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Although the Arbuckle Brothers Coffee Company claimed for itself a copyright date of 1890 for this series, the illustrations on which the cards were based were not originally commissioned by Arbuckles', but rather had been previously published in one or more natural history books. Thus far I can date one of them as far back as 1861, three of them back to 1864, three more back to 1865, and 39 others at least as far back as 1885, although I suspect that even those may have been published somewhat earlier.

45 of the 46 drawings that I've located so far can be found in Vol. I of a 3-volume set of books entitled: Animate Creation; POPULAR EDITION OF "OUR LIVING WORLD," A NATURAL HISTORY by The Rev. J. G. Wood. Revised and Adapted to American Zoology, by Joseph B. Holder, M.D., published in 1885 by Selmar Hess, New York. This first volume is devoted to "Mammalia" and the illustrations that Arbuckles' selected represent only a small portion of the nearly 350 illustrations to be found in this one book.

All but one of those 45 appear as black and white illustrations, probably wood block engravings. Only the Puma is a full-color lithographed plate. Interestingly, this plate, along with all the other color plates, was actually printed separately from the book itself, by L. Prang & Co., and then pasted to the appropriate page by the publisher. Of the 44 black and white drawings, ten appear as full page plates and the rest as smaller illustrations scattered throughout the text.

One drawing not found in Animate Creation is the Tiger, which I've located in Vol. 1 of a 6-volume German series, the first edition of A. C. Brehm's Illustrirtes Thierleben, published in 1864 in Hamburg. Two other drawings also found in this earlier volume are the Puma (in black & white only) and the Buansuah. Vol. 2 of this same series, published in 1865, includes the Reindeer.

I've also located two of these same illustrations, the Otocyon and the Whallabee, in earlier editions of a J. G. Wood book on Mammalia entitled: The Illustrated Natural History, published in 1865 (and again in 1876) by George Routledge and Sons, London. This edition was also republished, page for page but reduced to about 7/8 of the original size, at a later (unknown) date as the First American Edition by The Federal Book Company of New York. The reduction in page size for this edition has a somewhat detrimental effect on the quality of the illustrations (and even the legibility of the text, I'd have to say).

The Otocyon illustration, in fact, can be found as early as 1861 in J. G. Wood's Natural History Picture Book for Children, published by Routledge, Warne, and Routledge, London, and again in a later edition just titled Natural History Picture Book, published in 1869 by George Routledge and Sons, London.

In 1886, yet another J. G. Wood book, Wood's Illustrated Natural History, was published by the New York office of George Routledge and Sons, and contains matching illustrations for the Gorilla, Zebra, Bison and Mullingong.

Other "pre-Arbuckle" uses include Volumes 1 and 2 of The Natural History of Animals in Word and Picture by Carl Vogt and Friedrich Specht, published around 1887 by Blackie & Son, London, which include all 36 of the Specht drawings that Arbuckles' used, and Volume 5 of an 1888 edition of The Riverside Natural History by John Sterling Kingsley, published by Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., London, which includes the Reindeer, Jackal, Puma, and Orang-Outang.  The Orang-Outang also appears in an 1889 book by none other than P. T. Barnum titled The King of the Animal Kingdom: Natural History from a New Standpoint, published by R. S. Peale & Co., of Chicago.

Diane Scherzler (who happens to be the great-granddaughter of the original engraver for the Friedrich Specht drawing of the Lion), directed me to a couple of interesting 1886 magazine-style publications from McLoughlin Bros. of New York, titled Game Animals and Wild Animals (both in their "Bird and Animal Series"), which included full-color versions of the Polar Bear (in the former) and the Bison, Gnu, and Big-Horn (in the latter).  What makes these illustrations particularly intriguing is that, although they're done in color and definitely precede the Arbuckle cards, the peripheral elements and backgrounds in the McLoughlin versions are sufficiently different from the orignal engravings so as to preclude them from being considered as direct predecessors to the Arbuckle card versions.

Subsequent to Arbuckles' 1890 copyright date, I've found the Orang-Outan, Jackal, and Buansuah (as Indian Wild Dog) in Vol. I of The Royal Natural History by Richard Lydekker, published in 1894 by Frederick Warne, London, as well as 24 of the illustrations in The Animals of the World: Brehm's Life of Animals by Alfred E. Brehm, published in 1895 by A. N. Marquis & Company, Chicago. Then there's a book entitled All About Animals, published in 1900 by McLoughlin Brothers of New York. This volume contains 22 of the illustrations. Again, all of them appear in black and white and reproduce the earlier book illustrations, not the altered versions that Arbuckles' used on the cards.

Additional research by Jerry Anderson has turned up a book edited by Richard Lydekker entitled: Library of Natural History, published in 1901 by The Saalfield Publishing Company of New York. This volume includes the Buansuah (as Indian Wild Dog) and Orang-Outang. Diane Scherzler located the Rimau-da-han and Asiatic Elephant in Beasts and Birds in Pictures and Words, published in 1891/2 by McLoughlin Bros.

For comparison with the Arbuckle versions of these illustrations, I've added a scan of each one, taken from Animate Creation (except for the Tiger, which is taken from Thierleben), to the page for its corresponding Arbuckle Zoological card. Only Opossum, Zebu, Leopard, and Indian Rhinoceros are not accounted for in either Animate Creation or the first edition of Brehm's Thierleben. It's interesting to note that, in almost all cases, the Arbuckle cards faithfully reproduced the principal animal in each drawing, while altering the format, simplifying the background and general surroundings, and repositioning or sometimes completely excising secondary members of the species that appeared in the original. Of course, color was added for the Arbuckle versions and, in a couple of cases (Chetah vs. Cheetah and Gnoo vs. Gnu), the spelling of the critter's name was altered. Several also bear a different "classical appellation".

Where practical, I've scanned these drawings in their originally published sizes, although in about a dozen cases I've had to reduce them slightly for space considerations. In those cases, the original size is noted above the image. I've also attempted to identify the artist responsible for each illustration, when I can decipher a name or signature in those that have them. Unfortunately, the Animate Creation publisher chose not to credit any of the artists or engravers and even, in some cases, seems to have intentionally obliterated signatures which appear to have previously been present in the drawings. Interestingly, however, several of those signatures are quite legible in the illustrations published in the much later All About Animals book.

It also appears that Arbuckles' appropriated some of the text from Animate Creation (or one of its predecessors) as the basis for the descriptions used for each animal in its "Album of Illustrated Natural History". These descriptions are necessarily abridged, and somewhat rearranged and paraphrased, but it's quite clear that Arbuckles' freely lifted the gist of them, and without any attribution. Here are a couple of examples:

Animate Creation Arbuckles'
Cheetah "The title "jubata," or crested is given to the Chetah on account of a short, mane-like crest of stiff long hairs which passes from the back of the head to the shoulders." "It is called jubata (maned or crested) from the short mane-like crest of hairs passing from the back of the head to the shoulders."
"The natural disposition of this pretty creature seems to be gentle and placid, and it is peculiarly susceptible of domestication." "The natural disposition of this pretty creature is gentle and placid, and it is easily domesticated."
"The speed of this animal is not very great, and it has but little endurance..." "Its speed is not great, and it has little endurance."
Vlacke Vark "The tusks of an adult male are most terrible weapons, projecting eight or nine inches beyond the lips, and with them it has been known to cut a dog nearly in two with a single stroke, or to sever the fleshy parts of a man's thigh." "The canine teeth are enormously developed, and serve for rooting up the favorite food, as well as for most terrible weapons of defense and attack, protruding eight or nine inches beyond the lips. With these it has been known to cut a dog nearly in two, with a single stroke, or to sever the fleshy part of a man's thigh."
"When chased, it presents a most absurd appearance, for it is naturally anxious to learn how much it has gained upon its pursuers, and is yet unable to look round, on account of its short neck and the large excrescence on each side of the face. The animal is therefore obliged to lift its snout perpendicularly in the air so as to look over its shoulder; and as it always carries its tail stiff and upright when running, it has a most ludicrous aspect." "When chased it presents a most absurd appearance, because it is naturally anxious to know how much it has gained on its pursuer, but is unable to look around on account of its short neck, and the large excrescences on each side of the face, so it is obliged to lift its snout perpendicularly in order to look over its shoulder."

Clearly, even though 90% of the illustrations found on the Arbuckle cards can be found in Animate Creation, the 1861 Natural History Picture Book for Children, the 1864-65 Brehm's Thierleben and the 1876 The Illustrated Natural History confirm earlier publication dates for at least seven of the drawings. Also, as noted above, not only does Animate Creation not attempt to credit the illustrators or engravers, there actually appears to be some attempt to discredit a few. Either that, or some of the engravings that were used "just happened" to be severely worn precisely in the area of the artist's signature! In any event, this leads me to believe that it's likely that all of the illustrations in Animate Creation originated elsewhere.

Secondly, several of the scientific names, or "classical appellations", used on the Arbuckle cards differ from those found in Animate Creation. Certainly, this could simply mean that Arbuckles' updated these names to reflect any changes the scientific community had made to the animals' classifications in the period from 1885 to 1890. It seems unlikely to me, though, that Arbuckles' would have taken the trouble to do this and would have, in the interest of expediency, simply kept whatever names were found in its original source.

Thirdly, the Reverend John George Wood actually began producing natural history books in England as early as 1852, and seems to have published numerous new, revised, and/or reworked editions until his death in 1889. Animate Creation was apparently an Americanized version of one of these earlier works. Books with titles such as The Illustrated Natural History (1852, 1863), Routledge's Popular Natural History (1867), The New Illustrated Natural History (1882), etc., were apparently bestsellers in their time. It seems likely that Wood used many of the same artists and drawings to illustrate these earlier books and perhaps one of them actually served as Arbuckles' true source. In addition, later editions of Brehm's Tierleben, published in the 1870s and 1880s, were expanded from the original 1860s edition and, I believe, included the work of a number of additional artists. Also, of the four artists/illustrators that I've been able to clearly identify (representing 44 of the drawings), three are German and one English, confirming a European origin for the drawings.

And finally, since only 45 out of the 50 illustrations that Arbuckles' used are included in Animate Creation, with one additional drawing found in Brehm's Thierleben, 4 more have to be accounted for. It seems to me that if Arbuckles' was going to base their cards on previously published drawings, they would more than likely have chosen them all from a single source, rather than just getting 90% from one source and then getting the other 10% elsewhere, especially since many more illustrations were available to choose from in Animate Creation (including different ones for the missing animals).

As my time and resources permit, I'm going to attempt to locate copies of the natural history books referred to above, and perhaps others, to see if I can further pin down the true source(s) for this Zoological card series. And you can be sure that, whatever I learn, I'll be happy to share it with my fellow collectors here on my site! On the other hand, if any of you are already ahead of me on this and have additional information available that would shed more light on this subject, by all means, please get in touch with me!