The missing link between science and show business: exhibiting gorillas and chimpanzees in Victorian Liverpool

Scott, Alexander (2018) The missing link between science and show business: exhibiting gorillas and chimpanzees in Victorian Liverpool. Journal of Victorian culture. ISSN 1355-5502 (Submitted)

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Using the global port of Liverpool as its locus, this article examines interconnections between the exotic animal trade, the entertainment industry, empire, and scientific discourse in the second half of the nineteenth century. The article demonstrates that imperial trade brought a steady flow of exotic species to Victorian Liverpool, analysing various uses that specimens of two of these – gorillas and chimpanzees – were put to once in the city. Specifically, the article examines instances where gorillas and chimpanzees were exhibited in popular entertainments (circuses, menageries), and when they were used as objects of scientific inquiry and public education. A key emphasis is on Liverpool Museum, where primate specimens were integral to the organisation of its natural history and ethnological collections along evolutionary principles in the 1890s–1900s. The article’s key contention is that, whether displayed for study or amusement, there were similarities in how gorillas and chimpanzees tended to be exhibited. Claims that gorilla specimens heralded the discovery of the evolutionary ‘missing link’ recurred in Victorian-era show-business humbug and scholarly discourse alike – whilst individuals responsible for putting gorillas/chimpanzees on show in outwardly differing contexts shared personal and intellectual ties, a mutual classificatory language and a common dependency on colonial trading networks. Evidencing this, the article profiles William Cross, the proprietor of a Liverpool-based menagerie and animal-trading business which interacted with museum curators, academics and researchers in Liverpool and further afield. In the process, the article uncovers Liverpool’s role in the ‘gorilla mania’ of the mid-to-late nineteenth century.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in The Journal of Victorian Culture following peer review. The version of record Alexander, Scott(2018) Missing link between science and showbusiness is available online at: xxxxxxx [insert URL and DOI of the article on the OUP website].
Uncontrolled Keywords: Museums, Animal history, Exhibition, Liverpool, Gorillas.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Q Science > Q Science (General)
Divisions: Institutes and Academies > Institute of Education and Humanities > Academic Discipline: Humanities and Social Sciences
Depositing User: Users 10 not found.
Date Deposited: 15 Aug 2018 08:15
Last Modified: 20 May 2020 01:02

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