Simian Society of America, Inc.
Simian Society of America, Inc.

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Our Early History

“History of SSA”

 

By Kevin Ivester

 

On October 8, 2007, the SSA celebrated its' 50th year of existence. Half a century helping nonhuman primates through educating people on their care! How happy Mr. Bentley Mulford, the man “with a dream”, and Dee Licek, who took over bringing the organization into existence when Mr. Bentley suddenly passed away on March 5, 1958, would be to know the organization continued to reach this monumental mark in history. Throughout its history there have been times that some said the organization would not last, but thanks to those who love monkeys and stood loyal to the organization and believed in the importance of helping other caregivers learn more about caring for nonhuman primates, the organization has continued, and continued to grow its resources. Throughout its history, the organization’s publications (as the only tangible resource received by members) have played a vital role in maintaining membership (in 1982 when the editor fell way behind in delivering issues members complained and were not renewing). Margaret Osborn, then president, realized the importance of members receiving a monthly publication and assigned a new editor to get the publication back on task.

 

Kevin Ivester, historian at the time, worked for several years before the millennium, to establish an official archives. He attempted to collect any remaining fragments of our organization’s early history. Unfortunately, many things have been lost due to either the passing of the persons retaining them, from loss of contact, or just simply lost. Photographs, films, scrapbooks and old magazines have all been scattered across this large country, much of it lost forever. However, due to the forethought of a handful of people, there are a few “artifacts” in existence, which provide a glimpse into the early history of the SSA.

 

It all started with a man in North Caroline by the name of Bentley Mulford. Mr. Mulford was a native ofYakima,WA, worked for the Library of Congress for many years, until he resigned to engage in medical relief activities under President Hoover. He was, for many years, a member of the Humane Society of theUnited Statesand a director of the ASPCA inAsheville,NC. Mr. Mulford had turned his home inAshevilleinto a sanctuary for monkeys, and at the time of his death, six simians and one dog had been his companions. He had once been asked how many more monkeys he would be able to accept, to which he replied, “There is no limit.” If necessary I shall move out to the barn and turn the whole house over to them.” Apparently, the thought of the monkeys being housed in the barn never occurred to him.

 

As a result of the inhumane treatment primates receive during capture, shipping (from their native habitats), and after arrival in laboratories, zoos, pet shops (Note: This was the 1950’s; primates were legally wild caught for the pet trade until 1975), and even some homes was the reason Bentley Mulford founded the SSA. He had the hope that combined efforts would help abolish mistreatment and instill better understanding of our simian friends.

 

Unfortunately, Mr. Mulford wasn’t able to be around long enough to help guide the SSA during its' formative years; he passed away suddenly on march 5, 1958.

 

At the time of his death, the SSA was still a dream that was embodied in a few letters exchanged amongst a handful of monkey owners (no email in those days!). Deprived of the financial support of Mr. Mulford, Dee Licek (Note: Miss Licek is probably more familiar to those of you who have copies of the 1971 edition of her book, MONKEY MANUAL) took up where Mr. Mulford left off, and the Society became a reality. For the following two years Miss Licek labored relentlessly, securing new members and filling the positions of two, three or four officers. She also corresponded with many of the leading primatologists of the time and induced others to conduct research on nutrition, with particular emphasis on malnutrition and the need for supplementary vitamins and minerals. Innumerable cases of malnourished and/or incorrectly fed primates benefited by her recommendations.

 

Dorothy “Dee” Licek

Dorothy “Dee” Licek (charter member #1) was indeed an integral part of the SSA during its' formative years. She served as the editor of the first publication to be circulated by the Society, the SIMIAN NEWS GRAPH. The publication first appeared in October 1958 and was nothing more than a single typed page (front and back). The highlight of the inaugural issue announced the first annual meeting of the SSA, which was to be held on November 1 of that year in Cincinnati, OH. Miss Licek also served as the national secretary during this same period, and in October 1959 was elected national president, a position she served until October 1962. Miss Licek’s reputation for being the “wearer of many hats” continued, as she became the editor once again for the newly expanded Society publication, MONKEY BUSINESS MAGAZINE (predecessor to THE SIMIAN) while still serving as national president. She served as the editor of MONKEY BUSINESS until July 1964; however, she continued on as a staff writer contributing information via her column, “All About Monkeys”. Following her stepping down as president in late 1962, Dee remained on the board of directors as a “Life Member”, and later was given an honorary life membership.

 

As stated earlier in this series, Miss Licek is probably more familiar to SSA members of today as the woman who wrote the 1971 book, “MONKEY MANUAL”. This publication was probably the most accurate and educational piece regarding primates as pets of that period. This was due to the simple fact that Miss Licek lived primates and was very intent in researching all she could about them and dispersing the information through writing.

 

Dee Licek was a native ofDecatur,ILand an executive secretary by profession. Her interest in primates began quite amusingly when she was only six years old. She and her family were visiting the Monkey House at the St. Louis Zoo. There was a large chimpanzee sitting quite high up in its' cage as she stood gazing up at it. The chimp looked down, straight at her, and spit right into her eye! As for the primates in Miss Licek’s care, she had a squirrel monkey and three woollies during her lifetime. It was the death of her first woolly, Topsy, which inspired her to work so hard on, and for, the SSA. She stated that she never wanted another pet monkey to have to die due to ignorance of proper care.

 

Dee Licek died on February 11, 1993 following a long illness. However, her legacy continues on through the SSA and its' work.

 

Leonore Brandt

The name, Leonore Brandt, may be familiar to those who happen to have one of any of the three editions of her book, “MONKEYS AS PETS” (first appearing in 1951). The most popular edition published in 1964 featured a boy holding a woolly monkey on the cover. Leonore Brandt, along with Dee Licek, stepped in to help keep the fledgling SSA organization afloat following the death of Bentley Mulford. Right away, Mrs. Brandt was elected to serve as honorary president along with renown zoologist, Ernest P. Walker (his two volume set of, “MAMMALS OF THE WORLD” is still a respected reference book some 30 plus years and several editions later) and also served as a contributing editor throughout the 1960's, sharing her vast knowledge of primates through her regularly appearing columns.

 

Leonore Brandt was born in Vienna, Austria, and studied at the Universityof Vienna. During her childhood she spent a great deal of time at the Vienna Zoo, sometimes skipping school to go there and study the primates and talk to their keeper. She stated that she learned more there than she did at school. Mrs. Brandt moved to the USin 1938. Leonore’s husband, Robert (a dermatologist) served as a medical adviser for the SSA during the organization’s early years. In 1947, Mrs. Brandt became a staff writer for ALL PETS MAGAZINE and in the latter 1940's had her own television show, “POINTERS for Pets”. In addition, for three years she served as curator for the Cincinnati Children’s Zoo. She and her husband cared for a large variety of primates throughout the years, from marmosets to a gibbon.

 

Due to ongoing health problems, Leonore Brandt gave up her column in MONKEY BUSINESS during the later 1960's but remained as honorary president until her death in the early 1990's.

 

Muriel Mackie

It was a spring day in 1957 when Muriel Colson (Mackie) was thumbing through a pet magazine when a small item at the bottom of the page caught her eye. There was a brief notice about a man by the name of Bentley Mulford of North Carolina who expressed concern about pet primates, and was in the process of forming a group the American Simian Society (fortunately, there later was a slight change in the arrangement of the wording, as I don’t think the acronym would be too complimentary under the original name!). Muriel wasted no time inquiring about the group by writing Mr. Mulford as she had acquired her first monkey Labor Day weekend of the previous year.

 

The little monkey was a squirrel, which Muriel had seen along with several others during her frequent trips to the Woolworth’s-type store during the summer. By the end of the summer, the monkey was all alone, depressed, and not eating. She sat with her head buried in her folded arms and legs and her tail draped across her back. After learning that the monkey wouldn’t be receiving any special care over the long Labor Day weekend, Muriel asked the manager, with whom she was acquainted, if she could take her home and care for her over the weekend. Needless to say, the monkey never went back to the store! Muriel returned the Tuesday following Labor day with the money to purchase “Diablo” (the cost was probably less than $15).

 

After writing to inquire about the monkey group, Muriel received a reply from Mr. Mulford explaining that the group was still in the formative stage, but that she would be kept apprised of the progress. By the end of November of the same year, Muriel received notice that she was a full-fledged, active member of the newly formed and slightly renamed Simian Society of America.

 

Obviously, Muriel took the term “active member” to heart as she became involved in many facets of the organization. She helped form a local chapter (#3, Wakefield, Mass.) during the early 1960's; attended most of the conventions for more than a decade; served as the official national mailing office and secretary for a number of years; assisted two treasurers in record keeping; and served as national vice-president for an astounding 29 years, from ’64-’93. In addition, Muriel served as an adviser for care-related inquiries and during the latter 1970's, she wrote a column for THE SIMIAN magazine under the by-line of “Musings by Muriel”.

 

Despite Muriel’s dedication and hard work for the SSA, I tend to believe that her greatest contribution to helping primates was the formation of the original Primarily Primates Sanctuary. Muriel began taking in unwanted, abandoned and uncontrollable monkeys during the early 1960's. At one point, she had up to 75 primates, housing them not only in her “monkey barn”, but also in her house. She cared for most every species of primate at one time or another, with the exception of the apes. One must also realize that Muriel was a petite woman who was already in her fifties when she started the sanctuary. She did pretty much all of the work herself until the last few years the sanctuary was still operating. Muriel’s late husband, Ralph Mackie, really wanted nothing to do with the monkeys, nor did her son from a previous marriage. Muriel was able to provide for the monkeys (heat, food, etc.) through her pension (she worked 20 plus years as an office manager for a large company), working part-time jobs, and later through a trust fund established by a wealthy California woman who loved primates and met Muriel during an SSA convention. Due to a series of strokes and failing health, the Primarily Primates board of directors elected to disband the sanctuary and send the few remaining primates to Primarily Primates, Inc. inTexasduring the early ‘90's. Muriel, at 91 years of age in the fall of 2000 resided in an assisted care facility and died in the early 2000's.

 

Madelyn Darrow

Another very early member of the SSA who was instrumental in helping to develop the organization was Madelyn Darrow of Langhorne, PA.Madelyn was listed as a member on the roster page of the December 1958 issue of the SIMIAN NEWS GRAPH and having, along with her husband, Curt, two pig-tail macaques and one stump-tail macaque.

 

Madelyn cared for a multitude of monkeys throughout the 1950's, ‘60's, ‘70's and ‘80's consisting of (besides the macaques) woollies, spiders, a couple of sakis and a baboon. One of her first monkeys, a female pig-tail macaque, was nearly 40 years of age upon her death in the early ‘90's (Madelyn & “Zada” are pictured in the 1964 edition of MONKEYS AS PETS on p. 22). Madelyn contributed numerous articles recanting personal accounts with her monkeys to the SSA publication of the time from the 1960's until the 1980's. In 1970, Madelyn became a Special Reporter for THE SIMIAN where she researched and reported on various topics relating to primates. She also began her own column for THE SIMIAN called “Did You Know?” which provided tid-bits of information from the world of primates. This column ran until well into the 1980's and the format is still used periodically today in both THE SIMIAN and THE PRIMATE CARE JOURNAL.

 

Madelyn was a member ofPennsylvania’s chapter #13 from its inception in 1963. She also became a member of the SSA Board of Directors in 1975 and remained on the BOD until 1990.

 

Only a few short years after losing her last monkey to old age, Madelyn passed away in 1995, preceded by her husband, Curt, a decade earlier.

 

Margaret Osborn

A lively, outspoken, straight shooter of a woman who was passionate about primates and their care barely scratches the surface of the woman known as Margaret Osborn.

 

Margaret was originally fromIndianawhere she and her husband (first of three) raised horses. After a previous visit toArizona, her husband took the notion to relocate there with Margaret and their young son. However, not long after moving toArizona, he decided it wasn’t to his liking---he went back toIndianaand Margaret stayed on inArizona. Margaret worked as a waitress, teacher and also became a substitute mail carrier on her third husband’s (Chuck) mail route (she was the first woman mail carrier in thephoenixValleyarea). It was through her job as a letter carrier that led to Margaret becoming involved with primates. Margaret’s other interests included dancing and painting, especially murals. She would cover the walls of her small home with murals, and once all the walls were covered, she would put up plywood and paint on them.

 

While delivering mail in the late 1950's Margaret noticed a stump-tail macaque on her route, which was being kept tethered outside and teased by various people. Presumably, Margaret addressed her concerns to the owners and eventually ended up with the monkey. The male macaque was  the first of many primates to come under Margaret’s care. The species she cared for were as varied as their histories as she had gibbons, additional macaques, spiders, capuchins, squirrels and owl monkeys. The majority of these primates had been given up by previous owners who could either no longer handle them or just no longer wanted them, and arrived in various conditions of health (some were literally at death’s door when they arrived at Margaret’s). Despite the wide assortment of species, Margaret was partial to spiders as she felt they were the most human-like (perhaps it was the hugs they gave?). Margaret learned much about primate care through trial and error as informational resources were scarce in those days, but she had common sense and intellect on her side. She also learned about living with primates the hard way (or embarrassing way), too! Margaret used to wear skirts and dresses all the time (which was the norm for most women of the ‘50's and ‘60's), but after having her skirt pulled completely off for the third time by one of her larger primates and having to literally run into the house in her undergarments, Margaret resorted to wearing pants on a regular basis.

 

Margaret may have been considered a bit unorthodox in her day for the way she believed in housing primates. During the 1950s and ‘60s many primate owners would house their pet monkeys in bird or parrot cages. However, Margaret believed very much in that one could never give a monkey too much space. She provided large, outdoor enclosures with bamboo and other plantings for her monkeys and encouraged others to do the same. Accesses to smaller, inside cages within her home were also provided so the monkeys could come and go as they pleased. There were three female spider monkeys, which were never caged while under her care and had access to her house and yard. In early 1967, a couple of officials from what was then known as the Tucson Zoo (now Reid Zoo) drove up to Phoenix to visit Margaret and see her housing set-up in order to obtain some possible ideas to implement into primate enclosures they planned on constructing at the zoo. Imagine zoo personnel consulting with a private keeper today!

 

Margaret joined the SSA in 1960 and was the first Arizonian to become a member. She started becoming active in the organization by simply writing the occasional letter to the editor of what was then called MONKEY BUSINESS magazine and by the late ‘60's was contributing full-length articles regarding her experiences and her opinions on keeping primates. Her articles could be somewhat hardcore for the time as they often addressed candidly such issues as aggression and biting, dental procedures, sexual behavior and the importance of socialization with other primates. Margaret believed very much in allowing monkeys to be monkeys and respecting them for what they are. In 1967 Margaret became National President of the SSA, a position she served for an astounding 21 years!

 

On August 8, 1990, at the age of 81, Margaret passed away. It was her final wish to remain at her home of 40 years until the end. Present was her friend, neighbor, primary caregiver for the last few years of her life, and former SSA president who succeeded Margaret, Mark Rivard-Briggs, her two remaining monkeys, Herman and Shokee (both spiders), poodle, Macho, and a macaw bird. She was survived by her son, Bud, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. One of her grandchildren, a granddaughter, referred to Margaret’s first spider monkey as her “Uncle Sammy” as Margaret would sometimes keep her in the cage with him while babysitting so she would be safe. Uncle Sammy lived for 27 years with Margaret. Margaret often said she didn’t want a funeral and didn’t want people “wasting money” on flowers in her memory. She much preferred that her friends do something for their animals---buy some new toy, build a bigger cage, or in some way improve their lives.

 

(Special THANKS to Mark Rivard-Briggs for sharing supplemental information on Margaret’s life.)

 

Jayne Paulette

I had to do very little research on this particular lady, as she is someone I have known personally for over 13 years and someone I have known of for over 21 years. When I joined the SSA as a child back in 1979, it was Jayne who sent me my first issue with a handwritten note on the cover welcoming me to the organization. When I began attending some of the SSA functions centered inSt. Louisin the late 1980's, it was Jayne Paulette who greeted others and me at the airport. Upon coming out of the gate and spotting her standing there looking rather serious, a big smile would come across her face as I approached close enough to speak. After exchanging greetings and some small talk, Jayne would then look down at a piece of paper in her hands and say that we need to hurry to meet the next flight of incoming members. I guess you could say that Jayne was the unofficial SSA greeter and chauffer. After everyone had arrived and was accounted for, she would direct us out to the parking area where we would all load our baggage and board the big faded green Paulette Primate Wagon with less than 40,000 miles on it). Jayne would then whisk us off to our hotel, then later to dinner, and the next day to wherever we happened to be meeting. I’ll always cherish those early days and the hospitality of a woman who became like another grandmother to me (only one who understood my love and fascination of primates).

 

Jayne was an energetic, articulate, compassionate and thoughtful person. She was a native ofMissouri, but lived inNew Yorkfor a period of time as a young adult. Jayne was a war bride and was married briefly during the 1940's---she had no human children. During her younger years Jayne enjoyed horseback riding, and also enjoyed theatrical plays and dabbling in various crafts throughout her life. She was a groomer by profession and specialized in poodles (her grooming salon was within her home).

 

Jayne became involved with primates after she and her friend purchased a capuchin from a local pet store in June 1966 for a total sum of $1000 (included the bird cage she was in). It was their intention to share custody of the monkey, however, Jayne quickly ended up becoming the soul custodian of her beloved Popcorn (female tufted capuchin). Throughout the years, Jayne provided a home for more monkeys mainly through local rescues. Capuchins, macaques, guenons, grivets, squirrels, tamarins and marmosets all found their way to Jayne’s modest home and took up residence in the room of what was once her poodle parlor. She was also successful in having her pair of white-lipped tamarins to reproduce on a few occasions and to successfully rear their offspring. Despite having a varied collection of monkeys, Jayne was always fond of the tufted capuchins, especially the females, as she felt there was no sweeter monkey (coincidentally, one of her worst bites came from a tufted female!). Jayne's concern and involvement in primate rescue and refuge extended beyond her own home and area. She was an avid supporter and generous contributor to Primarily Primates, Inc. and a good friend to former director, Wally Swett. Jayne visited PPI on numerous occasions and was a long time board member of the organization. Not long after acquiring her first monkey, Jayne began seeking out others who had monkeys in order to learn more about them. She was made aware of the SSA through a chimp keeper at the St. Louis Zoo. Jayne is listed as a “New Member” in the December ’67 issue of MONKEY BUSINESS magazine. She quickly became active with the local chapter (#28) and ended up serving as chapter president for over two decades starting in 1968. In 1970, Jayne was appointed to the national Board of Directors, and in ’71 became the National Secretary, a position she served until 1996 (currently listed under the honorary position of Secretary Emeritus). Her home address became the official mailing office in 1983 and was so until 1996. SSA conventions were also events Jayne lived for as it provided her the opportunity to meet like-minded friends she got to know only through letters and phone calls. She attended every convention from 1968 to 1992, often driving with her primates in tow in the early days fromSt. Louis toFlorida,Pennsylvania,Arizona,Chicago, etc.

 

The greatest contribution Jayne ever made to the SSA was her unprecedented 14 years of service as editor of THE SIMIAN newsletter, churning out 12 issues every year and always getting them out within the issue month. Jayne single handedly saved this organization back in 1982 by taking over as editor after being asked to do so by then SSA president, Margaret Osborn. The current editor was no longer meeting her obligations in getting the publication out, this combined with the increasing cost of publishing THE SIMIAN in the professional looking magazine format was too much for the SSA to endure. Jayne implemented a simpler, cheaper format in the form of a newsletter.

 

Incidentally, she was to fill in only temporarily until some other solution could be managed, but she became permanent in the position of editor. Jayne relished in putting together and getting out the newsletter and didn’t consider her work a chore until the last year or so of doing it (she was in her upper 70's by then!). Every year Jayne would include some handmade gift in the form of a Christmas ornament in each December issue to show her love and appreciation to the membership as a whole.

 

Jayne, in her early 80's (Feb. 2001), resided quietly at her home onWatson RoadinSt. Louiswith her parrot, Gotcha. Her first monkey, Popcorn, passed away in ’82 due to complications from diabetes. Her last surviving monkey, Kizzy (a 30 plus year old female tufted capuchin), was placed with a now former SSA president, John Hall, in the late 1990's (see November 2000 issue of The Simian). I occasionally called Jayne to see how she was doing and she still spoke fondly of her days when she was active in the SSA. She said that she would give anything to be able to go back and re-live those days over, as they were the best days of her life. Jane died June 5, 2002.

 

 

In the first three parts of this series I have addressed many of the key players who helped form and shape this organization. However, those I have addressed are by no means the only ones who made the SSA, but only the ones for which info could be found or was still available. Other lesser known, albeit, significant persons were Drs. Ronald and Mary Price who served as the first and second presidents respectively; Dr. Ronal Price later served as medical advisor and it was his wood carving of an odd primate which ended up serving as a model for the SSA logo. Dan Herr and Howard Pyle were other active members who were low profile and both served as treasurer. There are still a few long time members around whose membership extends back to the early, mid and later 1960s; Joan Ballassi (CT), Martha Belford (GA), Dr. Bob Cooper (FL), Heber Hunt (NC), Virginia McNabb (FL) and Dr. Paul Zollman (MN).

 

 

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