Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

A Gorilla at the Crystal Palace (S314a: 1879)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: Newspaper reports containing accounts of remarks Wallace made during the showing in London of a newly acquired live gorilla. The first and shorter item below appeared on page 10 of The Times (London) issue of 21 August 1879; the second piece, from page 6 of The Morning Post (London) of the same date, included a rather more detailed abstract of Wallace's words. To link directly to this page, connect with:

[[from The Times]]

    A Gorilla at the Crystal Palace.--A young female gorilla, recently brought from the West Coast of Africa to Liverpool, and there purchased by Mr. Garcia, at a large price, for exhibition, was yesterday privately shown at the Crystal Palace to a small party, among whom were Mr. Alfred R. Wallace, the author of "The Geographical Distribution of Animals," and the Rev. J. G. Wood. The interest of the exhibition was increased by the presence of a chimpanzee, somewhat older than the gorilla, and the many differences between these species are more strikingly seen when two of these creatures are thus brought into company. The chimpanzee is a male, probably between two and three years of age, and he not only treats his companion very tenderly himself, but takes good care that no other creature shall approach her. A monkey being placed in their cage, with the idea that his presence would enliven them, the chimpanzee immediately attacked the stranger and bit three of his fingers clean off. The brownish yellow skin of the chimpanzee shows distinctly through the black hair that covers him; his eyes are of a hazel brown, and his ears stand out prominently. He takes little notice of his visitors beyond giving an occasional sharp glance at any new comer, but he recognizes and greets his keeper with a grimace which is something broader than a rudimentary smile, and holds out his right fore-paw to shake hands with him. The gorilla seems at present to be very tractable in disposition, and sat very quietly yesterday, fixing her large black eyes on one and another of those around the glass case in which the creatures are shown. The ears are small, and lie close to the head. Her skin is black, and so is the hair on the head, the body, and the limbs, there being scarcely a trace of that reddish tinge which has been said to mark the female. Their food on the voyage has been uncooked Indian corn and rice, tinned milk, a little fruit now and then, and sometimes a cooked meat bone to gnaw. At the request of Mr. Flood Page, the manager of the Crystal Palace, Mr. Wallace, who during his long stay in Borneo and the Malay Archipelago had opportunities of studying the ourang-outang, now gave an interesting account of the anthropoid apes, pointing out the distinctive characteristics of the two specimens before him. The great danger to the gorilla in this country, he said, was from lung disease. Those which had hitherto been brought to England had not survived the second winter. It was more important that they should have abundance of fresh air, he added, than that they should be kept very warm; though, of course, they ought not to be subjected to great or sudden changes of temperature. During the week the Rev. J. G. Wood will give a lecture daily on the apes and their habits.

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[[from The Morning Post]]

    . . . Mr. Wallace said that it was a very interesting thing indeed to naturalists to see a living specimen of the gorilla, which was, as those present were aware, the largest of the anthropoid apes. There were three kinds of anthropoid apes--the gorilla and chimpanzee, which were African; and the orang-outang, which inhabited Borneo. The chimpanzee and the orang-outang attained a height of about 4ft. 2in., but the gorilla, when full grown, measured from 5ft. 2in. to 5ft. 6in. It was a matter of dispute among naturalists as to which of these animals was most like man, each one resembling man in some particulars more than the others. The gorilla was, on the whole, the most so. Looking at the young creature before them, it would be noticed that it had a much shorter arm in proportion to the body than the chimpanzee. The chimpanzee and orang-outang, always using their arms in walking on the ground, required a long arm; but the gorilla's arm, it might be noticed was little, if at all, longer in proportion to its body than the arm of a long-armed man. In this respect, then, the gorilla was more like man than were the other apes. Again, the hand of the gorilla was also more like that of man. The chimpanzee's hand, as might be seen, was exceedingly long, with very long fingers, but that of the gorilla was much shorter, and his fingers about of the same proportions as a man's. The gorilla evidently lived much more upon the ground and less upon trees than did either the chimpanzee or the orang-outang, and, in consequence, his hand was more adapted for going on the ground than for climbing trees. The form of the ear was also very like that of a man's ear, it was marvellously human in appearance. Looking at the gorilla as he did at that moment, so that he could not see its nose, the head was wonderfully like that of a negro child. The nose, however, was dilated and flat, and thoroughly unlike a human nose. It would be an exceedingly interesting thing to naturalists, if these creatures could be kept alive, to watch their growth and the development of their habits. Several anthropoid apes had been brought to this country, but none had survived a second winter. They had generally died of lung disease, commencing with coughs. The best chance of keeping them, he thought, was to take care that they had plenty of fresh air. The young gorilla would, if standing erect, be about 3ft. in height, and the body, especially about the chest and shoulders, is very stout. The ears are exactly like human ears, and the head is well shaped, and round at the top. The eyes are almost black, and the skin of the face is black, contrasting with the tawny yellow of the skin of the chimpanzee. The body is covered with black hair, and the fingers, unlike those of the chimpanzee, are joined together to near the extremity of what is called the first joint. The creature's eyes have a curious pensive expression, and it looks about a good deal as if observant, though neither it nor its companion could be said to be very lively. The first gorilla publicly exhibited alive in England, or, it was believed, that had ever been brought alive to Europe, was Pongo, shown some time since at the Aquarium, and which afterwards died in Berlin; but it appears that the late Mrs. Wombwell exhibited for some months what was called a black chimpanzee, which was, after death, dissected by Mr. Waterton, who discovered, on examining the skeleton, that it was a young gorilla. Taking this specimen into account, the animal just arrived is the third living gorilla that has been seen in England. The gorilla, like the orang-outang when old, has a high projection in the centre of the skull, like a crest running along, but this is, of course, only to be seen when dissected, as the large jaw-moving muscles fill up the head on both sides. This flange of bone is often wanting, and is rarely to be found in the skulls of the females, or indeed, in any but those of old males. Mr. Wallace says he has shot several full-grown males in whom there was no trace of it.

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