Naturalist and Enviornmentalist: Joe Knowles Part 2

About the naturalist and enviornmentalist Joe Knowles who ventured out into the forest unaided to prove man could still survive in the wild, or did he?

JOE KNOWLES (18??-1942). Naturalist.

The one unquestioned triumph of Joe Knowles's adventure--the enormous circulation boost given to the Boston Post--was not lost upon the Hearst newspaper management, despite the attempts of Hearst's Boston American to discredit the whole affair. The following year (1914), the San Francisco Examiner--another Hearst newspaper--sponsored a west-coast version of what Joe had done in the Maine woods. The Examiner employed 2 academicians to verify Joe's primitive life-style as he plunged into the Siskiyou Mountains of Oregon for 60 days. He took no clothing, food, weapons, or any other vestige of civilization; the Nature Man was back at it again.

It was July 20, 1914, when Joe set off on his 2nd great adventure. Western newspaper readers found themselves as entranced as their counterparts in New England had been. Again, Joe's messages--picked up by the professors in remote areas of the mountains--testified to his living on fish and small game as well as to his plans to capture and kill a deer. Joe dominated the headlines for a week, until his bad luck caught up with him again.

On July 28, W.W. I began when an Austrian prince was assassinated in the tiny country of Serbia. As the Russian army mobilized, the Germans declared war, and the French and British decided to oppose the powers of Central Europe, the headlines were given over to these earthshaking events. The story of Joe Knowles was pushed to the back pages. Since there seemed little point in persisting in an adventure that thrived on the manna of newspaper sales, Joe returned from his retreat in the Siskiyou Mountains.

There was to be one more stunt, however, before Joe Knowles would hang up his breech-clout. Hearst was not discouraged when the war ruined his fine gambit of sensational journalism--far from it. He was convinced that Joe could work wonders for newspaper circulation, and he sent Knowles to New York in 1916 for another atavistic attempt.

A new wrinkle was added this time. A female counterpart, also nude (they were the Dawn Man and the Dawn Woman), would enter the woods at the same time but in a different location. They were not to make contact with each other in the woods. Joe trained the Dawn Woman in basic woodcraft and survival techniques prior to their great adventure, but she could manage to last only 7 days by herself in the wilds of Essex County, N.Y. Since all the publicity had centered on the fact that this was a Nature Couple, when the Dawn Woman gave up Joe saw no point in persisting. He, too, came out of the woods.

Joe Knowles, his wilderness adventures over, returned to his paintings and etchings. Living in a remote area along the Pacific Coast in Washington, he refused to answer letters about his experiments in atavism. As a result, the man who had captured headlines and thrilled millions faded quickly from public attention and died quite forgotten on October 21, 1942.

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