The Bird Man of Alcatraz. While in prison on two murder charges, made his life’s work the study of birds and bird diseases; wrote the Digest of Bird Diseases, which is the definitive work on the subject, still in active use among bird lovers and zoos.
Autograph Letter Signed, “Bob, Robert Stroud 594,” two pages, quarto, written from prison at Alcatraz, October 21, 1944. To Fred E. Daw, his longtime friend and president of the Chicago Bird Club.
“Your letter…came several days ago, and although I will not be able to mail this letter for about ten days, I will get it written. I have had a letter from Mark at last, two of them in one day, in fact, but still practically no news about the book. He simply says, ‘Upon my return I found several book orders and some for the clubs. I have been all morning getting them out, it is now 2 p.m.’ And that it that. In August he told me he still owed the printer $500. Now he tells me of $624 additional expenses and says he owes them $1624. He doesn’t mention what the other $500 is for. I did have a wonderful letter from Dr. Levi, author of The Pigeon, president of ‘Palmetto Pigeon Plant’ (ad on page 53 October All Pets), who is also a Sumter, S. Carolina attorney. He has a wonderful plant (30,000 birds) and has himself carried on a lot of research on diseases. My book made a real hit with him. He likes my independent attitude. He seems to have gotten a kick out of what I did to my friend Durant, but says he is glad I didn’t give his book the same treatment. Well, I wouldn’t, because he is not a stuffed shirt. He says there are not too many minds like mine in the U.S. today. I am sure we are going to be good friends. He has a very wide acquaintance among scientists, and I am sure he will be doing a lot of missionary work.
“I took my definition of ‘Sib Bred’ from old J.C. Edwards. He is the first one who recommended the use of ‘Sib Bred’ birds, and he based his advice on their use in mule breeding with Red Polls and Goldfinches. Since they have no color to amount to anything, the red from the male often shows in the hybrid. House mentions their use but not the reason in his book on Mule Breeding. I think most everyone makes allowance for Carter. He is undoubtedly becoming a little childish. I give the ‘Sib Bred’ first choice if one wants to produce a clear rose color and even marks, but for real red I would choose the self green buff hens. If she has been bred for buff feathers and no marks for several generations, so much the better. You see, only black skin cells will produce good red color, and they can only do it with buff feathers. I have tried both green and common, as you know. The best birds come from green buffs – and I think I raised some pretty good cinnamon-orange, too. I don’t know what became of Knellier. Probably the war cramped her style; maybe she developed some new hobby; maybe she passed the menopause. Most such enthusiasts are simply working off excess energy. Naturally, they haven’t time to be too exact about what they do. I have not seen any of her articles for about a year. I don’t know if they are holding a show this year or not.
“Did you get your new teeth, Fred? A discussion here that started as a joke has given me a new idea. Some people grow three sets of teeth. This must be controlled by a hormone. The epithelial inlands of the thymus gland secret a hormone of unknown effect. They are active during gestation; in most persons they are absorbed at the beginning of adolescence; but in some cases they persist for life. They persist in a shark, and he grows all the teeth he needs. An angleworm can grow a whole new head. I have been kidding a friend that I would grow him new teeth with extract of angleworms. But it is more than a joke. Man has almost as many tooth buds as a shark; their growth must be influenced by some hormone; it should be a simply problem in biochemistry to find the substance and inject it. If I ever get a laboratory, I think I will try it. Toads can grow new feet only under certain conditions. They would make good test animals. If a man could find this hormone, it would really be something. There isn’t any particular news here, so I will make this short. I hope that it finds you well and all things going well there.”