Category Archives: Academical

Camels And North America

Photo by Kyaw Tun on Unsplash

A (Brief) History Of Camels In North America

Much to everyone’s surprise, Camels were once native to the North American continent. Eleven thousand years ago these Camelops roamed the western United States and, though modern relatives live in Africa and Asia, relatives of the species as a whole may have spread across to Asia from Alaska via the Bering Strait. As with many land bridge hypotheses, this one has its holes, such as how our updated understanding of evolution and human migration patterns have impacted other species such as Equuis scotti.

By the time Europeans came west the North American camel had long since disappeared. The Texas Camel Corps is excited to educate everyone about the role of camels in United States history. It wasn’t until 1701 that its first relatives returned to the continent as an import to the Virginia Colony by a slave trader, most likely for use as work animals. In contrast, a wealthy Massachusetts ship captain named Crowninshield imported a pair of show camels for his personal menagerie. Later, in 1748 Arthur Dobbs, landowner, and governor of North Carolina, imported a pair of camels to work his land. No records exist to suggest he ever sold individuals that may have resulted from a breeding pair.

Camels remained an exotic novelty until 1856 when President Franklin Pierce was in office and the country experienced the unique election of President James Buchanan. President Franklin Pierce was an expansionist excited to encourage and sign policies that pushed for the exploration and utilization of the Southwest. What is  a better way to explore an area assumed to be an arid wasteland than with animals everyone assumes are made for arid wasteland? And so the Texas Camel Corps and its association with the United States Calvary began. Responsible for at least 60 Arabian and 15 Bactrian camels, the Ottoman Pasha of Cairo sent his generous gifts to the United States military in the May of 1856 and February of 1857. Once James Buchanan took office only 40 additional camels came to Texas on a suspected slave ship in October of 1858 and were the only cargo allowed to be unloaded for a Mrs. M.J. Watson, assumed to be the wife of the manifest’s Thomas Watson. These camels were accepted at that time by the governor of Texas and kept on a ranch near Houston, Texas. Texas’s camels were mostly used for the transportation of military supplies to and from San Antonio, Texas up until the Civil War.

Photo by Zachary Spears on Unsplash

As an exception, in 1859 an expedition following the route that would become Route 66 (Modern Interstate 40) used the camels to traverse the western deserts of America. Eventually, during the Civil War these camels would be put to work hauling cotton and salt to attempt to keep up with British trade demands at critical Confederate ports not blockaded by the Union Navy. One individual used sixty-six camels to maintain a freight trade route from Texas to Mexico City.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a few import events from Africa, Russia, and Australia of hundreds of individuals from Arizona to British Columbia (though Canada sent them back!) mean that as of today we have a little over two thousand Arabian camels and around five hundred Bactrian camels distributed between zoos, viruses, breeders, and privately-held collections. Unfortunately, there is no official camel registry for individuals managed by the USDA, and their presence in the United States is poorly regulated. While there have been multiple import events of specific species of camels that could be differentiated with genetic evidence should studies be done on current populations, my question remains: are there currently feral camels in North America? If so, where are they and where did they come from?

Photo by Julius Yls on Unsplash

Feral Camels

While the import of camels for various purposes by the United States and the Confederacy provided a utilitarian purpose for the human support of domesticated populations, sightings of feral camel populations have dated back to at least the 1860s when they were used for the construction of the railroad across the American Southwest, with that population’s release location being Maricopa Wells, Arizona. These feral camels received the nickname “red ghost” or “el diablo” for their aggression as documented by their tendency to stop children and animals to death even though camels are better known for being docile and gentle. This individual was later killed when caught grazing on a farmer’s tomatoes according to one newspaper account according to Smithsonian magazine. But other stories claim witnesses saw “red ghost” killed by a grizzly bear. And yet more stories about feral camel sightings and their eventual demise in the wild or at the hands of humans.

One day a curious and frightening animal with a blobbish head, long and curving neck, and shambling legs, moseyed around the garrison…. the animal was one of the old army camels.”

Douglas MacArthur, 1885 (age 5)

One documented sighting of a feral camel comes from the childhood stories of the famous General MacArthur who was only five at the time in 1885. The records at the National Zoo suggest that feral camels were known to roam Texas until at least the 1890s. You can even visit the gravesite of a late camel driver that died while out in the desert hunting for the loose animals in Arizona. Several more sightings persisted through the early 20th century, particularly in the desert of Southern California and around the Salton Sea. Up until the 1970s, there were individuals insistent that camels still roamed the deserts of the American Southwest.

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

It’s not unreasonable to assume that feral camel populations still exist in the deserts of the North American continent, especially when considering the history of how the feral populations of camels in Australia became established. These are very durable animals that can withstand temperature extremes and internal body temperature fluctuations that could easily kill other mammals. There are even those that actively argue for the camel to make a comeback as an agricultural animal that needs to be re-established in the United States. And they aren’t alone – there are conservationists that agree. There are some that argue if feral populations do not currently exist they should perhaps be re-established as part of the efforts to revive the environment of the American Southwest that has been devastated by poor agricultural practices and specifically soil salinization. Arabian camels have a high salt tolerance in their diets and can help distribute salt that has been concentrated across a landscape. The biggest hurdle? Making the camels go feral in the first place.

But would the reintroduction of a related species be considered an invasive species? Would camels be considered an invasive species? Researchers have asked this too. Genetic evidence suggests that there may not be too big of a difference between the camels of today we could import and release versus the camels of tens of thousands of years ago. Vegetarian and omnivorous megafauna play a niche role in any ecosystem, especially one in which there used to, but no longer exist animals to take up that role. Some have suggested that camels could help fill that role in the United States.

Before we go out looking to bring more camels into the United States, we must first conduct a full survey of the population and determine how many individuals are here, whether or not they are feral versus domesticated, what diseases they are currently harboring, the state of their population genetics, and whether or not there exists a preexisting breeding population of feral camels that spans across the desert of Northern Mexico and the American Southwest. These individuals would likely be hybrids of the Arabian and Bactrian camels with primarily Arabian genetic lineage, with the potential for incorporating other individuals from other later import events, such as pie-bald breeding populations from Australia and Morocco. This could be done via aerial surveys, much like how there’s already aerial population monitoring of caribou and other megafauna in remote locations.

A current barrier to this is that the USDA currently regulated camels as exotic animals. The USDA’s regulations around exotic animals, and therefore all breeding, sales, and research are done under the same laws that govern all other exotic animals such as those kept in zoos. On the USDA’s website, in their FAQ on the subject, this is their response to the needs for owning an exotic “pet” for breeding, viewing, or research. These regulations prevent the USDA from regulating camels as livestock and this actually interferes with their ability to establish animal welfare standards. PETA helped shut down a camel ride operation this past August due to insufficient access to veterinary care for the animals used at the “park.” While I am someone that would normally point you toward numerous issues with PETA’s hypocrisy, in this case they are right. There is insufficient access to veterinary care for camels in the United States due to a lack of demand and lack of access to training and no regulation around what their health requirements are. The majority of workshops for veterinarians to attend to learn about treating camels are entirely funded by the private owners. If we were to implement a release program it would have to be done after major changes in regulation and improvements in wildlife veterinary medicine training included camels in the curriculum to ensure proper monitoring for their populations and health.

What are your thoughts? Should we reintroduce the camel to deal with soil salinization? Should we seek out potential feral camel populations? How much more research do we need?


Thank you for taking the time to read this article on feral camels in North America! What’s your opinion? There are no wrong answers here.

A Reflection On Andrew Jackson

JacksoInaug1929.jpg
source: https://potus-geeks.livejournal.com/1055691.html

Andrew Jackson And “Decades Of Division”

Growing up in Virginia the Civil War history unit always started with Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson – the only president we don’t know the true state of birth for because he was born on the border of North and South Carolina. He is best known as the Original Jackass – the reason the Democratic party has a donkey as its mascot. He took office in 1828 “by a landslide,” reported the papers. In reality? It was the same margin as the previous election. He was popular and earned the name “The Peoples’ President.” He used campaign slogans that suggested he was fighting for the “common man” against the “corrupt aristocracy.” He was extraordinarily popular among White Men (the only people that could vote at the time). Especially southerners, frontiersmen, prospectors, and businessmen who saw his election as a financial opportunity.

His opponents were not his fans. They went so far as to call themselves the Anti-Jacksonian Party. They found many of his actions in office excessive uses of executive power, and he avoided foreign affairs to the extent that it became a point of tension and even had a sex scandal. It’s hard to forget that he is the president most responsible for American genocide against the Native American Nations across the U.S with the Indian Removal Act of 1830. There were even hints of heavy foreign influence regarding his treaties given his avoidance of foreign policy. He added supreme court justices that agreed with him to “stack the courts” to keep his interpretation of the executive powers as outlined in the constitution protected. He set off a chain of events that unfolded for the next 23 years following his departure from office.

Does this sound familiar to you at all?

Here, I’ll throw a quote from this J. Michael Martinez article from July at you:

During his initial bid for the presidency in 1824, Jackson had endured all manner of insults and humiliation. He was an uneducated bumpkin, a blasphemer, a fraudulent land speculator, and even a murderer.

Okay. Hopefully, you see where I’m going with this now.

But What About Foreign Interference!?

Hush. Do you remember nothing from history class? Or did I only learn this because I grew up in The South?

Andrew Jackson and France made a treaty in 1831. Here‘s how that played out:

In an 1831 treaty, France agreed to pay claims for Napoleonic depredations on American shipping. Nevertheless, the French Chamber of Deputies refused to appropriate the necessary funds. Jackson finally lost patience and asked Congress to authorize reprisals if the money was not paid. The French government then demanded retraction of this insult as a condition of payment. Jackson responded in effect that what he said to Congress was none of a foreign government’s business. The impasse deepened through 1835: ministers were recalled and military preparations begun. Finally, under British urgings, the French agreed to construe a conciliatory passage in a later message of Jackson’s as sufficient apology. France paid the debt and the crisis passed without repercussions.

Once the British became involved in 1835, they did not disengage. The continued conflict between Britain and France played out on American soil, as did the conflict over land claims between the United States, Spain, and Mexican independence. This foreign interference did not happen in a vacuum and absolutely influenced the war to come.

France, Spain, England and the fight for Mexican Independence were totally involved in propaganda campaigns during the 23 years leading up to the Civil War. During the Civil War, France actively sent insurgents to spread propaganda to ensure the port cities they cared about (they succeeded with Savannah!) surrendered to General Sherman.

England, on the other hand, was Pro-Confederacy for economic reasons and demonstrated this by choosing to recognize the Confederacy as an independent nation state and trade partner. All of the foreign interference was for economic reasons. The United States provided cheap goods and resources from the backs of slave labor that were integral to major international trade routes in its budding Empire.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to find hard evidence of these propaganda campaigns anymore besides what was written in letters, printed in certain newspapers, or specifically distributed in port cities. There’s some evidence to suggest Savannah’s case in General Sherman’s account of the interaction based on the individuals he spoke with and their associates. Other diaries also provide the suggestions of international presence in the decision by the city of Savannah to surrender.

“The houses all had a shut up look – but from many French, Austrian, British + some American flags were flying + from others people were putting out flags. A few doors opened as we passed + faces peered from windows.”

As an international port city (and the future Port Of Call for my family once they immigrated to the United States many many years after the Civil War) a heavy foreign influence is not terribly surprising, but it is often forgotten and left out of discussions about the Civil War.

What Does This Have To Do With 2020?

A week from today you have the option to go vote. You will vote for whomever you choose and that is your choice as an American citizen. I cannot say if the pattern above would have happened had Andrew Jackson only served one term. I can’t say that because that’s not what happened. During Andrew Jackson’s second term tragedy befell his life and, to put it mildly, he started acting more extreme than before and his political opponents vowed to behave in kind. This is when The Petticoat Affair happened. Assassination plots and attempts started cropping up. The most famous story being when he beat his assailant with his cane.

We live in “the cool zone” – we have a responsibility to decide how cool we’re going to allow it to get.


Thank you for reading this today! Please remember to go out and vote a week from today if you haven’t already participated in early voting or you haven’t dropped your mail-in ballot off to be mailed. Feel free to let me know if I need to add any additional sources or make any corrections. I try my best to fact-check, but no one is perfect.

TIL: The Aldabra Rail Is Magic

I love flightless birds. You might even say they’re a favorite category of bird.

While my absolute favorite bird is the Okarito kiwi (and I promise to do a write up about why eventually), there are so many close runner ups. Flightless birds are badasses and they are disappearing. Fast.

But last year Janske van de Crommenacker et al published about their incredible discovery of a species of flightless bird re-evolving itself back into existence on the little island of Aldabra off the coast of Madagascar.

This brings into play, based on the fossil and what data we have recorded so far, the first documented case of iterative evolution.

They figured this out by comparing the current genome to historic DNA samples from the extinct species. This is practically the plot of Jurassic Park, except all done not by humans.

So, over 10,000 years, the Aldabra Rail evolved itself back into existence.

If you want to take something motivational away from this:

You can always reinvent yourself.

If an entire species can re-evolve itself back into existence – you can pick yourself back up and keep going.

You can survive whatever you’re going through. It may be arduous, but I promise you’ll find a way.

This was your motivational, slightly scientific TIL.

Please feel free to use the comment to share your thoughts and personal experiences openly and freely below – I reserve the comments section for that. Thank you for taking the time to read this today.

Public School Pre-Vaccine Public Health Class Circa 1932 – Part 1: Good Citizenship

What did we do to prevent diseases and still carry on with daily life before vaccines existed? Vulnerable populations still existed. Public health measures still existed, even under President Herbert Hoover. So let’s take a gander into the archives of historical texts, starting with my grandmother’s health textbook.

It should be noted, as we are reading a historic text in its context, that my grandmother was a young white woman born in 1925 in Birmingham, Alabama to a doctor that made a point of treating people of all colors. That is not to say this did not occur without discrimination. As I was not alive and never met my great grandfather, I will never know the full story without speculation. My grandmother did explain to me that she attended an all white school. The name of the school her and her brother, William, attended was called “Edgewood” according to her distinctive cursive handwriting on the inside cover. I do not know if this is the same textbook that was used at other schools in the Birmingham area.

Controlling Disease

One distinct aspect of this textbook is the emphasis on good citizenship skills being a necessary requirement for preventing disease. But what is “good citizenship” and how does a health textbook from the 1930s define this?

Earlier in the text, good citizenship is defined as including everything from behavioral expectations and good hygiene to looking out for your fellow man in your daily activities. One prohibition era example of this being moderating consumption of anything that may dull or alter perception, such as alcohol containing medicines. There is an emphasis on “knowing thyself” and having awareness as being an important philosophical concept necessary for good health (see below).

Part of good citizenship seems to be a willingness to understand the concept of doing what is best for the common good, or what is best for maintaining the health and wellbeing of the population at large. This included some rather drastic measures, such as “sanitariums.” I will get to how tuberculosis sanitariums are described in the book in part 2 when we discuss the concept of the common good.

Good Citizenship

What did good citizenship mean? This is discussed throughout the textbook and I have attempted to summarize the concept here. It meant:

  • Not going out in public if you were sick, caring for a sick person at home, or were exposed to someone you later found out was sick until after the isolation period was over. In fact, make a special room in your house that can be converted to a “sick room” to isolate a person if they get sick – make sure it has plenty of windows you can open to keep the room “well-aired” with lots of daylight while it is shut off from the rest of the house.
  • Participating in volunteer groups, such as community service and church groups, that provide resources to keep others from feeling like they can not maintain the actions associated with good citizenship.
  • Keeping yourself clean and encouraging those around you to do the same through regular bathing, hand washing, and laundering of garments. This also included the wearing of aprons and work clothes that would be changed upon entering the home. By changing outfits regularly you kept the “germs” associated with the different parts of your life compartmentalized.
  • During certain times of the year, such as the winter, keep a wash basin by the front door with lye soap for guests and occupants of the home or building.
  • Wearing gloves to keep the hands clean while you are out and about and changing gloves between activities. These should be laundered regularly.
  • Using a handkerchief that is not to be shared for crying, coughing, sneezing, and all other expulsions of bodily fluids from the face. This should be laundered regularly with a disinfectant.
  • Eating healthy, home-cooked food from a clean kitchen, and bringing food of this kind to events. Practicing good hygiene in the kitchen is a must. (There is no mention of hand washing or gloves in the kitchen interestingly, but there is mention of washing vegetables, utensils, plates, and the management of food waste.)
  • Having home activities that keep your family fit and healthy, while bonded together. Suggested sports include examples such as tennis and chopping wood. (I’m not kidding about the chopping wood bit – that’s a sport for family bonding.)
  • Listening to the directions of your public health officials to prevent outbreaks. At the time only one vaccine was available (pertussis), but there were other prevention methods no longer used today.
Chart with information on incubation period and isolation requirements post exposure.

If you were exposed to someone with one of these diseases you had to isolate at home. If you didn’t do that, your parents were being bad citizens.

What is a bad citizen? That’s a more complicated subject and is where we start to delve into problematic areas with how this advice was given. In more modern terms that strip away the problematic content of the past, if you’re actively not helping to keep everyone around you safe and out of harm’s way, you’re a bad citizen.

It’s fascinating how times change. These methods were used to keep schools safe and in session before vaccines (not perfectly – outbreaks definitely still happened).

Anyways, I’ll revisit history again soon. Hope this was as informative for you as it was for me!


If you would like to see more posts like this one, please be sure to like, comment, and/or share this post. This helps me know which posts my readers like the most so I can try and cater my content. As always, thank you for taking the time out of your day to join me.

This post is dedicated to my friend Katrina, and other friends currently dealing with teaching full classrooms over Zoom. Be sure to thank a teacher today.