Gropius House

Founding of Mass Audubon

The Massachusetts Audubon Society, now called Mass Audubon, was founded in 1896 when Harriet Hemenway and her cousin Minna Hall gathered other influential Bostonians together to seek an end to the slaughter of birds for fashion.

Feather hats were the height of fashion. Just a few years earlier, ornithologist Frank Chapman counted 172 feather hats made from 39 species of birds, during two strolls through Manhattan. An order of feathers by a London dealer in 1892 included 6,000 bird of paradise, 40,000 hummingbird and 360,000 various East Indian bird feathers.

As a result of Mass Audubon’s efforts, the first federal legislation protecting birds was enacted in 1900, and eventually, with newly-formed groups from other states joining the cause, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was passed in 1918, one hundred years ago.

Many of the bird species in this exhibit were used for fashion. In the paintings and prints: grebes, flickers, bobolinks and mourning doves. In the carvings: ruffed grouse, common grackle, great blue heron and cedar waxwing.


Young Harriet Hemenway outdoors