The Death of Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon on Earth

Last passenger pigeon

Martha

On Spetember 1, 1914, the last passenger pigeon on earth passed away. The passenger pigeon once was the most numerous species in North America and perhaps the world. In the mid and late 1800s, there were millions of passenger pigeons in the United States, but the species dwindled down from hunting and other reasons, until on this date a passenger pigeon named Martha died in the Cincinnati Zoo.

According to a New Yorker book review of Joe Greenberg’s A Feathered River Across the Sky, the last pair of passenger pigeons, George and Martha, lived in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo. After George died in 1910, Martha lived on four more years as a sad attraction, reminding visitors of the destruction of a once widespread species. Although officials offered a $1000 reward for a male passenger pigeon, no more were found. And Martha passed away in 1914, ending the species. (Jonathan Rosen, “The Birds,” New Yorker 6 Jan. 2014: 62)

Below is a short video about passenger pigeons, featuring a song about Martha called “Martha (Last of the Passenger Pigeons),” written and sung by singer-songwriter John Herald.

Singer John Herald was one of the founders of the bluegrass group Greenbriar Boys, and he worked as a session guitarist for a number of artists like Bonnie Raitt and Doc Watson. He wrote the classic song about a drunk racehorse, “Stewball,” which was recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary. Herald passed away in 2005.

As for Martha, after her death, she was frozen in ice and sent by train to Washington, D.C., where she was stuffed and put on display at the Smithsonian. She is now part of a special exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo. Meanwhile, Project Passenger Pigeon works to educate about the loss of the species. Although Martha has died, we have kept her body to forever haunt humans and remind us that nobody — and no species — survives forever.

Photo of Martha, the last passenger pigeon, via public domain.

What species extinction do you think most about? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    The Short Life of Froggy from “Our Gang”

    Froggy Little Rascals
    On August 31, 1948, the 16-year-old William Robert “Billy” Laughlin was delivering newspapers riding on the back of his scooter, operated by a friend. Suddenly, a truck collided into the scooter when the boys were making a U-turn, sending Laughlin to the hospital where he passed away six hours later. Although his friend survived and no charges were filed against the truck driver, it was the end of the short life of one of the most memorable “Our Gang” characters.

    Laughlin had played Froggy in Our Gang shorts from 1940-1944. The character was known for his deep frog-like voice, which was actually done by Laughlin. This video below features Laughlin in one of his early appearances on the show in 1940. Although he appears early in the episode, he does not say anything until he delivers a punch line in his great voice at around the nine-minute mark.

    Reportedly, Laughlin’s mother first got him into acting as a way to boost the confidence of the little boy who had been teased for his crossed eyes and thick glasses. Through that work, Laughlin came up with various voices, including his “Froggy” voice.

    After MGM discontinued Our Gang in April 1944 and after Laughlin’s appearance in the movie Johnny Doesn’t Live Here Any More (1944), the boy moved away from the acting life to enjoy a normal teenage life. Unfortunately, his normal life did not last as long as it should have.

    Some other “Our Gang” actors suffered tragic deaths. For example, Carl Dean Switzer (“Alfalfa”) died at age 31 from a gunshot wound during an argument over $50. Robert Hutchins (“Wheezer”) died at the age of 20 during military training. But according to Snopes, it is not true that when you look across the lives of the cast members that you can find any kind of curse. Froggy’s Laughlin, though, died at the youngest age of any of the “Our Gang” actors. Even if there is no “curse,” sometimes life is just unfair.

    What is your favorite Our Gang or Little Rascals memory? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Trailer for Upcoming Film From Jon Stewart: “Rosewater”

    jon stewart movie

    When Jon Stewart took a break from hosting The Daily Show to work on a movie, I was not sure what to expect. But from the looks of the trailer for the new film Rosewater that he directed and for which he wrote the screenplay, it looks like he spent his vacation time well.

    The movie adapts the book Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival, a memoir by journalist Maziar Bahari. The book and film tell the story of Bahari’s work reporting on the Iranian elections in 2009 when he was accused of being a spy and imprisoned and tortured. Despite the dark subject matter, the trailer indicates that the movie promises an ultimately uplifting story. Actor Gael Garcia Bernal stars as Bahari. Check it out.

    Rosewater is scheduled to be released November 7, 2014. If you want to know more, Variety has a review.

    Will you see Rosewater? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Chelsea Lately’s “Goodbye to E!” Song

    Chelsea Lately Last Show
    This week, Chelsea Handler had her final episode of her late-night E! talk show, Chelsea Lately. A number of her famous friends stopped by to say goodbye, and many of them took the stage with her to sing “Goodbye to E!”

    The lineup for the parody of 1980s social awareness songs included Gwen Stefani, Dave Grohl, Trace Adkins, Sammy Hagar, Jennifer Aniston, Fergie, Avril Lavigne, Gerard Butler, Kate Beckinsale,Selena Gomez, Kelly Osbourne, LeAnn Rimes, Kathy Griffin, Marlee Matlin, and Melissa McCarthy. Check it out.

    What will you miss most about Chelsea Lately? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    It’s “Rock & Roll Time” When Jerry Lee Lewis Releases New Music

    Jerry Lee Lewis Rock Roll

    Jerry Lee Lewis is releasing a new album on October 28, Rock & Roll Time. Like his other recent albums of duets, Last Man Standing (2006) and Mean Old Man (2010), the new album features help from some famous names like Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Neil Young, Robbie Robertson, Shelby Lynne, and Nils Lofgren.

    The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports that the album will have eleven tracks, with roughly half originals and half covers (like “Folsom Prison Blues” and Bob Dylan’s “Stepchild”). Check out the title track, “Rock & Roll Time,” below.

    Rock & Roll Time is not all we will be hearing from Jerry Lee Lewis. On September 23, Saguaro Road Records is releasing The Knox Phillips Sessions, a previously unreleased 1970s album from Lewis that was produced by Knox Phillips (the son of the legendary producer Sam Phillips). Additionally, a new Jerry Lee Lewis authorized biography Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story hits bookstores October 28. For the book, Lewis sat for interviews with author Rick Bragg.

    It looks like there’s going to be a lot of Jerry Lee Lewis this Fall. The more Killer the better.

    What is your favorite Jerry Lee Lewis song? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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