John Daniel Hamlyn (1858-1922)

Like his near-neighbours Jamrachs Taunton-born John Daniel Hamlyn traded in wild animals from his premises at 221 St George's Street, described as a 'naturalist'. The fascinating 1917 editions of his Menagerie Magazine find him offering for sale, perhaps in some desperation during the war years, a quiet 8-year old female Indian elephant for the bargain price of £200. He is said to be the inventor of the 'chimpanzees' tea party' - see below. At the Old Bailey in 1890 his assistant Thomas Cross was sentenced to twelve months' hard labour for fraudulently cashing postal orders to the value of £13. By the time of the First World War Hamlyn was a Stepney borough councillor (and vice-chairman of the Board of Guardians for the workhouse), a life governor of the New Finsbury Park  Boys' Institution and a member of the Stepney Military Service Local Tribunal. He provided animal specimens for research on tuberculosis, and for army experiments during the war. Here are some accounts of his activities:

The owl-faced monkey, Cercopithecus hamlyni, is also called in French Cercoptheque de Hamlyn and Cercopitheque à tete de hibou (Hamlyn's cercopithecine and cercopithecine with owl's head), in German Eulenkopfmeerkatze ('owl-headed meerkat [cercopithecine or guenon]' which is easily confused with the English common name 'meerkat', for the species Suricata surricata), in the Lega dialect Mutuba, and in the Kahuzi dialect Fuya. The owl-faced monkey is also known as Hamlyn's Monkey or Hamlyn's owl-faced guenon, named after a once well-known animal dealer, John Daniel Hamlyn, who brought the first owl-faced monkey into captivity at the London Zoo in 1907.

Congolese spotted lion (lijagulep) - The Times, 15 April 1908, p6
A Strange Animal From The Congo: Mr. J. D. Hamlyn, the animal dealer of St. George St., E., who obtained two or three new monkeys from the Congo, has just recieved from the same region a very curious feline animal nearly as large as an adult lioness, which it resembles in build, but irregularly spotted. There is no trace of a mane or ruff, nor is the tail tufted as in the lion. The general hue is tawny, but with a rufous tinge, reminding one of the coat of a cheetah rather than of the leopard, and the inner sides of the limbs are yellowish white, with dark spots. The markings on the upper surface differ greatly in size and character; on the hind limbs they are large; toward the forequarters and head they diminish in size, but increase greatly in number, and the face is so to speak, strippled with black, except on the nose. There is a black mark on each side of the lower jaw, and a black stripe on the posterior side of each ear; and along the spine, from the root of the tail to about the centre of the back is a row of dark markings, somewhat like disconnected links of a chain. The hue of the tail for the greater part of its length corresponds to that of the body, but the terminal portion is banded with black and white. The animal, a female, is in excellent condition and fairly quiet. The obvious suggestion is that the animal is a wild-bred hybrid, with a lioness for dam and a spotted cat for sire. Lion-tiger hybrids were bred in this country by Atkins, the proprietor of a famous travelling menagerie; among Continental breeders Carl Hagenbeck has been most successful. A cross between a puma and leopard has also been obtained, but wild-bred hybrids between the larger cats are exceedingly rare. Today the animal will be sent to the Zoological Gardens, where the question of its parentage will be scientifically investigated."

Chimpanzee - The Wild Beasts of the World (1909)
The most remarkable Chimpanzee I have seen ... is one which was recently for some months in the possession of the well-known animal dealer, Mr. J. D. Hamlyn, who has made a specialty of anthropoid apes. This animal, Peter by name, was kept tied up in a living-room, but was often let out, and regularly had his meals with the family; and I have often had the pleasure of sitting at table with him. His behaviour was exactly that of a rather naughty child; his owners assured me that he understood all that was said to him, and certainly his behaviour went far to bear out this statement. I have seen him, on being told to do so, fetch whisky and soda and pour out a 'peg', bring his master's slippers and put them on, set up a chair he had pulled over, and so forth, besides coming at call and kissing.  He had, moreover, ideas of his own; when given a note-book and a pencil, he would scribble on one page after another just as a child does, and he would steal any key he could get hold of and try to unlock the padlock of his chain with it. Another original idea of his was to get hold of a whip or a strap, and therewith thrash another Chimpanzee, Pat, of his own size, who, being spiteful, was always tied up. Peter tyrannised over Pat very much, tried to shut him in his box, and always kept him under whenever possible; yet on occasion he would side with him.
Peter had previously been in a private owner's house for some months before he came into Mr. Hamlyn's possession; but a previous specimen Mr. Hamlyn had, Pansy, was trained on his premises throughout, and was as civilised in his behaviour as Peter, though not so widely accomplished. He met his death by taking a fatal chill, owing to a practice he had of taking a sponge and washing the stairs -  a proceeding in which, needless to say, he received no encouragement.

John Daniel, the 'civilised gorilla'
In 1917 Hamlyn acquired from a sea captain an infant male lowland gorilla, captured in Gabon near the Cameroon border after his parents were shot by French officers. He sold it to the department store Derry & Toms, for exhibition and sale. Around Christmas 1918 Major Rupert Penny bought him for £300; the gorilla was suffering from pneumonia, so was kept in a specially-constructed hut in his garden, the walls lined with muslin to keep out draughts, until he had recovered, which he speedily did. He was then put in the care of his sister, Miss Alyce Cunningham, at their shop and home at 15 Sloane Street and also at their country residence in Uley, Gloucestershire (where he went for walks with the children of the local school and attended the annual fair - right). In London, John Daniel (aka Johnny Gorilla and Sultan) lived the life of a gentleman, with tea at 5pm and coffee after dinner - and also three glasses of whiskey or sherry or port each day, which Miss Cunningham believed necessary to stave off melancholia. Some accounts say he slept in a cage in the shop basement, but others that he had his own bedroom, with an electric radiator. With a mental age of a 3-4 year old child, he learned to use light switches and the lavatory, make his bed and do the washing-up, and understood simple commands. Dressed as a child, napkin on lap, he sat at table to eat high tea with Miss Cunningham's young niece and other specially-invited children, after which they played together (which in later years they regarded as entirely natural). Each morning Alyce took him in a taxi to the London Zoo for a few hours, where he became famous. Apparently he preferred the attention of females - he looked bored in the presence of men, and would urinate towards them from his cage, but his eyes would light up if a young woman came along, though he reacted badly to any wearing fox furs. She later wrote about him and his 'successors' (Windsor Magazine 1930, p200):
I never taught any of my gorillas tricks, not merely because I am of the opinion that it is not right to teach animals tricks, but because I was anxious to see how they would develop their own initiative. The only exception was that I taught them cleanly habits, which they readily learnt. In respect of the cleanliness of their bodies they have nothing to learn, for I found that when first caught they were beautifully clean. Monkeys and other wild animals in their wild state are quite clean; it is only when the poor things are kept in captivity under insanitary conditions that they become infected with vermin and other parasites. They cannot speak, of course, any more than prehistoric man could, but they have definite guttural sounds for pleasure, pain, contentment, anger, etc. ...  His table manners were really very good. He always sat at the table, and whenever a meal was ready, would pull his own chair up to his place. He did not care to eat a great quantity, but he especially liked to drink water out of a tumbler. I always gave him some butter with his breakfast, but he seldom liked bread. Sometimes he would take a whole crust or round of toast when you least expected him to and eat it all. He always took afternoon tea — of which he was very fond — and a thin piece of bread with plenty of jam; and he always liked coffee after dinner. He was the least greedy of all the animals I ever have seen. He never would snatch anything, and always ate very slowly. He always drank a lot of water, which he would get himself whenever he wanted it, by turning on a tap. Strange to say he always turned off the water when he had finished drinking. He seemed to thrive on water, and this never prevented his taking his milk as well. John seemed to think that every one was delighted to see him, and he used to throw up the window whenever he was permitted.

Carole Jahme, in Beauty and the Beasts: Women, Ape and Evolution (Virago 2001), sets this in its contemporary context, commenting
During the Victorian and Edwardian eras ... intrepid women pioneers would set off with missionary zeal to explore the British Empire, and this period of history marks the beginning of women's obsession with our primate cousins. Watercolour paintings depicting exotic animals, thrilling adventure stories, dead and live primates would all be brought back from African jungles to entertain and educate the public. Ordinary women became intrigued by these human-like creatures.

Alyse Cunningham was finding John Daniel increasingly difficult to keep. In just three years he had grown from a 32lb. infant to a 110lb. juvenile, 3' 4" tall. So they sold him to the American animal dealer John Benson for $20,000, expecting that he would be housed in a Florida park; in fact, they had been tricked, and he was destined for Ringling Brothers / Barnum and Bailey's circus. He arrived in New York and spent two weeks at Ringlings' Zoo in Madison Square Gardens, but was clearly unsettled and developed pneumonia. Miss Cunningham was sent for, and set sail, but he died before her arrival; he was 4½. His body was exhibited at the American Museum of Natural History, and then dissected. Miss Cunningham wrote a paper for the Zoological Society Bulletin A gorilla's life in civilization (1921), and W.E. Le Gros Clark a technical paper Laterality of function in Apex (1927), based on the conspicuous asymmetry found in the anteposterior extent of the brain hemispheres, with a larger size on left side (which some thought explained why John Daniel was right-handed).

There were two more John Daniels - but this time clearly in the ownership of Miss Cunningham. John Daniel II was a 4-year old, also from Gabon, with a clumsy shuffle; she acquired him in 1924 and he shared a stateroom with her on the maiden voyage of the steamship Deutschland to the USA, and thereafter in hotel rooms and railroad sleeping cars, during their extensive tours of the USA. He died in 1927. 

Woodpecker - Bird Behaviour Psychical & Psychological (1919)
To turn from Wrynecks and witches to Woodpeckers; the extensile tongue is brought into play by others than the Sapsucker to procure vegetable' juices; a Woodpecker in Jamaica (Melanerpes striolatus) makes itself very objectionable to planters by puncturing the rind of the sugar-cane and sucking out the juice; and another in Cuba (M. superciliaris) is such a pest by performing a similar feat in the orange-groves that it is, or used to be, the custom to turn the army on to Woodpecker-shooting when there was not a revolution on hand to keep them healthily occupied. One of this species was some time ago in the possession of Mr. J. D. Hamlyn, the well-known bird-dealer, and used to amuse itself by using its tongue to grapple the tails of some Budgerigars or Grass-Parrakeets in the compartment immediately above it.

Boxing Kangaroo - Edward Henry Bostock Menageries, Circuses and Theatres (1927) part 1, p125
 ... The kangaroo's performance on the second night was equally successful, and then agents began to buzz around me like bees asking me for the open dates for this wonderful turn. On the following day, however, I had to leave London to go to Bolton to attend to some matters in connection with my No.3 Menagerie and so I deputed the late Mr. J. D. Hamlyn, naturalist, to watch my interests in the boxing kangaroo. Judge of my surprise when two days later (on New Year's Eve) I received a telegram at Bolton from him informing me that the kangaroo had gone lame, that a veterinary surgeon was attending him, and that he was consequently unable to appear at the show in the evening. I naturally thought that the kangaroo had overstrained himself and that with a few days' rest he would be ready for the stage again. It was, therefore, somewhat of a surprise, indeed shock, when I received a second telegram two days later announcing the death of the animal. Thereupon I hastened back to London to inquire into the cause of his death, and this I was not long in ascertaining. I found that the kangaroo had run a splinter of wood into his leg, and that this had produced lockjaw. That was the end of my first boxing kangaroo, who had enjoyed conspicuous success for the brief season of four nights ...

left - photographer Fred Morley takes on Aussie, the boxing kangaroo, in Trafalgar Square, 1931. It has become an Australian national symbol.

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