Orang-outangs in the Greenhouse

A few weeks ago, while browsing the local-history alcove at the Helen Kate Furness Library, I came across an interesting entry on the Furness family (central to the history of Heatherwold) in the second volume of A History of Delaware County Pennsylvania and Its People, edited by John W. Jordon (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1914). The entry begins with the declaration that the name “Furness” is “known wherever the English language exists in printed form” (p. 666), and at the time of publication, the family name was “worthily borne” by the three sons of Horace Howard and Helen Kate Furness: Walter Rogers Furness (1861-1914), Horace Howard Furness Jr. (1865-1930), and William Henry Furness II (1866-1920) [Wikipedia’s entry on H.H. Furness lists him as William Henry the third, but based on this book, he seems to have been the second]. No mention is made of their daughter, Caroline, probably because she had died in 1909, several years before the book was published.

From the account of the life of the third son, William Henry, I learned that Heatherwold was once home to several species of primates:

Dr. William Henry (2) Furness, third son of Dr. Horace Howard and Helen Kate (Rogers) Furness, was born at the family home in Wallingford, Delaware county, Pennsylvania, August 18, 1866, and there still resides. His early life was spent in Wallingford and Philadelphia, preparing for college in private schools. He entered Harvard University in 1884, whence he was graduated A. B., class of 1888. He chose the profession of medicine, entered the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania, receiving his degree of M. D., class of 1891. He spent some time in the University Hospital and at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, but is especially distinguished as a traveler and writer. He has made six trips around the world, dwelling in many out-of-the-way places, gathering materials for his literary work. He is a member of the American Philosophical Society; the Societe de Geographie of Paris; Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, London, and the Anthropological Society of Great Britain. He is the author of “Home Life of Borneo Head Hunters; its Festivals and Folklore;” “Uap, the Island of Stone Money,” and of many monographs of the American Philosophical Society. His clubs are the Rittenhouse and Oriental of Philadelphia.

Dr. Furness has never married, but maintains his residence in the family mansion at Wallingford [i.e., Lindenshade], situated in the midst of spacious grounds, made beautiful by the landscape gardener’s art. He is devoted to his literary work, and has many interesting experiments being wrought out at his country home. One of his theories is that the ape, monkey and chimpanzee can be taught a great deal beside useless tricks, and in carrying out his theory, he has two orang-outangs and a chimpanzee, in an apartment in his greenhouse, that he has taught most marvelous things, and which seem to bear out his theory that they possess an intelligence that can be taught to think and speak. (pp. 670-71)