In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, natural history-related items including taxidermy birds and animals were popular displays, protected under glass in curiosity cabinets or under domes. The Museum has several in its collections. The arrangement pictured here was donated in 2000 by Martha Sanders (1912-2002) from her father Earle M. Lynam’s (1877-1958) collection.

Collected in the early 1900s, the birds are primarily from around Marshallton, Delaware, with the three large owls from Churchman’s Woods and many of the others from what was the nearby Lynam family farm. In addition to 24 birds, the arrangement includes a few small mammals, amphibians, and 52 insects.
In a letter accompanying the donation, Mrs. Sanders wrote, “One of my earliest memories, at 2 or 3 years old, was looking them in the eye—they were the same height as I was.”

Mrs. Sanders built the display. In a letter to the Museum, she noted the taxidermy was done “by a man named Hensel of Newark. They were cured by the arsenic and alum method. I was alway(s) cautioned not to touch them.”

In a letter written to the Museum on March 4, 2000, Mrs. Sanders noted how she prepped the birds for display. “I preened each one—by the way, I found a good way to do it—insert a fingernail file beneath the feather and brush it with a toothbrush.”

The arrangement was later displayed at a rock shop she owned with her husband, Rockhounds Haven in Red Lion.

A quick review of what’s in this elaborate arrangement:

  • 1 Least Weasel
  • 1 Meadowlark
  • 1 Baltimore Oriole
  • 1 Screech Owl
  • 1 Common Grackle
  • 2 Blackbirds
  • 2 Barn Owls
  • 1 Merlin
  • 1 Scaled Quail
  • 1 male Scarlet Tanager
  • 1 Northern Harrier
  • 1 Yellow-breasted Chat
  • 1 pair of Cedar Waxwings
  • 1 Snowy Owl
  • 1 male Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • 1 Toucan
  • 1 male Red-legged Honey Creeper
  • 2 Canaries
  • 1 female Belted Kingfisher
  • 1 Bird-of-Paradise in Nest
  • 1 Horned Toad
  • 3 Frogs
  • 1 Iguana
  • 21 assorted Beetles
  • 2 Dragonflies
  • 26 assorted Moths and Butterflies
  • 2 predaceous diving beetles
  • 1 Cicada
  • 1 Cocoon