Rhinoceros Table, Mr. Churchill? Thanks but No.

Rhinoceros Table, Mr. Churchill? Thanks but No.

The Hills­dale Col­lege Churchill Project received a nov­el ques­tion: “After his 1908 African safari, Churchill’s  taxi­der­mists ask if he wants a ‘Rhi­noc­er­os Table.’ What in the world is a Rhi­noc­er­os Table?”

Rhinoceros Table, anyone?

The ref­er­ence is in The Churchill Doc­u­ments, vol. 4, Min­is­ter of the Crown, 1907-1911 (2007), page 753:
rhinoceros
The rare sec­ond (paper wrap­pers) edi­tion, 1910.

Row­land Ward Ltd., 167 Pic­cadil­ly, to WSC, 4 March 1908

Sir, In accor­dance with instruc­tions giv­en on your behalf by Lieu­tenant Colonel Gor­don Wil­son, we have in hand the fol­low­ing: MODELLED HEADS 1 Rhi­noc­er­os, 1 Zebra, 1 Warthog, 1 Wilde­beest, 1 Coke’s Har­te­beest, 1 Grant’s Gazelle, 1 Thomson’s Gazelle and the dress­ing of three Zebra skins, at a total cost of £​32. 7. 0., (thir­ty-two pounds sev­en shillings).

We are, Sir, Yours faith­ful­ly per pro ROWLAND WARD LTD

PS: We have no instruc­tions to put in hand a Rhi­noc­er­os Table. Do you wish us to do so?

What can it mean?

No ques­tion escapes the Churchill Project. We found the answer—in the Sportsman’s Hand­book to Col­lect­ing, Pre­serv­ing, and Set­ting-up Tro­phies (Lon­don: 1906), by Row­land Ward himself:

rhinocerosA fruit­ful source of trou­ble to the sports­man in Cey­lon, India, Africa, etc., is the prop­er treat­ment of an Elephant’s foot. This part, as well as the head, is a rec­og­nized tro­phy…. con­vert­ed by skill into innu­mer­able arti­cles of domes­tic util­i­ty…. Rhi­noc­er­os and Hip­popota­mus feet are treat­ed in the same way…. the pur­pos­es to which por­tions of anal­o­gous tro­phies may be put are var­i­ous and almost end­less. Many a sports­man, when he has arrived home, has wished he had rec­ol­lect­ed as much when on the field.

Churchill did not accept Row­land Ward’s enthu­si­as­tic offer of a Rhi­noc­er­os Table. Good. One can only imag­ine the stir today, as crit­ics dis­cov­er it and express their out­rage in The Guardian. Why, it’s bad enough that Churchill spent time exploit­ing Kenya’s wildlife, in addi­tion to gassing the Iraqis, starv­ing the Ben­galis, and fire­bomb­ing Dres­den.

rhinoceros
And you thought you had every­thing? Only $210 will net you a rhi­noc­er­os table. See http://bit.ly/2wgnE3V

A 1908 ver­sion of the Rhi­noc­er­os Table being out of the ques­tion in the 21st cen­tu­ry, we did find an accept­able sub­sti­tute, per­haps even made of farm-grown palm­wood. Sure­ly this would please the enthu­si­ast remind­ful of Churchill’s brief escapade as a big game hunter, with­out vio­lat­ing the stan­dards of what we like to say is a more enlight­ened age. It would be a con­ver­sa­tion piece. But we would not like to have to dust it.

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