This collection derived from government publications includes Pribilof Islands maps and drawings created by Henry Wood Elliott.
In 1872 Elliott, a young artist-naturalist, traveled as a U.S. Treasury Department assistant agent to the Pribilof Islands, assigned to oversee the fur-seal harvest. Mr. Elliott was fascinated by the Pribilof Islands’ natural resources, and in particular the northern fur seal, and took it upon himself to portray the islands’ natural history. Elliott was a skilled artist who applied his talent to his self-determined task. Elliott’s initial studies indicated a herd of approximately four million seals. He revisited the Pribilofs in 1874 and 1876 and concluded from his studies that 100,000 bachelor males per year could be harvested without undermining sustainability, “provided no abnormal cause of destruction occurred.” When Elliott returned once again to the Pribilofs in 1890, he was outraged that the seal herd had been decimated. As a result, he became an untiring advocate for the fur seal. The U.S. government and commercial sealing interests, however, were not yet ready for concepts of managed conservation. In 1905, Elliott, in partnership with U.S. Secretary of State John Hay, drafted a treaty for managing the seal herds. Finally, in 1911, Russia, Japan, Great Britain, and the United States, the four nations most concerned with sealing, were sufficiently shocked and revolted by the indiscriminate slaughter of the seals to sign a treaty outlawing open water sealing and accepting on-shore management of the seal herds by the United States. The Convention between the United States and Other Powers Providing for the Preservation and Protection of Fur Seals, popularly known as the Fur Seal Treaty of 1911, was a landmark agreement. It was the first international treaty to address the issue of wildlife conservation.