Taking animal self portraits with Tappan Gregory

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June 10, 2021

A. Tappan Gregory (1886-1961) was devoted to natural studies, but professionally followed in his father’s footsteps and became a lawyer. He received his A.B. from Yale University in 1910 and his L.L.B from Northwestern University in 1912. He practiced law in the firm of Bayley, Webster, Gregory, and Hunter which later became Gregory, Gilruth, and Hunter. He was the president of the Chicago Bar Association from 1939-1940, the Illinois State Bar Association from 1945-1946, and the American Bar Association from 1947-1948. He only stopped practicing law during World War I. From 1917-1919 he served in the army as a 1st Lieutenant in the 313th Field Artillery in the American Expeditionary Forces.

In addition to his work in the law, Tappan was a successful mammalogist and nature photographer. He blended his love of photography with his mammal research and was one of the first photographers to use “self-portrait flash photography” to capture the movement of animals in the wild. Each animal would trigger a tripwire connected to the camera after being lured by a tasty treat. The photo below features a skunk who was caught on film in 1928.

Gregory Tappan 2 red fox cubs HMC May 13 1941
Gregory Tappan Mountain Lion Carmen Mts Mexico October 7 1937 low res
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Like his brother he developed his own mammal skin collection which he donated to the Chicago Academy of Sciences in 1961 upon his death. Among his numerous publications are: Deer at Night in the North Woods 1930, “Mammals of the Chicago Region,” Program of Activities of the Chicago Academy of Sciences, Vol. 7, Nos. 2-3, July 1936, Eyes in the Night 1939, “Lion in the Carmens,” The Chicago Naturalist, Vol. 1, No. 3, 1938, and numerous articles on mammalogy and photography in various journals and magazines. Utilizing his photographic expertise he even served as an observer and photographer at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946.

He was a member of numerous organizations outside of those related to his work as a lawyer. With his brother Stephen, he was a founding member of the Kennicott Club at the Chicago Academy of Sciences. He also served as a Scientific Governor and Honorary Curator of Mammalogy for the Academy. Other organizations of note are the Izaak Walton League of America, the Photographic Society of America, the American Ornithological Union, the American Forestry Association, the American Society of Mammalogists, and the National Wildlife Federation.

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