Clark, James L. (James Lippitt), 1883-1969

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Exist Dates

1883 November 18 - 1969 March 16

Biographical or Historical Note

abstract
James Lippitt Clark (1883 – 1969) was an accomplished animal sculptor, taxidermist, explorer and big-game hunter. Clark was employed by the American Museum of Natural History from 1902 to 1908, and again from 1923 to 1949, and served as the museum’s Director of Arts, Preparation and Installation from 1935 until his retirement. Clark is known for his innovations in specimen preparation and display, his creative direction of the museum’s mammal halls, and for his role in several expeditions on behalf of the museum, both within North America and to remote regions of Africa, Central Asia and Southeast Asia.

James Lippitt Clark was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on November 18, 1883, of New England parentage. He attended public schools in Providence and Jersey City, before finding employment in the design room of the Gorham Silver Company (1). At the age of 18, while studying at the Rhode Island School of Design, the lifelike accuracy of Clark’s animal sculptures attracted the attention of Herman C. Bumpus, director of the American Museum of Natural History (2). Clark was invited to join the museum as an animal sculptor in 1902, and was sent to the Field Museum in Chicago to study under taxidermist Carl Ethan Akeley in his revolutionary method of sculpting and mounting animal specimens (3). Working closely with Akeley, Clark would go on to help develop the innovative methods of specimen preparation and display the museum became renowned for (4).

In 1908, Clark temporarily resigned from his position at the museum to undertake an expedition to Africa with photographer A. Radclyffe Dugmore (1). After parting with Dugmore, Clark met with Akeley on his British East Africa Expedition hunting elephants with Theodore Roosevelt for the group now on display in the Hall of African Mammals (5). Upon his return to New York, Clark opened a private taxidermy business, the James L. Clark Studios Inc., where he mounted the personal trophies of Roosevelt and other big-game hunters (1). Clark’s private business ventures also included joining with Carl Akeley in 1917 in the development of Akeley’s new motion picture camera. During World War One, Clark was engaged in the development of this camera for the US government, and acted in various positions as manager, vice-president and president of the Akeley Camera Company before retiring from the role in 1928 (4).

Clark conducted a number of other expeditions during this period whilst not employed by the museum, including two fieldwork trips to New Brunswick in 1912 and 1913, a visit to Alberta in 1917 to hunt and study grizzly bear, and a private expedition to Africa in 1922-23 to hunt rhinoceros (3). His wife, Sally Clark (1883-1981), who he had married in 1918, accompanied him on the latter expedition (as well as several subsequent ones), and was herself a successful big-game hunter and sculptor (1).

Clark returned to the American Museum of Natural History in 1923 and was appointed Assistant to the Director of Preparation, before being promoted to Assistant Director (In Full Charge of Preparation) in 1924, and again to Vice-Director (In Charge of Preparation and Exhibition) in 1931 (1) (3). In 1935 Clark was made the Director of Arts, Preparation and Installation, a position he held until his retirement. During this period, Clark made numerous overseas expeditions to remote locations on behalf of the museum, including the 1926-27 Morden-Clark Asiatic Expedition, 1928-29 Carlisle-Clark African Expedition, 1931 O’Donnell-Clark African Expedition, and the 1936 Fleishmann-Clark Indo-China Expedition (1). Clark also led and participated in expeditions conducted within North America, including the 1925 Clark Expedition to British Columbia, 1937 Clark Expedition to Wyoming, and 1939 Robinson Expedition to Grand Canyon, as well as several additional fieldwork trips (1) (3). Clark’s expeditions gained him public recognition as an explorer and big-game hunter, with tales of his often dangerous adventures in Africa, Southeast Asia, Mongolia, and remote parts of North America earning frequent coverage in Sunday supplement magazines and radio programs (6) (7). Clark’s final expedition with the museum was the 1947-48 Central African Expedition, collecting a wide range of specimens and capturing motion-picture footage of native peoples (1).

Many of Clark’s expeditions throughout the 1920s and 30s were undertaken in order to study and collect specimens for display in the museum’s mammal halls. Clark conducted expeditions to collect caribou in 1925, bison and elk in 1937, and mountain lion in 1939, for the Hall of North American Mammals (1), while expeditions in 1928 and 1931 returned with lions and giant eland, respectively, for the Hall of African Mammals (1) (8) (9). In the positions he held at the museum from 1924 onward, Clark was responsible for overseeing the design and development of museum halls and exhibts, most significantly the Hall of South Asiatic Mammals, the Hall of African Mammals, and the Hall of North American Mammals (1). During his tenure, he reorganized the department to meet with an expanded exhibition program, assembling a team of skilled taxidermists and artists to execute the museum's diorama exhibits (3) (10, p. 43). Clark's role in planning and directing the creation of the mammal halls’ habitat dioramas set a new standard in modern exhibition technique, depicting wildlife in detailed and realistic recreations of their natural environments (11).

Clark’s extensive expeditionary career also served to enrich his skill as a taxidermist, allowing him to study and gain a thorough understanding of his subjects’ anatomy, characteristics and behavior in their natural habitats (1). The lifelike quality of Clark’s preparations earned him high praise throughout his career, and he was among the first of the museum’s taxidermists to capture the naturalistic accuracy of its specimens for which the museum is famed (6). Clark personally mounted the specimens in the African Lion Group and the White Rhinoceros Group on display in the Hall of African Mammals (12). A distinguished animal sculptor, Clark was also known for his bronze sculptures of wildlife, several of which were exhibited in the National Academy and the National Sculpture Society, among others (3).

Clark was a member of numerous clubs, including the Boone & Crockett Club, the Boys Scouts of America’s National Court of Honor, and president of the Camp Fire Club of America (1). In 1933, he was awarded an honorary degree of D.Sc. from West Virginia Wesleyan (1).

James Clark retired from his position at the American Museum of Natural History in February of 1949 (3), retaining the title of Director Emeritus (Preparation and Installation). He died at St Luke’s Hospital, New York, on March 16, 1969 (6).

Sources

    (1) Biographical Sketches, James L. Clark. Folder 1 of 4 Clark, James L. (1883-1969) Explorer and Taxidermist. Vertical Files, American Museum of Natural History Research Library.
    (2) Bumpus, Hermon C. Hermon Carey Bumpus: Yankee Naturalist. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1947.
    (3) Biographical Data, James L. Clark. Folder 1 of 4 Clark, James L. (1883-1969) Explorer and Taxidermist. Vertical Files, American Museum of Natural History Research Library.
    (4) Barton, D. R. “Adventures of an Artist-Explorer.” Natural History 49, no. 1 (1942): 50-63.
    (5) Clark, James L. “The Caves of Mt. Elgon.” Natural History 28, no. 2 (1928): 175-187.
    (6) “Dr. James Clark, Naturalist, Dies.” The New York Times, March 17, 1969.
    (7) Sheridan, Martin. “Providence Naturalist Tortured by Mongolians in Quest for Rare Animals.” Worcester Sunday Telegram, May 2, 1948.
    (8) Carlisle, G. L. “Eleven Weeks in a Lion Pasture.” Natural History 29, no. 2 (1929): 169-180.
    (9) Clark, James L. “The Giant Eland of Southern Sudan.” Natural History 31, no. 6 (1931): 581-599.
    (10) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Report, 1931. New York: American Museum of Natural History, May 1, 1932.
    (11) American Museum of Natural History. “Natural History Board of Trustees Announces Retirement of Veteran Explorer.” Press release, October 26, 1948.
    (12) Quinn, Stephen C. Windows on Nature: The Great Habitat Dioramas of the American Museum of Natural History. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2006.
    (13) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Report, 1925. New York: American Museum of Natural History, May 1, 1926.
    (14) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Report, 1930. New York: American Museum of Natural History, May 1, 1931.
    (15) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Report, 1924. New York: American Museum of Natural History, May 1, 1925.
    (16) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Report, 1942. New York: American Museum of Natural History, May 1, 1943.
    (17) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Report, 1937. New York: American Museum of Natural History, May 1, 1938.
    (18) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Report, 1928. New York: American Museum of Natural History, May 1, 1929.
    (19) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Report, 1936. New York: American Museum of Natural History, May 1, 1937.
    (20) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Report, 1947. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1948.
    Library of Congress Name Authority File n85064856.

Chronology

  • 1883: Rhode IslandExternal link (Birthplace) Born in Providence November 18, 1883 (1)
  • November 18, 1883: Born Providence, Rhode Island (1)
  • 1902 - 1969: New York (N.Y.)External link Worked at American Museum of Natural History 1902-1908 and 1923-1949, died New York 1969 (1) (6)
  • 1902: Employed by American Museum of Natural History as animal sculptor (3)
  • 1906: Wyoming (Expedition Site) Clark led the Clark Expedition to Wyoming (1937), plus two additional fieldwork trips (1)
  • 1906: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, studying and collecting elk, sheep, antelope, deer for the museum (1)
  • 1908 - 1909: Africa (Expedition Site) Participant in five expeditions to Africa, including three on behalf of the American Museum of Natural History (1) (3)
  • 1908: Toured Europe studying museums and zoological parks (1)
  • 1908 - 1909: Resigned from museum to take 14-month trip to British East Africa (1)
  • 1912: Fieldwork in New Brunswick to hunt and study moose, deer, caribou (1)
  • 1913: Fieldwork in New Brunswick (1)
  • 1914: Yellowstone National Park, under special permit, to collect elk to be mounted for the San Francisco Fair, later installed in the National Museum, Washington (1)
  • 1917: Canada (Expedition Site) Clark was leader of the Clark Expedition to British Columbia (1925), plus two additional fieldwork/hunting trips (1)
  • 1917: Visited Alberta, hunting and studying grizzly bear (1)
  • 1918: Married Sally Harfield in New York City (1)
  • 1922 - 1923: Africa (Expedition Site) Participant in five expeditions to Africa, including three on behalf of the American Museum of Natural History (1) (3)
  • 1922 - 1923: Clark African Expedition – private expedition to Tanganyika Territory to hunt rhinos with wife, Sally Clark (1) (3)
  • May 07, 1923: Returned to American Museum of Natural History and appointed assistant to the Director of Preparation (3)
  • 1924 - 1930: Promoted to Assistant Director (In Full Charge of Preparation) at the American Museum of Natural History, January 10 1924 (3)
  • 1924 - 1942: approximately 1924-1942. Worked with Akeley on and then directed creation of the Hall of African Mammals (3) (15, p. 13) (16, p. 12) *dates based on earliest Annual Report to mention Clark working on the hall, to the completed hall's opening
  • 1924: Toured Western museums to study preparation methods (3)
  • 1925: Canada (Expedition Site) Clark was leader of the Clark Expedition to British Columbia (1925), plus two additional fieldwork/hunting trips (1)
  • 1925 - 1930: approximately 1925-1930. Directed creation of the Hall of South Asiatic Mammals (3) (13, p. 29) (14, p. 39) *dates based on earliest Annual Report to mention Clark working on the hall, to the hall's opening
  • 1925: Clark Expedition to British Columbia – expedition to Cassiar Mountains, British Columbia, to collect caribou later installed in the Hall of North American Mammals (1)
  • 1926 - 1927: Asia, CentralExternal link (Expedition Site) Clark was co-leader of the Morden-Clark Asiatic Expedition to Central Asia (1)
  • February 1926 - January 1927: Morden-Clark Expedition – expedition to Himalayas and Central Asia to collect Ovis poli sheep and other mammals (1)
  • 1928 - 1929: Africa (Expedition Site) Participant in five expeditions to Africa, including three on behalf of the American Museum of Natural History (1) (3)
  • 1928 - 1929: Carlisle-Clark African Expedition – expedition to collect for the African Lion Group in the Hall of African Mammals (1) (8)
  • 1931: Africa (Expedition Site) Participant in five expeditions to Africa, including three on behalf of the American Museum of Natural History (1) (3)
  • 1931: Canada (Expedition Site) Clark was leader of the Clark Expedition to British Columbia (1925), plus two additional fieldwork/hunting trips (1)
  • 1931 - 1934: Vice-Director in Charge of Preparation and Exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History (3)
  • 1931: O’Donnell-Clark African Expedition – expedition to southern Sudan to study and collect for Giant Eland Group in the Hall of African Mammals (1) (9)
  • 1931: Canadian Rockies to hunt, collect and photograph wildlife (1)
  • 1931 - 1942: approximately 1931-1942. Planned and directed creation of the Hall of North American Mammals (3) (10, p. 6) (16, p. 5) *dates based on earliest Annual Report to mention Clark working on the hall, to the completed hall's opening
  • 1933: Wyoming (Expedition Site) Clark led the Clark Expedition to Wyoming (1937), plus two additional fieldwork trips (1)
  • 1933: Fieldwork in Wyoming to collect specimens for Hall of North American Mammals (3)
  • 1933: Awarded honorary degree of D.Sc. from West Virginia Wesleyan (1)
  • 1934: Visited Yellowstone National Park to study buffalo; toured coast, national parks & museums (1)
  • 1935: Visited Alaska to study big game (1)
  • 1935 - 1949: Director of Arts, Preparation and Installation at the American Museum of Natural History (3)
  • 1936: IndochinaExternal link (Expedition Site) Clark was co-leader of the Fleischmann-Clark Indo-China Expedition (1)
  • February 1936 - June 1936: Fleischmann-Clark Indo-China Expedition – expedition to Indochina to collect a range of zoological specimens and investigate enforcement of game protection laws (3)
  • 1937: Wyoming (Expedition Site) Clark led the Clark Expedition to Wyoming (1937), plus two additional fieldwork trips (1)
  • 1937: Clark Nehasane Trip – field trip to Nehasane, New York, to collect specimens and materials for the Conservation Group in the Roosevelt Memorial (17, p. 56)
  • 1937: Oyster Bay Field Trip – field trip to Long Island, New York, to make studies for the Bird Sanctuary Group in the Roosevelt Memorial (17, p. 56-57)
  • August 1937 - October 1937: Clark Expedition to Wyoming – expedition to North Dakota and Wyoming to collect for the Roosevelt Ranch Group, Bison Group, and the Elk Group in the Hall of North American Mammals (3)
  • 1939: UtahExternal link (Expedition Site) Clark was a member of the Robinson Expedition to Grand Canyon in Utah (3)
  • April 05, 1939 - April 30, 1939: Robinson Expedition to Grand Canyon – expedition to northern rim of the Grand Canyon, Utah, to collect specimens for Mountain Lion Group in Hall of North American Mammals (3)
  • 1947 - 1948: Africa (Expedition Site) Participant in five expeditions to Africa, including three on behalf of the American Museum of Natural History (1) (3)
  • November 1947 - August 1948: Central African Expedition – expedition to Central Africa, collecting and researching insects, small mammals, birds and reptiles, and capturing motion-picture footage of native peoples (3) (11)
  • February 01, 1949: Retired from the American Museum of Natural History (3)
  • March 16, 1969: Died, New York (6)

Terms

localDescription
enhanced
localDescription
affiliated person
place
Rhode IslandExternal link
(Birthplace)

dates: 1883

Born in Providence November 18, 1883 (1)
place
New York (N.Y.)External link
dates: 1902-1969

Worked at American Museum of Natural History 1902-1908 and 1923-1949, died New York 1969 (1) (6)
place
AfricaExternal link
(Expedition Site)

dates: 1931

Participant in five expeditions to Africa, including three on behalf of the American Museum of Natural History (1) (3)
place
Asia, CentralExternal link
(Expedition Site)

dates: 1926-1927

Clark was co-leader of the Morden-Clark Asiatic Expedition to Central Asia (1)
place
IndochinaExternal link
(Expedition Site)

dates: 1936

Clark was co-leader of the Fleischmann-Clark Indo-China Expedition (1)
place
WyomingExternal link
(Expedition Site)

dates: 1906, 1933, 1937

Clark led the Clark Expedition to Wyoming (1937), plus two additional fieldwork trips (1)
place
UtahExternal link
(Expedition Site)

dates: 1939

Clark was a member of the Robinson Expedition to Grand Canyon in Utah (3)
place
CanadaExternal link
(Expedition Site)

dates: 1917, 1925, 1931

Clark was leader of the Clark Expedition to British Columbia (1925), plus two additional fieldwork/hunting trips (1)

Related Corporate, Personal, and Family Names

collaboratesWith
Akeley, Carl Ethan
associated dates: 1902-1926

Akeley was Clark's teacher and ongoing collaborator in developing new methods of specimen preparation and display (1) (4)
American Museum of Natural History
collaboratesWith
Carlisle, G. Lister
associated dates: 1928-1929

Carlisle was Clark's leader on the Carlisle-Clark African Expedition (18, p. 19)
participantIn
Carlisle-Clark African Expedition
associated dates: 1928-1929

Clark participated in this expedition to collect for the African Lion Group in the Hall of African Mammals (1) (18, p. 19)
participantIn
Central African Expedition
associated dates: 1947 November-1948 August

Clark was leader of this expedition to Central Africa, collecting and researching insects, small mammals, birds and reptiles; capturing motion-picture footage of native peoples (3) (11) (20, p. 10)
participantIn
Clark Expedition to British Columbia
Clark was leader of this expedition to the Cassiar Mountains, British Columbia, to collect caribou later installed in the Hall of North American Mammals (1)
participantIn
Clark Expedition to Wyoming
associated dates: 1937 August-1937 October

Clark was leader of this expedition to North Dakota and Wyoming to collect for the Roosevelt Ranch Group, Bison Group, and the Elk Group in the Hall of North American Mammals (3)
participantIn
Clark Nehasane Trip
Clark was leader of this field trip to Nehasane, New York, to collect specimens and materials for the Conservation Group in the Roosevelt Memorial (17, p. 56)
spouseOf
Clark, Sally
associated dates: 1918-1969

Clark's wife from 1918 to his death (1)
collaboratesWith
Dugmore, Arthur Radclyffe
Clark accompanied Dugmore on Clark's first expedition to Africa, collecting and photographing wildlife (1)
collaboratesWith
Fleischmann, Max C.
Fleischmann financed the Fleischmann-Clark Asiatic Expedition (19, p. 42)
participantIn
Fleischmann-Clark Indo-China Expedition
associated dates: 1936 February-1936 June

Clark was co-leader of this expedition to Indochina (Vietnam) to collect a range of zoological specimens and investigate enforcement of game protection laws (3) (19, p. 42)
participantIn
Hall of African Mammals
associated dates: 1924-1942

approximately 1924-1942. Clark was involved with the Hall of African Mammals from early specimen preparation with Akeley in 1924 through to completion in 1942. Following Akeley's death, Clark was responsible for planning and directing the hall's creation. Clark also conducted collecting expeditions for this hall, and personally mounted the white rhinoceros and lion groups. (1) (12) (15, p. 13) (16, p. 12) *dates based on earliest Annual Report to mention Clark working on the hall, to the completed hall's opening
participantIn
Hall of North American Mammals
associated dates: 1931-1942

approximately 1931-1942. Clark was responsible for the planning and direction of the Hall of North American Mammals, the first section of which was opened to the public in 1942. Clark also conducted expeditions and fieldwork trips to collect specimens for this hall. (1) (10, p. 6) (12) (16, p. 5) *dates based on earliest Annual Report to mention Clark working on the hall, to the hall's opening
participantIn
Hall of South Asiatic Mammals
associated dates: 1925-1930

approximately 1925-1930. Clark, as Assistant Director of Preparation, was responsible for the planning and direction of the Hall of South Asiatic Mammals, opened in 1930. (1) (12) (13, p. 29) (14, p. 39) *dates based on earliest Annual Report to mention Clark working on the hall, to the hall's opening
collaboratesWith
McConnell, Robert E.
associated dates: 1937, 1939

McConnell joined Clark on the Clark Expedition to Wyoming and the Robinson Expedition to Grand Canyon
collaboratesWith
Morden, William James
associated dates: 1926-1927

Morden was Clark's co-leader on the Morden-Clark Asiatic Expedition
participantIn
Morden-Clark Asiatic Expedition
associated dates: 1926 February-1927 January

Clark was co-leader of this expedition to the Himalayas and Central Asia to collect Ovis poli sheep and other mammals (1)
collaboratesWith
O'Donnell, C. Oliver
O'Donnell financed and joined Clark on the O'Donnell-Clark African Expedition (10, p. 20)
participantIn
O'Donnell-Clark African Expedition
Clark was leader of this expedition to southern Sudan to study and collect for the Giant Eland Group in the Hall of African Mammals (1)
participantIn
Oyster Bay Field Trip
Clark participated in this expedition to Long Island, New York, to make studies for the Bird Sanctuary Group in the Roosevelt Memorial (17, p. 56-57)
participantIn
Robinson Expedition to Grand Canyon
associated dates: 1939 April 5-1939 April 30

Clark was a participant in this expedition to the northern rim of the Grand Canyon, Utah, to collect specimens for the Mountain Lion Group in the Hall of North American Mammals (3)
collaboratesWith
Wilbur, Brayton
associated dates: 1947-1948

Wilbur sponsored and joined Clark on the Central African Expedition

Related Resources

creatorOf
[Drawings] [art original]
associated dates: 1902?-1949?

Creator: Clark, James L. (James Lippitt), 1883-1969 Extent: 171 items in 7 boxes: pencil and/or ink on paper ; 26 x 36 cm. or smaller Repository: AMNH Rare Folio, RF-81-C
creatorOf
Report of the Central African Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History, New York, 1947-1948.
Creator: Clark, James L. (James Lippitt), 1883-1969 Extent: 117, [57] leaves ; 29 cm. Library also has a microfilm copy (Archives Microfilm #24), in 1 reel. Repository: AMNH Rare Book Collection, F-3
creatorOf
My Indo-China hunt: expedition of 1936
Creator: Clark, James L. (James Lippitt), 1883-1969 Extent: 64 leaves : 12 photos. ; 29 cm. Repository: AMNH Rare Book Collection, F-3
creatorOf
Radio talks
Creator: Clark, James L. (James Lippitt), 1883-1969 Extent: [158] leaves ; 28 cm. Repository: AMNH Rare Book Collection, F-3
creatorOf
J.L.C.'s field sketch-book on his first African trip, 1908-1909-1910.
associated dates: 1908-1910

Creator: Clark, James L. (James Lippitt), 1883-1969 Extent: 33 leaves: chiefly ill. ; 13 x 20 cm. Repository: AMNH Rare Book Collection, DD-5
creatorOf
Diaries
associated dates: 1907-1948

Creator: Clark, James L. (James Lippitt), 1883-1969 Extent: 9 v. ; 29 cm. Library also has a microfilm copy (Archives Microfilms #15-23), in 9 reels. Repository: AMNH Rare Book Collection, F-3
creatorOf
An African Safari [videorecording.]
Creator: Clark, James L. (James Lippitt), 1883-1969 Extent: 2 videocassettes (80 min.) : si., col. ; 3/4 in. Repository: AMNH Special Collections, Film Collection no. 3
other
Department of Preparation and Installation Diorama and Hall construction
associated dates: 1919-1962

Creator: American Museum of Natural History, Department of Preparation and Installation Extent: 6 boxes (3.5 linear feet) Repository: AMNH Special Collections, DR 104
creatorOf
Good hunting: fifty years of collecting and preparing habitat groups for the American Museum
Creator: Clark, James L. (James Lippitt), 1883-1969 Extent: xii, 242 p., [40] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm. Repository: AMNH Main Stacks, QH70.U52 N43 1966

Written by: Knowles, Emily
Last modified: 2019 August 7


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