Saturday 16 March 2024

How did Henry Bergh, the founder of the first SPCA in North America, spend his life?

This week, 136 years ago, the animals lost a great friend. On March 12, 1888, Henry Bergh, the founder of the first SPCA in North America, died. For two decades, Bergh had taken to the streets to protect animals. 

How did Henry Bergh, the founder of the first SPCA in North America spend his life?
Henry Bergh. Image believed to be in the public domain.

This is how he described his life as an animal advocate of his time. 

“Day after day, I am in slaughterhouses; or lying in wait at midnight with a squad of police near some dog pit; through the filthy markets and about the rotten docks; out into the crowded and dangerous streets; lifting a fallen horse to his feet, and perhaps sending the driver before a magistrate; penetrating dark and unwholesome buildings where I inspect collars and saddles for raw flesh; then lecturing in public schools to children, and again to adult Societies. Thus my whole life is spent.”

The above comes from Nathan Winograd's newsletter.

Below is from Bing's co-pilot. 

Henry Bergh, born on August 29, 1813, in New York City, led a remarkable life dedicated to animal welfare and the protection of children. Here are the key aspects of his impactful journey:

  1. Founding the ASPCA:

    • In April 1866, just three days after the first effective legislation against animal cruelty was passed in the United States by the New York State Legislature, Henry Bergh founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
    • His mission was clear: to ensure that animals received kind and respectful treatment from humans and were protected under the law 2.
    • Bergh assumed the role of ASPCA president and provided initial funding for the organization alongside his wife.
  2. Championing Animal Rights:

    • During his stay in Europe, Bergh witnessed various cruelties committed upon animals, which deeply affected him.
    • In England, he met Lord Harrowby, the president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who emphasized the importance of Bergh’s mission.
    • Inspired by this encounter, Bergh dedicated the rest of his life to the cause of ending animal cruelty.
  3. Additional Advocacy Efforts:

    • Bergh’s impact extended beyond animals. He also played a crucial role in founding the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 1874.
    • His commitment to humane treatment extended to both animals and children, emphasizing compassion and protection.
  4. Background and Career:

    • Henry Bergh hailed from a wealthy New York family. His father, Christian Bergh III, was a successful shipbuilder.
    • Bergh joined his father’s shipbuilding business, C. Bergh & Co., and inherited a substantial estate upon his father’s death in 1843.
    • He attended Columbia College in New York City but left before completing his degree, choosing instead to tour Europe for five years.
    • In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln appointed him secretary of the U.S. legation in Tsarist Russia, where he served in St. Petersburg as acting vice-consul/

Henry Bergh’s legacy as a pioneer in animal advocacy and child protection endures, shaping the compassionate treatment of both animals and vulnerable members of society. 🐾🌟

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