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?
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?
A 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.
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.