Pachyderm Matriarchy

Elephants and Authorship in the Land of the Akeleys, 1912–1940




Carl Akeley, Delia Akeley, Mary Jobe Akeley, American Museum of Natural History, Donna Haraway, Teddy Bear Patriarchy


One of the essential backstories of Donna Haraway’s essay “Teddy Bear Patriarchy” is the biography of celebrated collector/taxidermist Carl Akeley, and his vision for the African Hall at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York. The “Authors and Versions” section of Haraway’s essay examines expedition stories recorded by Carl Akeley, his first wife, Delia Denning Akeley, and his second, Mary Jobe Akeley, to interrogate the issue of authorship, and build a case for an alleged cover-up of Delia’s contributions by “the official scientific community”. The present article pursues a reading of “Authors and Versions” against a more robust historical background, including published sources, and primary archival materials, in order to deepen, and correct, the broader story of the authorship and intellectual labour behind the AMNH African Hall, in particular the purported suppression of Delia Akeley’s voice and labour.


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Author Biography

Mark Alvey, Field Museum of Natural History

Mark Alvey’s research interests include the art and inventions of Carl Akeley, and American television of the 1960s. His publications have appeared in Natural History, Screen, Journal of the History of Collections, Framework, The Global Sixties, and International Journal for the History of Engineering and Technology, and in several edited volumes on film and television. He has worked in a variety of roles at Chicago’s Field Museum since 1990, and currently serves as Academic Communications Manager.

Image # 310463, American Museum of Natural History Library




How to Cite

Alvey, Mark. 2023. “Pachyderm Matriarchy : Elephants and Authorship in the Land of the Akeleys, 1912–1940”. Humanimalia 14 (1):83–136.