Sunday, April 24, 2011

'Almost Human' - The Sins of the Simians Part 1

A mirror post, with permission, from Liz at Mad Bush Farm -- the story of the second chimpanzee to be exhibited in New Zealand, one hundred years ago: the ill-fated Casey.

When Charles Darwin pondered over his Tree of Life and the theory of evolution - he considered the one question that we all now know as the 'missing link'.  At the time the so-called missing link in the evolutionary path of man had not yet been discovered, although in modern times more discoveries are being made that could point to how we, as a species came into being. However, in the animal kingdom dwelt the almost human-like chimpanzee that showmen were soon to exploit, and claim these unfortunate apes to be that so-called connection, between ourselves and our prehistoric predecessors. Modern science has since put any such notions to the backwaters of pseudo-science and utter nonsense.

Advertisement for Casey - Brisbane Courier 20 May 1909

In 1909, a man going by the name of Ellis E. Joseph, brought to Australia, the first male chimpanzee. Named 'Casey' this intelligent primate entertained the Australian public throughout the federated states, the crowds flocking to see the so-called 'missing link'. Ellis Joseph was described as being over six feet in height. Joseph had been born in Bombay (now Mumbai) in India to parents of Welsh extraction, before the family had moved to San Francisco in the USA when he was just 9 months old. Joseph in an interview in 1910 told the reporter that he had first got involved with the animal trade after his father had taken him on a trip to Panama where the young boy had captured birds and other small animals - selling them at a profit. Later on he ventured into Nicaragua, before embarking at 17 years old into the full time animal trade which led him briefly to Australia, then to New Zealand - before he headed to India. Before long, Ellis Joseph was a full time animal trapper and dealer supplying the major wildlife traders such as Carl Hagenbeck with tigers, lions and other sought after exotic species.

Ellis Joseph shows off Casey to the reporter, Barrier Miner 27 April 1910 

Joseph had captured Casey at around the age of perhaps 4 fours or 5 years old in 1907 in the Ashantee Region, Ghana in West Africa. Chimpanzees are recognised as having four subspecies, with Casey more than likely being the commonly known Western Chimpanzee subspecies Pan troglodytes verus. All four subspecies are now listed as endangered on the ICUN Red List. It seemed Casey hadn't been the only one Joseph had originally brought with him from Africa to Queensland, Australia as he described in a interview that was reported in the Barrier Miner 27 April 1910: -

"I caught Casey between Kumasi and Kintampo, in Ashanti, Central West Africa, during December, 1907. He was half-grown then. At the present time he is about three-quarter grown.  I also caught another one, 'Baldy,' who died in Brisbane last year. When Baldy died Mr. Kidston, Premier, and Mr. McDermott, Under-Secretary, sent for me and purchased the dead animal for the Brisbane Museum."

"Baldy is the only dead specimen in Queensland. A third chimpanzee which I caught in French Guinea, in North-West Africa, towards the Sahara Desert, I named Joe. He died in Melbourne of moroseness, and Mr. Kershaw, director of the Melbourne Museum, purchased the body."
 In the same interview Joseph went on to briefly describe his so-called 'civilising' of the then young Casey:

"I took the civilising and training of 'Casey' in hand, and first showed him at Pretoria, and afterwards at Durban. At the latter place I left him, and went on a hunting trip to Rhodesia... "
Barrier Miner 27 April 1910

Joseph knew he had a valuable asset, and had every intention of ensuring his living meal ticket stayed alive long enough for him to make a good healthy profit. Casey first made the news headlines in May 1909 after he caught a common human ailment, resulting the cancellation of several engagements. Joseph in his wisdom called in a doctor to treat the ill chimpanzee

An Unusual Patient
"Casey," the big chimpanzee now on exhibition at the Edward-street Arcade, became slightly indisposed yesterday after noon, and his alarmed entrepreneur immediately summoned a city medico. "Casey" tendered his pulse, and put out his tongue with less than would have been the case with a human patient, and he subsequently submitted to the taking of his temperature with becoming gravity. The doctor diagnosed ''Casey's" indisposition as a feverish cold, and prescribed accordingly.

Brisbane Courier 5 May 1909

Once recovered and well, the chimpanzee and his owner began to tour the country to rave reviews and adoring crowds. By 1910 the news media of the time were quick to cover Casey's travels, and describing his antics as 'amusing', funny calling Casey a 'man-monkey' 'the missing link' and 'almost human'. Considering advances in the field of genetic research, in the latter, they were not far from the truth. Humans and chimpanzee share 98% of their DNA - yet are both unique and different from each other in a multitude of ways. Joseph with his background of animal trapping and his travels in Africa and South America was in a unique position to intrigue the crowd goers with tales of darkest Africa, stories of wild beasts, and of course the amazing intelligence of his chimpanzee to ensure he had a guaranteed income.
One of the arrivals by the Broken Hill express on Tuesday morning was Mr. Ellis Joseph, a hunter of wild animals, who has had many years of experience in the wildest territory of Africa and South America. Mr. Joseph is a typical hunter, standing over 6 ft. in height, and weighing about 16 st. He has with him his African chimpanzee, Casey, a strikingly intelligent animal, captured in the Ashantee region. Mr. Joseph values this astonishing and at £1,000, and has him heavily insured. Casey accompanied his owner in a hansom cab to the latter's hotel.
 The Register 4 May 1910
Something now and novel in the way of shows, is coming in the shape of a Central African Chimpanzee - the first of its kind seen here. This strangely human-like creature, according to scientists, is the very nearest approach to man, and will be on exhibition in Argent-street next to Biggs's Hotel on Saturday next. Casey is about seven or eight years of ago, and is not yet full-grown, and stands nearly 4ft. in height. He is extremely intelligent, answering readily to his name, and performs various tricks. Ho also shakes hands with all visitors with an air of good-fellowship that is nothing short of laughable. He also indulges occasionally in the human habit of smoking, preferring a cigarette, but taking either pipe or cigar. He issues tickets bearing his autograph, with the celerity of a bookmaker. Of the great Anthropoid Apes, the Chimpanzee stands nearest in his relation to humanity, and stands in his anatomy 80 points out of 100 in common with man. His ceaseless activity is simply wonderful, and must give rise to envy in the minds of any gymnasts who, may be among the audience. Casey plays the piano, wheels prams, nurses babies, smokes, writes, plays a mouth organ, and does a hundred other things.
 Barrier Miner 9 April 1910
Among those who arrived by the Melbourne express on Thursday was Mr Ellis Joseph, a notable African hunter, who has made numerous tips into that country or the famous firm of Hagenbeck, of Hamburg. Mr. Joseph had with him Casey, the only male chimpanzee now in Australia. Casey is a delight to the believers in the Darwinian theory. Upon his arrival in Adelaide he sat down to a meal of sago pudding, which he ate with a spoon, never once forgetting his manners. Afterwards, he accompanied Mr. Joseph on a taxi-cab ride round the city, till the Broken Hill express was due to leave Casey will appear in that city, after which, the hunter will return with him to Adelaide. Among the chimpanzee's accomplishments is that of piano playing.
The Register 15 April 1910

The fact that Casey had learned all of the tricks described in the articles above, showed his intelligence and his ability to learn by watching Joseph, who in turn had managed to coerce the ape into learning the necessary routines that would guarantee a crowd pleaser, as well as a potential marketing tool for any future sale of the animal Joseph might have. He had every intention of parting with Casey for preferably a substantial sum of money. This was indicated clearly in the interview printed in the Barrier Miner article of 27 April 1910 when the reporter had asked Joseph what he intended to do with Casey.

"What do you intend to do with Casey? "
"I am going to sell him if I can get my price," was the reply. "I will take nothing less than £1000 for him. He is a good money-getter. After I dispose of him I shall be off back to West Africa for the hippos, and the okapi, more particularly the latter."

Time for Casey, as Joseph well would have known, was rapidly running out where the immature young chimpanzee was concerned. Casey was fast approaching the age of maturity (8 -10 years) for males of his species, and with it would come the problems associated with adult male chimpanzees, as some would later on find out. In 1911 Joseph packed up his bags and Casey then headed to New Zealand to a welcome reception.

"Casey," the chimpanzee who by his mimicry and adoption of many actions common to the human species has earned the title of the "most faithful Darwinian conception of the 'Missing Link," is at present holding receptions at 98 Willis-street, from 11 to 1, 3 to 5, and 7 to 9 daily. "Casey's" box of  tricks is as extensive as it is interesting, and a favourite method of amusing himself, as well as onlookers, is to perform well executed somersaults and then to set to and applaud himself with loud and prolonged hand-claps. The quadruped is nothing if not courteous and affectionate, and he varies his habit of extending the "glad hand" to one and all by affectionately kissing and embracing his proprietor. Occasionally he breaks the monotony of life by taking a turn at the piano and a mouth-organ, while such things as winding a watch, wheeling a push-cart, drinking the health of his audience, and sweeping the floor of the saloon seem to come to him quite easily.

 Evening Post 2 February 1911


"Casey," now on view at 98 Willis Street, is surely Darwin's Missing Link. Casey shakes hands, walks arm-in-arm with his keeper, will fondle children, kiss you if you desire it. He plays the piano, smokes a pipe, signs an autograph book, his only failing being that he cannot talk. Apart from the curiosity of seeing such an intelligent monkey, "Casey" ought to be interviewed, because he is so human. He provides a lesson in natural history that all should be interested in. "Casey" is on exhibition daily, and some useful information, in the shape of short lectures on the habits of  "Casey" and his great family, is imparted by the proprietor.

NZ Truth  4 February 1911

With Casey soundly and firmly now in the public eye Ellis Joseph by March had found himself a willing buyer. Thomas Fox, a fellow fortune seeker and showman, bought Casey from Joseph. It seemed Casey though did not welcome the change or his new owner.
Casey, the well-known chimpanzee recently on show throughout the Dominion, has been sold to a Mr Fox, another showman seeking a fortune. But "Casey" doesn't like the change, and has given his new proprietor several maulings. Joseph confidently anticipates getting "Casey"' back at half-price.

NZ Truth 25 March 1911

It would not be the first, or the last time Casey would maul Fox, as their story will later reveal. Under the management  both of Joseph and Fox Casey continued to draw the crowds in New Zealand throughout 1911
The chimpanzee "Casey," which drew a large crowd of interested spectators at the Show, is giving entertainments on the section in front of Chilton's hall, near the firebell, and no doubt many who have not yet seen the strange creature will be attracted to the performances.

Poverty Bay Herald 27 October 1911

Fox's Famous Performing Chimpanzee will open to-day in Anderson's Buildings, Richmond Quay, at 8 o'clock and will keep open till 5 p.m., opening again at 7 till 9 p.m. "Casey" is an African Chimpanzee, a native of the Ashantee region (Central West Africa). Since the Monboddo doctrine was first brought before a startled public, the number of those who place a more or less definite belief in the descent of man from the ape has become very considerable, and a visit to "Casey," a living illustration of Darwin's missing link theory, should prove of great interest to a vast number. Mr. Joseph, Casey’s owner, has refused large sums for this specimen, and there are only seven or eight specimens of the Chimpanzee alive in captivity in the whole world. He possesses 80 out of 100 points common with man's anatomy.

 He is exceedingly intelligent, and seems to understand, everything, said to him. "Casey" will not only entertain you, he will make you think.

 Grey River Argus 15 December 1911

Casey remained in New Zealand until after December when he seems to vanish from the newspaper reports until late December 1912 reappearing again in a small article in The Advertiser dated 31 December 1912. It seemed the novelty of a performing chimpanzee was slowly but surely wearing off with the media. Thomas Fox perhaps lacked the appeal of Ellis Joseph. By the beginning of 1913 just one small report appeared of Casey being temporarily housed in Moore Park Zoo in Sydney.

A Famous Chimpanzee 
There has been deposited in the Zoological Gardens the famous chimpanzee Casey, now a full-grown male, and who, although black, with a villainous expression, is very quiet and playful. He stands over four feet high, and is possessed of such immense strength that no cage in the gardens except the solid stone bear-pits would be strong enough to hold-him. It is necessary to keep him securely fastened with chains to a strong post in the ape-house.

 Sydney Morning Herald 7 February 1913

 Once again, though, by October 1913 - Casey was briefly back in the spotlight

During show week there was exhibited a wonderful chimpanzee called Casey. He is as tall as a man of the average height, eats and drinks, smokes sand takes his ease, plays a whistle and mouth organ, in fact does everything a man can do except talk. Off duty, Casey is allowed to wear the clothes nature provided for him, but when he appears before the public he dons a suit as easily as any mere human being.

 Queanbeyan Age 14 October 1913

By 1914 things for both Casey and his owner Thomas Fox headed for the worst of possible scenarios when Casey escaped from Fox's home in Marrickville, Sydney.

The well-known performing chimpanzee, "Casey," who is about 5ft high, and weighs about 12st, belonging to Mr Thomas Fox, of Meeks road, Marrickville (a suburb of Sydney), escaped a few days ago, and in its wanderings created such a scare that Mrs Emily Russell, 42, of Meeks road, Marrickville, dropped dead. The chimpanzee got away about half-past eight, and climbed on to the roof of a neighboring residence. When he commenced to descend, the crowd in the street took fright, and Mrs Russell collapsed and died. The capture of the animal caused a lot of trouble. Dodging in and out of backyards, he defied the residents to catch him, and even when Sergeant Wearin, of Marrickville, sent a bullet after him, he raced away. Subsequently the sergeant fired at him again and wounded him in the foot, but even then he proved troublesome. Mr Fox attempted to put him into his cage, but, although nursing an injured foot he went for him and mauled him. Mr Fox received an injury over the eye, and several lacerations on the face and had to receive attention at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. "Casey" was on exhibition at the Hawera show a couple of years ago.
Hawera & Normanby Star 22 December 1914

On a late evening on 6 December 1914 Casey escaped from his owner's residence having managed to slip the chain that kept him secured from around his neck. Out in the street Casey created mayhem.
Probably the most exciting incident in the history of Marrickville was witnessed in Meeks Road last night, when the huge performing chimpanzee made his escape into the street, and for a couple of hours refused to be captured, either by his keeper or two policemen who came hurriedly upon the scene.

The adventure, however had a very sad sequel, resulting in the death of Mrs Russell, who lives in Meeks Road, and who apparently dropped dead from fright.

Between 7 p.m and 8 p.m. Casey a performing chimpanzee well known to the Sydney public, and owned by Mr Fox made his escape into Meeks Road. The chimpanzee is always kept chained up, but being of a very cunning nature, he succeeded last evening in freeing himself from his chain and slipping out through the front gate.

Casey is a big animal, standing about five feet in height and weighing about 12 stone and is an excellent boxer, a fact of which he apprised his keeper, who received the most severe injury to the eye, besides several lacerations about the face while endeavouring to effect a capture.

It was not until the arrival of Sergeant Wearin and Constable Toobey of the Marrickville police that Casey was taken into custody. Before finally being captured the chimpanzee charged Sergeant Wearin, catching him by the collar of the coat, and the Sergeant found it necessary to fire two bullets into the beasts foot before it released its grip.

During the excitement the chimpanzee rushed at a group of women, and it was then that Mrs Russell was seen to fall to the ground. When she was picked up it was found that she was dead.
The Sydney Morning Herald 7 December 1914

The grieving husband of the deceased woman John Henry Russell, took Fox to the Supreme Court claiming damages of £1,000 under the Compensation to Relatives Act 1897. Ellis Joseph who was briefly in Australia at the time was told of the incident, and had expressed his regrets.

'I was here last April. I brought the American bison and other stuff from America and Canada for the Adelaide Zoo. I also brought the chimpanzee 'Casey' to Australia. By-the-way, now is 'Casey' getting along?' When told that 'Casey' had disgraced himself in the eastern' States and had frightened a woman to death and destroyed an eye of its owner, he expressed deep regret.

The Register 26 December 1914

By July Fox, now minus the use of his eye, and still bearing the scars of Casey's attack obtained a younger chimpanzee named 'Bismarck'. Now that Casey had caused, allegedly, the death of a woman,the popularity of the older chimpanzee seemed to be waning. Facing a court case, and (most likely) a declining audience and income with it. A new act needed to be found and Bismarck fitted the profile.

Mr. Fox the owner and trainer of Casey, the chimpanzee, will again, introduce little Bismarck the baby chimpanzee who gives a short entertainment including, piano playing.
Cairns Post 20 July 1915

The case was heard in September of 1915 with the plaintiff alleging that due to Fox's negligence that his wife's death was as a direct result her running away from the pursuing chimpanzee.

...This was an action brought by John Henry Russell, bread carter and administrator of his late wife, Emily Russell, against Thomas Fox, to recover under the Compensation to Relatives Act, for the loss of the deceased whose death,as be alleged, by the negligence and want of care on the part of the defendant in the keeping of a Chimpanzee.

....The chimpanzee which was at once pursued by the defendant and his wife, one armed with an iron bar, and the other with hot water took refuge on the roof of a house. The police also joined in the pursuit, and Mrs Russell was one among a large number of people who were in the thoroughfare. Suddenly a cry was raised that the chimpanzee was about to make an attack, and Mrs Russell sustained such a severe shock that while running away she fell upon the road and subsequently died.

...Before the occurrence Mrs Russell was in, and plaintiff attributed her death to the shock caused by the the fear of an attack from the chimpanzee. He sued on his own behalf and for his children, for the loss of the wife and the mother, and claimed £1,000. In cross-examination, the plaintiff admitted that deceased of was stout build, and somewhat excitable.

The defendant pleaded not guilty.
Sydney Morning Herald 29 September 1915

Despite his plea of not guilty Fox was ordered by the jury to pay Russell £450 as compensation for the loss of the man's wife.

Fox had testified that Casey the Chimpanzee was in fact very docile and that he had exhibited the animal all over the country. The jury though remained unconvinced and thus Fox ended up being out of pocket.

 Casey with Mrs Thomas Fox circa 1915 - 1916. Image from The Evening Tribune (USA) 7 May 1922

After the court case was over and judgement made, both of the court and it seemed the public, Fox along with his wife, and the two chimpanzees headed for America.

All of this came about in the person of ‘Casey” a giant black faced chimpanzee weighing 280 pounds, which was brought to this country by a man named ‘Fox’ in 1915……
…He was then sold to Fox who later brought him to this country to be exhibited for his extreme size, in the Sells-Floto Circus….
Evening Tribune (USA) 7 May 1922

 In 1917, a small single lined notation appeared in one Australian publication.

The chimpanzee Casey is dead at last. It passed over at Tampa, Florida, in January.

Sunday Times 18 March 1917

This raised a serious question as to why it was reported at all. During the course of doing the research on Casey I had found a considerable number of references to a Casey being resident at Taronga Park Zoo from 1920 onwards, which proved to be somewhat of a quandary - until that was an indepth discussion with Lisa aka Timespanner guided me to Google Archive and a link Lisa had sent to me from a newspaper in the archive. We still had the issue though of whether or not there was any truth to the article or if it was simply made up - which many of the publications of the time tended to do, if there was no news to fill the pages. However in this case there was in fact truth to the story that yes indeed Casey the Chimpanzee had been taken to America, and had been shown in the side shows at Sells-Floto Circus. An interview with Ellis Joseph, then an animal dealer based in New York in 1925, revealed that the Casey in Taronga Park Zoo was in fact called 'Casey the Second', after the Casey in this story.

Casey the first died from appendicitis as described in an article from The Evening Tribune 7 May 1922.
“This did not mean that Casey was a trained ape in the general acceptance of the term. He was a learned one, if I thus can describe him. Nothing he did was done through ordinary methods of training – instead he learned his every action through his association with Mr and Mrs Fox. He used a hammer, nails and saw, fashioning pieces of carpenter work for his own amusement; wore human clothing from choice to keep himself warm in cool weather, smoked a pipe and enjoyed it, filling and lighting it himself; drank beer from the bottle, ate with a spoon from a bucket, much in the style of a low-grade human; and could speak the word ‘no’ when he meant ‘no’, and carried in his expression and eyes a distinctly human appearance. "

"When he died it was on the operating table to which he had gone in faithful obedience to the command of his mistress and her assurance that he was in no danger, submitting placidly to the administration of ether. The ailment was that distinctly human one – appendicitis!"

"More, when an autopsy was performed on him, the report of five reputable surgeons with that the brain lobes of the beast showed ‘a development sufficient to have permitted continued speech in only a few years more!"
Interview with Courtney Ryley Cooper on the argument of the missing link, Evening Tribune (USA) 7 May 1922

The man interviewed, Courtney Ryley Cooper, was in a unique position to make these claims about Casey, and how he he come to pass away;  he was the Sell-Floto Circus' press agent and more than likely had been the one to supply the images for the article, along with his rather opinionated comments. However, perhaps there is truth to them. Chimpanzees are capable of using tools, and of developing strong social bonds with others in their group. In this situation, Casey had developed a strong bond with Mrs Fox and thus had complete trust in her - which may explain why Cooper claimed he was able to be operated upon. Cooper was wrong though about Chimpanzees ever being capable of speech. Simply, their genetics are the cause in part of that impossibility as a study published in 2009 has revealed.

 Casey - Evening Tribune 7 May 1922

Whatever the truth, Casey was no longer well thought of in Australia; why else would those words 'Dead at last' be used in a one line mention. Perhaps it's just me reading between the lines - but after all a woman had died because of Casey's escape. Yet Casey can't be blamed. He saw a chance and escaped his chain with unfortunate consequences for his owner and for Mrs Russell.


  1. Thank you Lisa for publishing this here on Timespanner it looks fantastic!!!

  2. Thank you for a great article, Liz, and for giving me permission to republish it. Cheers1

  3. Another wonderful piece of research Liz! A very sad reflection of the way we humans have generally mistreated our fellow creatures. And, yes,I'm sure Casey's Marrickville rampage would have been the most dramatic thing to happen there for some time. Regards, John

  4. Hi John,

    After I researched this sad chimpanzee my dislike of Mr Joseph and Mr Fox certainly increased.

    Definitely felt very sorry for Casey being used in the way he was used.Thanks for comment!!!