Robert H. Rockwell

Date of Birth: October 25, 1885
Place of Birth: Laurens, New York
Date of Death: September 26, 1973
Place of Death: Nassawadox, Northampton, Virginia
Gravesite: Belle Haven Cemetery, Belle Haven, Virginia

Robert Henry Rockwell (1885-1973) was born in New York but spent his childhood and youth on a farm in Northern Ireland. As a boy, he got a job in a taxidermist’s shop. His first job as a hunter was to shoot crows to be used in window displays advertising whiskey. He had to leave school at the age of 16 to help support his family. Despite seemingly unending obstacles he continued to educate himself, so well that he was eventually hired as a member of the scientific staff of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

As a taxidermist in the preparation department at the AMNH, he worked alongside other great taxidermists such as Carl E. Akeley and James L. Clark. During that time when the famous African Hall project was under construction, he helped finish the exhibit after Akeley’s death.

Robert Rockwell sculpts the mannikin for an Alaskan brown bear in this 1940 photograph before the 1942 opening of the AMNH’s Hall of North American Mammals.

Born on October 25, 1885, in Laurens, New York, his father’s name was Hiram Whitely Rockwell. Robert had one child, Jeanne, who was a journalist and helped him write his memoirs. He retired from the museum in 1942 and settled on a small waterfront farm in Janesville, Virginia where he modeled miniature animals for ceramics and bronzes.

“Recumbent Deer” 1939 bronze sculpture by R. H. Rockwell.

Although Robert excelled in his taxidermy skills, the sculpting methods he learned led onto many bronze sculptures of animals. He is perhaps better known for those bronzes, some of which, like his Black rhinoceros, was modeled for a museum mount.

Rockwell was also an accomplished author, his most noted book, My Way of Becoming a Hunter, Norton publisher, 1st edition, January 1, 1955, ASIN: B0006AU1A8, contains observations, photographs, and stories of his many collection trips around the world. He also published articles in the American Museum’s publication, Natural History, The Journal of the American Museum of Natural History. In Volume XXXII, 1932, two of his adventures are found in the March/April No. 2, pages 167 -180, “Sailing to Senegambia”, and July/August No. 4, pages 424-436. “Southward Through the Doldrums”.

Rockwell’s gravesite is located at Belle Haven Cemetery, Belle Haven, Virginia

Robert Rockwell passed away on September 26, 1973 in Nassawadox, Northampton, Virginia.