Posted on

MUSEUM MUSINGS: Snakes alive! VanCamp was here

Written by David Holsted, published in the Harrison Daily Times on July 9, 2020

Albert VanCamp had some inside tips for bargain hunters.

Two chickens were worth one wife. A goat was worth two wives, while a dog was worth wives.

VanCamp’s matrimonial measuring stick pertained only to certain African chieftains, and it was part of program he presented to a Lions Club meeting at the Hotel Seville in July of 1937.

And speaking of lions, VanCamp added that when a hunter returned with three lions, he was given a feast by the chieftain that lasted for several days.

New York City native VanCamp was an explorer, big game hunter and lecturer who spent a week in Harrison and the area. An architect by trade, he had visited 42 countries and had spent about seven years hunting big game.

VanCamp was on his way to join an expedition in Mexico City. From there, he would embark on a six-month study of the interior tribes of South America. His main objective, according to a story in the Harrison Daily Times, was to locate some of the “head hunter tribes and gain possession of some of the shrunken heads that have been processed by South American tribes.”

VanCamp’s main objective while in Boone County was to continue his research on reptiles, particularly snakes. His collection consisted of between 800 and 900 snakes. VanCamp said that one of the biggest rattlesnakes he ever caught was at the Hunter community. The snake had 19 rattles, was between 25 and 28 years old and had terrorized the community for 15 years, he added.

According to VanCamp, Arkansas had the largest variety of snakes in the United States.

VanCamp had visited and explored Africa six times. Its wild beasts and strange tribes of people made for fascinating exploration, he said. He had once been bitten on the hand by an African brille snake. It took him three years to recover from the resulting illness, and he lost 70 pounds.

VanCamp came to Boone County at the invitation of Harrison school superintendent G. L. Brewer, who he had met previously.

In addition to the Lions, while in Harrison, VanCamp spoke before the Rotarians and made presentations to students at Woodland Heights and Eagle Heights schools.