A SOCIAL HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN ALLIGATOR by Vaughn Glasgow

A SOCIAL HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN ALLIGATOR

The Earth Trembles With His Thunder

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Marvelously entertaining account of the natural history of the American alligator, and of the worship, medicine, commerce, and art it has inspired. When early explorers came to the Gulf Coast, they found the natives not only worshiping the alligator (a 700-foot-long effigy still exists at Grand Lake, Louisiana) but eating alligator meat with relish--a custom taken up by Acadians arriving in the 1760's, who fixed ``cocodrie'' into soups, and continued today as a gourmet delicacy (by 1984 the meat became more valuable than the hides). Glasgow (curator, Louisiana State Museum) traces years of alligator mythology in 19th-century French romances, Victorian poetry, Mark Twain's tall tales, and the stories of Joel Chandler Harris. After the Civil War, he tells us, alligators became a symbol of the Deep South, appearing on the official seal of New Orleans, proliferating by the thousands in roadside gator farms and wrestling exhibitions from Florida to Louisiana, and becoming common town-pets--such as ``Old Hardhide,'' who lived in a caged pool in the center of Ponchatoula, Louisiana, for 21 years. Glasgow's well-told account of the 40-year controversy about the protection of alligators is filled with delicious anecdotes. When Louisiana decided to allow a limited hunting season on alligators (they had become so numerous they were turning up at golf courses, car washes, swimming pools, and carports), the Audubon Society responded with nationally publicized outrage. Louisiana then gave the Society two thousand alligators on the hoof (and in the marsh) that took Society personnel three years to transplant to adjoining states. The magnum opus of America's magnificent reptile. (Two- hundred b&w photographs.)

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1991
ISBN: 0-312-06287-7
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1991