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streams which they often encounter in their ceaseless perambulations through the forest. As among men, all cannot swim with equal facility, so it is also with monkeys; accordingly the leaders of the troop, generally the strongest of the party, climb to the spreading branches of some tree projecting over the stream; one of them then twists his tail firmly around a branch, and letting his body hang, seizes upon the tail of the nearest comrade, who in his turn performs the same operation with the next, and so on until a sort of chain or living pendulum is formed, which in obedience to the laws of equilibrium oscillates slowly but constantly from their combined efforts to reach the opposite bank. This finally achieved, the last monkey secures himself to the most convenient tree. The others of the chain, now disengaged from the tree at the opposite side of the stream, wade through the water, each helped by his neighbor assisted likewise by the current. Some are,

however, occasionally drowned, the last one in the chain especially, which circumstance has probably given rise to the popular proverb, el último moro siempre se ahoga- the last monkey is sure to be drowned."

that he did, especially as he gives a picture of it.

After this the marvelous tale seems to have gone unchallenged for nearly one hun. dred years, or until about 1814, when Humboldt gave the weight of his great name in controversion.1 Speaking of howling monkeys, he writes:

“Whenever the branches of neighbouring trees do not touch each other, the male who leads the party, suspends himself by the callous and prehensile part of his tail; and, letting fall the rest of his body, swings himself till in one of his oscillations he reaches the neighboring branch. The whole file performs the same movements on the same spot. It is almost superfluous to add how dubious is the assertion of Ulloa, and so many otherwise well-informed travellers, according to whom, the marimondos [Simia beelzebub], the araguatos, and other monkeys with a prehensile tail, form a sort of chain, in order to reach the opposite side of a river. We had opportunities, during five years, of observing thousands of these animals; and for this very reason we place no confidence in statements possibly invented by the Europe themselves, though repeated by the Indians of the Missions, as if they had been transmitted to them by their fathers (the Fathers?]. Man the most remote from civilization, enjoys the astonishment he excites in recounting the marvels of his country. He says he has seen what he imagines may have been seen by others. Every savage is a hunter, and the stories of hunters borrow from the imagination in proportion as the animals, of which they boast the artifices, are endowed with a high degree of intelligence. Hence arise the fictions of which foxes, monkeys, crows, and the condor of the Andes, have been the subjects in both hemispheres.”

Apparently Humboldt did not know that this story originated with Acosta. There is doubt also whether Ulloa knew of his reverend predecessor. In any case neither of them refers to Padre Acosta.

The story is found repeated ten years after the publication of the Ross translation of Humboldt, and strange to say in this particular account are to be found the details of how the chain is made and how it works: 2

“No less remarkable is their ingenious method of crossing torrents and other minor

This account is very circumstantial and if one reads Paez's book and sees how accurate in the main are his natural history observations, one feels inclined to lend credence. Then, too, how natural is the proverb about the drowning of the last monkey. At first I was inclined to think this a slip, for why was not the end of the chain on the other side of the river after the crossing as high above the water as the originating end! A little thought, however, cleared up this point. The lowest monkey of the oscillating chain would lay hold of the first bush or tree or branch with which he would come in contact, and would complete the living bridge, but would be unable to climb any higher because of the great weight of the monkeys pulling on him. Hence when the monkey who originated the chain let go, he would fall into the water.

This is all very plausible, exceedingly so, but as one reads Paez's fascinating narrative, it is seen that our author loves to tell a good story. Moreover, one finds that he quotes Humboldt to demolish any fictions or clear up any matters of which he finds himself on the opposite side, thus showing that he was well acquainted with Humboldt's writings, but he carefully refrains from quoting him on the monkey chain.

A journey was made over this very region 219

1 I quote from the Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of America during the years 1799-1804, by Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland, translated and edited by Thomasina Ross, London, 1852.

? Page 261 of Don Ramon Paez' Wild Scenes in South America; or, Life in the Llanos of Venezuela, New York, 1862.



of northern South America in 1867–681 by two travelers, H. M. and P. V. N. Myers. They, too, saw hundreds of monkeys swing from tree to tree, and refer to "the oftrepeated story, familiar to every boy, and which often finds credence among so many, of monkeys crossing streams aërial bridges constructed from their own bodies,” but declare that these bridges exist only in fancy:

"In the course of our travels in the tropies, during which we saw multitudes of these creatures, our observations convinced us that there was no foundation for the truth of the tale of the bridge-building monkeys; and in this belief we were, moreover, further confirmed by the statement of natives, who testified to their having never witnessed such a novel performance.”

The last account which has come to the attention of the writer is found in Holmes's Fourth Reader,2 bearing date of publication of 1897, just twenty-one years ago.

The series of Readers to which this book belongs was much in vogue two decades ago.

The reading lessons, eighty-five in number, are made up of extracts from the writings of the foremost authors of America and Europe.

The incident referred to is so very detailed and circumstantial that it is quoted in extenso:

A LIVING BRIDGE "I was once sailing down the Amazon, and making short trips up the rivers that flow into it. One nigh we had ascended a little stream so far that the trees on the banks nearly met overhead, and our boat could go no farther. It was not prudent to go back in the dark. So we anchored in midstream.

The air was full of strange sounds, made by strange birds and insects, which kept me awake until just before dawn, when I fell asleep in my chair on deck.

Suddenly I felt a rough blow on my face, and became wide awake. I saw hanging from a tree, and swinging away into the gloom, something that looked like a huge

The end of it had struck me. In a moment back it came, swinging this time behind the vessel.

The rope gave forth a chattering noise; it was alive. A moment more, and it was clear to me that here was

monkeys trying to cross the stream. The sight was so novel, the plan so daring, that at once I gave these queer bridge-makers my closest attention.

They were hanging from a tall palm-tree that leaned out over the water. Three or four of the strongest had grasped the branches of this palm with their hands, feet, and tails, and were holding on as if the fate of the monkey race depended on them.

Other monkeys had taken hold of these, and let themselves hang down as far as they could. Then others, and still others, until there was a line thirty feet long and three or four monkeys deep. The last monkey of all did not cling to those above him, but was so held by them as to leave his arms and legs free. He was the gymnast of the troop, and the hero of the present exploit.

The dangling line hung so near the trunk of the palm that the lowest had been able to push against it, and thus cause a little motion. Successive pushes had set the rope swinging toward the opposite side of the stream. It was on one of these swings, when the end of the rope had reached as far out as the middle of the stream, that I was struck in the face.

Little by little the breathing, clinging pendulum kept gaining. Pretty soon it swung out so far that the leader caught a branch of a tree on the opposite bank, when, lo! there was a bridge in mid-air! At once there rose from all the line a chattering that must have been monkey cheers.

As soon as the leader had made good his hold, two or three monkeys ran across to help him. This finished the bridge; so, without further ado, it was opened to the monkey public.

Then there came out of the palm-tree a noisy crowd of all ages. They ran across the bridge as best they could, some on all fours, some upright, some with young monkeys on their backs, and all waving their tails and briskly jabbering, as if they were shouting to those ahead, 'Make haste, or the bridge will break!'

A very old monkey was the last to go over. Perhaps his limbs were stiff. Perhaps he could not see very well. It was certain that he had lost the fearlessness of his youth, for he picked his way along so slowly and nervously, that I could not help laughing outright.

Hearing so unusual a noise, the monkeys who were clinging to the palm did not wait for him, but let go and swung over to the other side. The old fellow narrowly escaped a ducking.

Then followed a curious scene. No sooner had the bridge cleared the water, than the monkeys loosened their grip upon one another. In less time than it takes to tell the story, the bridge dropped to pieces, and what never happens with a common bridge - the pieces betook themselves to the tops of the trees, and were soon out of hearing in the depths of the forest.”

black rope.

a company of

1 The narrative appeared under the title Life and Nature Under the Tropics (New York, 1871).

? A Fourth Reader, by Prof. George F. Holmes (of the University of Virginia) and Prof. Frank A. Hall (Head master English High School, Cambridge, Mass.). New edition, copyrighted 1887, dated 1897.

To doubting Thomases this is staggering, because of the perfection of its detail, in which it agrees with Paez. The name signed to this short article is that of Charles Frederick Holder, a naturalist and man of high standing!1 I have personally made a careful search through all the works of Dr. Holder, in the hope that the original account

1 Dr. Charles Frederick Holder was the writer of many books and a member of many distinguished scientific societies. He died in Pasadena, California, on October 11, 1915.

might be found. The search proved futile, but it unexpectedly brought to light a confirmatory account. This latter, with a figure accompanying it, bears date of publication in New York just twelve years ago.2

Let us examine Holder's account more closely. First, it was not yet dawn, things could not be seen clearly; second, the stream was so small that the trees almost met overhead; third, the monkeys might easily have been hanging to limbs and making swinging leaps across the narrow stream; fourth, in these tropical countries the vegetation along the streams forms such a dense interwoven jungle that there is no space on the landward side for such a chain to swing back from the bank to get oscillation enough to carry it across the stream; and finally, this account attributes more collective intelligence to monkeys than they have ever been known to show.3


2 Half Hours with Mammals. Charles Fred erick Holder. New York, 1907.

3 This is said notwithstanding the fact that S. G. Goodrich in his Illustrated Natural History of Animal Kingdom (Vol. I, page 103, New York, 1859) says: "This account (of the monkey chain) has been doubted by some naturalists, but we are told by Mrs. Loudon that a similar feat is often performed by these monkeys in the Me. nagerie of the Zoological Gardens at London." If this is true, then it is strange that, so far as the present writer knows, no published statement of such action has come from the eminent men who have for so long reported in the Proceedings of the Zoölogical Society of London the happenings in its Zoological Garden.

Now Mrs. Loudon before her marriage was Jane Webb, and as Jane Webb she was a very prolific writer of popular natural history books. The British Museum catalogue lists some dozen or more of these works, but unfortunately neither the library of the American Museum of Natural History nor the great New York Public Library possesses any of them, so I have not been able to run down this statement. However, another quotation from Goodrich casts discredit on his whole account.

On the same page, he quotes Dampier, the navigator, in detail as to the formation of the bridge on the "Isthmus of America." Now the standard edition of Dampier's Voyages is that of 1729, the sixth I believe, which has recently (1906) been published in fine form under the editorship of John Masefield. In this copy there is no account whatever of the monkey chain or of any activities of monkeys in that part dealing with Dampier's crossing of the Isthmus of Panama. Indeed the only place where their antics are referred to is in Dampier's "Second Voyage to Campeachy," and here there is no word of the formation of a chain or bridge.

Now Sabin quotes Stevens that the sixth edition (the standard one) of Dampier's Voyages Around the World is a page for page reprint of the earlier editions, but to make sure I consulted the 1698 or "3d edition corrected" and the 1697, the first, edition of the Voyages and found the account therein of the Second Voyage to Campeachy to agree exactly with Masefield's reprint of the sixth 1 This account and figure are taken from Siam, the Land of the White Elephant, as It Was, and as It Is, compiled by George B. Bacon and published by Charles Scribner's Sons (New York, 1873), as one of the volumes in Illustrated Library of Travel, Exploration, and Adventure, edited by Bayard Tavlor.

A possible source of the bridge myth lies in the interpretation which a not-over-accurate traveler might give to the sight of monkeys swinging in troops from the hanging vines so numerous in tropical forests.


above illustration, from Henri Mouhot's Travels in the Central Parts of Indo-China (Siam), Cambodia, and Laos (1864), purports to be drawn from a sketch by that naturalist showing the way in which Old World apes torment their greatest enemy, the imperturbable crocodile, by swinging about his head and tapping him now and again—until some one of the frolickers more foolhardy or less agile than the rest gets his paw caught in the trap and vanishes into the crocodilian interior. The truth of this report is open to doubt, and at any rate the drawing has received additions from the artist's imagination inasmuch as Old World apes do not have prehensile tails



It seems to me that the possible explanation is to be found in the third point just indicated. Individual monkeys certainly make use of swinging branches and of great palm leaves to enable them to bridge over the space from one tree to another. Using such a swinging fulcrum for a “take-off,” they have been known to leap thirty feet, alighting of course at a lower level than the starting point. A procession of monkeys making such leaps from the same point in succession, especially if some were females carrying young, might look like a “living chain."

I have had the pleasure of discussing the matter with Messrs. Leo E, Miller and George K. Cherrie, of the American Museum of Natural History, and few men in the United States have done more exploring work in northern South America. Furthermore, they are not the ordinary type of trav. elers but are collectors with highly trained powers of observation. They think that there is nothing in the "monkey bridge story” but that it has come about in a perfectly natural way through observation of a procession of monkeys crossing a ravine or stream on a pendent liana.

Professor W. P. Hay, of Washington, has called my attention to an account of Old World monkeys:

"It is amusing, however, for one is interested in observing the habits of animals all over the world- to see the manner in which these creatures (crocodiles] catch the apes, which sometimes take a fancy to play with them. Close to the bank lies the crocodile, his body in the water, and only his capacious mouth above the surface, ready to seize any. thing that may come within reach. A troop of apes catch sight of him, seem to consult together, approach little by little, and commence their frolics, by turns actors and spectators. One of the most active or most impudent jumps from branch to branch, till within a respectful distance of the crocodile,

when, hanging by one paw, and with the dexterity peculiar to these animals he advances and retires, now giving his enemy a blow with his paw, at another time only pretending to do so. The other apes, enjoying the fun, evidently wish to take a part in it; but the other branches being too high they form a sort of chain by laying hold of each other's paws, and thus swing backwards and forwards, while any one of them who comes within reach of the crocodile torments him to the best of his ability. Sometimes the terrible jaws suddenly close, but not upon the audacious ape, who just escapes; then there are cries of exultation from the tormentors, who gambol about joyfully. Occasionally, however, the claw is entrapped, and the victim dragged with the rapidity of lightning beneath the water, when the whole troop di perses, groaning and shrieking. The misadventure does not, however, prevent their recommencing the game a few days afterwards.” 1

When opportunity came to compare Professor Hay's transcript with the original, I found that the account originated with an explorer and naturalist named Mouhot,2 who died of swamp fever somewhere in the upper part of Indo-China, but whose journals, letters, and scientific memoranda were used by his brother to build up a book. The original picture in this book is of a scene at Paknam-Ven, on the Chantaboun River, Siam, and bears the legend: "Drawn by M. Bocourt from a sketch by M. Mouhot,” so it may be considered authentic.

In his text Mouhot speaks of the apes holding on to each other by their paws, but nowhere does he speak of them as using their tails. The figure, however, does show at least three of them using their tails to hold on to the swinging "bush-ropes.” This led me to think, until the figure was finally run down, that it was from some book of travel on South America, where the monkeys do have prehensile tails. Mouhot, of course, knew that while the Old World does have long-tailed monkeys, none of them have this organ prehensile, so we must conclude that his artist "improved" on his original sketch.

2 Henri Mouhot was a Frenchman, but the title of his book is Travels in the Central Parts of Indo. China (Siam), Cambodia, and Laos, during the years 1858, 1859. 1860, and it was published in two volumes at London in 1864. Mouhot, who lived in England for some years, seems to have had encouragement and possibly some backing from the Zoological and Geographical Societies of London in his explorations.

(Continued from page 220 ) edition of 1729. So it seems that Goodrich has made Dampier say what he did not say, and if Dampier, why not Mrs. Loudon? As a matter of fact Goodrich has attributed to Dampier an account possibly taken from Wafer, quoted earlier in this article. Dampier was a keen and critical observer of natural history phenomena and any. one who has carefully read his Voyages must conclude that had monkey bridges abounded, Wafer indicates, he would certainly have given us & careful description, as was his wont when any. thing new or unusual came within his ken. And even had he not seen it, he would in all probability have made mention of it as seen by others, had talk of it been current.


The Remaking of a Museum Collection




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T WAS in 1882, that Mr. Robert Colgate, both possible and desirable to make such imat the suggestion of Professor Henry A. provements as would bring this hall up to

Ward, decided to present to the Ameri- the high standard set by other exhibits. It can Museum, of New York, the most com- has been said that some of the greatest replete collection of apes and monkeys that forms have been brought about not by mak. could be brought together, and as steps were ing new laws but by repealing or amending promptly taken to put this plan into execu- old ones; in the Primates' hall reform has tion, the collection rapidly grew to goodly largely been brought about not by discardproportions. Thirty

ing the old specifive years ago, how

mens but by utilizever, collecting was

ing them to better much more difficult

advantage, and while and collectors were

there have been much than

few discards, these today, so that after

have been in the way a time the supply of

of bright cherry pedmonkeys that could

estals and of shelves, readily be obtained


the was exhausted, and

visitor is attractthe growth of the

ed by the animals collection became

and not by the supslower and slower.

ports. Nevertheless, it was

Important addiimpressive

tions have been hibit, occupying the

made in the way of greater part of one

groups, four of which of the central halls

have been completed of the Museum.

while material for Later, however, it

others is in hand; lost some of this im

and Man has been A Colobus or horse-tail monkey with its pressiveness, as innewly born young whose white head may be

represented by fig. crease of collections

seen in front of the mother's shoulder. Most ures of the black, yelin other halls, with- monkeys carry their young in this manner, the low, and white races. out corresponding ininfant clinging to the parent's fur of its own

(See page 235.) accord and with its own strength. A side view crease of the build

The skeletons forof this same monkey is seen in the illustration ing, brought into the of the group on the opposite page

merly scattered exhibit a number of

through the intruders in the shape of the smaller mam- have been brought together, so that the visi. mals, so that the hall of Primates lost some tor so minded can readily compare the of its distinctive appearance; also the ever- structural resemblances between himself and increasing amount of scientific work by the his more or less distant relatives, or see the Museum staff led to the abstraction of many general characteristics of the various groups of the skeletons for study and comparison. into which the Order of Primates is divided.

Quite recently the publication of Elliot's The object of the exhibit is to give some great work, A Review of the Primates, idea of the principal species in the Order and caused renewed interest in this particular their great variety in size and form, which collection, while collections made by various ranges from the huge gorilla to the tiny Museum expeditions in Africa and South marmoset, while the habitat groups show America, coupled with improved methods in characteristic or interesting species in their mounting and displaying specimens, made it own haunts.



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