a chance to shine and cemented her rather unique reputation as a writer who could connect with readers of all ages and all levels of education – from children to university scientists. According to Laurie Peach’s article (written in 1992, after Charles had passed), “Of all their accomplishments, Libby is most proud of the children’s books she wrote and Charlie illustrated.”


Wildlife of Mexico

To close out a busy decade, Charles provided illustrations for his old friend (and Aldo Leopold’s son) Starker’s book titled Wildlife of Mexico: The Game Birds and Mammals, published by the University of California Press in 1959 (see Figure 30). This was Starker’s second book, following his Wildlife in Alaska (1953). At this point he was a Professor of Zoology and Conservation at U.C. Berkeley.



Figure 30. Wildlife in Mexico by Starker Leopold, cover illustration by C.W. Schwartz, circa 1959.



This would also be the third book Charles illustrated for the Leopold family over a ten-year period. following the enthusiastic reception for A Sand County Almanac, the Leopolds and Oxford University Press came out with a sequel of sorts (containing more thought-provoking essays) in 1953, titled Round River – From the Journals of Aldo Leoplold and this book was also illustrated by Charles.

According to Libby’s memoir, “Another book Charlie illustrated was The Wildlife of Mexico by A. Starker Leopold. The format of the Mexican book was similar to that  of our Wild Mammals of Missouri with a full page illustration of each game bird and mammal of Mexico.’

“To get material for these illustrations, we took our family to Mexico where we met Starker and his family. The purpose of the trip was to research various habitats and take photographs of background material for reference… We were proud to contribute to [Starker’s] book which was awarded the ‘Best Publication of the Year in 1959’ by the Wildlife Society.”

In 1962, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall appointed Starker Leopold as the chairman to the Special Advisory Board of Wildlife Management. The Advisory Board produced one of the most influential documents in the conservation movement; known as the Leopold Report – it contained the blueprint for wildlife and ecosystem management in America’s national park system.

Starker – one of his father’s most devoted disciples –  would write six books and over 100 papers on wildlife conservation and ecology. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1970.



Continue to Part Four


1 Comment

  1. Barbara Schwartz Miller on March 4, 2021 at 9:31 pm

    I have greatly enjoyed reading your posts on the life and career of my parents, Charles and Elizabeth Schwartz. Your essays are accurate, nuanced, and interesting. I feel inspired as you recount their lives, appreciating anew their contributions in science and art. It is especially important me to reflect on their vast knowledge–even fore-knowledge–of issues that have come to the fore in modern times. Your account gives a valuable context to these ideas and your narrative binds them together for a contemporary on-line audience. Thank you so much!

Leave a Comment

Scroll To Top
Verified by ExactMetrics