August 2nd, 2009

South Park Me

The (Mis)adventures of Lt. Mason A. Schufeldt

Just finished reading The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, about the designer of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and serial killer H.H. Holmes. It was readable but overrated (I wanted more with the "Changed America" and didn't get it), but I was happily struck by a few scant words on the fate of poor Lt. Schufeldt of the US Army:

Time was so short, the Executive Committee began planning exhibits and appointing world's fair commissioners to secure them. In February the committee voted to dispatch a young army officer, Lieutenant Mason A. Schulfedt, to Zanzibar to begin a journey to locate a tribe of Pygmies only recently revealed to exist by explorer Henry Stanley, and to bring to the fair, "a family of twelve or fourteen of the fierce little midgets."

Followed by...
Meanwhile young Lieutenant Schulfedt had reached Zanzibar. On July 20 he telegraphed Exposition President William Baker that he was confident he could acquire as many Pygmies from the Congo as he wished, provided the king of Belgium consented.

Sad news arrived from Zanzibar: There would be no Pygmies. Lieutenant Schufeldt was dead, of unclear causes.

I don't know which fills me with more inspiration, the idea of Lt. Schufeldt meeting his fate in an African jungle as he comes upon a tribe of cannibalistic pygmies worshipping a tongue-faced god, or said pygmies making it to Chicago after all to serve "long pig" to fair-goers in between Tesla's electrical exhibit on one side and Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show on the other side.