Some months ago, at a conference called the Family Fishing Clinic held in Cincinnati, spectators were amused and somewhat awed by the spectacle of a 6-year-old boy who was demonstrating a new method of preserving and mounting a fish. The boy, son of Taxidermist Norman K. Meyer, was industriously stuffing the skin of a two-pound white bass, using the contents of a fish-mounting kit developed by his father. "It wasn't quite an expert job," said the senior Meyer of his junior taxidermist, "but there's no doubt that it's a white bass and my boy will have his trophy as long as he lives."
For five years Norman Meyer had been working to perfect a nonpoisonous substance—the standard formulas used by taxidermists contain arsenic or formaldehyde—with which to preserve fish. "Schoolchildren," he says, "kept coming to my shop with questions. Sometimes they wanted to mount a fish for assignments in their biology classes, sometimes they were simply interested in how it is done. You can't let youngsters fool around with arsenic." Meyer remembered reading about the borax method of preservation, pioneered by Leon Pray, "the father of taxidermy in the U.S." He also remembered that Pray had been fired from his job as a taxidermist back in 1914 for suggesting that the borax method was safer, faster and as long-lasting as the arsenic or formaldehyde method. Determined to improve on Leon Pray's borax formula, Meyer got in touch with The Dow Chemical Company, which suggested a fungicidal and germicidal curative agent that might be added. In the meantime Meyer's wife, Dorothea, the mother of five children, helped out by perfecting oil-base paints. For years she had been assisting her husband in his shop and was already an expert in painting the fish he mounted for his customers. Her paints, included in the kit, allow the fisherman to duplicate the color or colors of his fish as accurately as possible. The complete kit contains 12 items: a skinning knife, a scraper, the nonpoisonous preservative, needle and thread, fish mix, cardboard (for pinning the fins), paper clips, two glass eyes, paints, varnish, a paintbrush and an instruction booklet. "You have everything you need to preserve your trophy right on the riverbank," says Meyer, and while not all fishermen would think a two-pound trout worth mounting, several thousand sales of the do-it-yourself kit in the past few months indicate that others want to see their catch, however small it may be, hanging on the wall. Though Meyer's motive for developing his product was (and still is) to excite the interest of science-minded kids, the kit is not a toy; and it is full-grown fishermen with a hankering to do their own taxidermy who are ordering the kits as fast as Meyer, his wife, a 16-year-old son and two helpers can put them up in his shop in Monford Heights, Ohio. What started out as a small family affair now threatens to become a larger operation than one busy taxidermist can handle. Business began to boom when, shortly after the Family Fishing Clinic, Gerald Buenning, president of Dayton Marine Products of Detroit, got hold of a kit. He inspected and tested it, then suggested that Meyer, who had been using plain cartons, put the contents up in a more attractive package. Buenning then flew to New York, kit in hand, and showed it to the fishing expert at Abercrombie & Fitch. Before Meyer could say "stuff a salamander," he found himself standing behind a table on the eighth floor of Abercrombie's.
For five days Meyer showed curious customers how to preserve and mount trophies. The wonder of it all still in his eyes, he said, "Every morning someone from Abercrombie's got me three or four fresh fish from the Fulton Fish Market." A&F was delighted to go to the trouble, for fascinated fishing buffs were snapping up the kits and ordering more. "I was so scared of coming to New York that I took a course in human relations and public speaking before I left," said the shy 36-year-old inventor. To make himself feel at home he had brought along a small frog, mounted on a plaque, jauntily holding a half-smoked cigar in one extended claw. "My 12-year-old daughter mounted the frog," he explained. Was the frog a pet?
"No, indeed. I don't believe in mounting domestic pets. Too much emotion involved." What, then, did he think of Roy Rogers having the horse Trigger preserved and mounted for posterity?
"That's different," says Taxidermist Meyer thoughtfully. "Trigger is a part of our national culture. A monument." He guessed, and emphasized that it was a guess, that the preservation of Trigger probably cost about $18,000. His own biggest job was a buffalo, which cost the owner $2,700. "The going rate in Ohio is $1.50 per inch." It would cost approximately $24 to have a taxidermist mount a two-pound trout, the same job that a fisherman can now do for himself with Meyer's Fish Mounting Kit for as little as $6. A larger kit costs $8.95 and contains enough material to mount one 10-pound fish, two five-pounders or smaller equivalents. The small kit will preserve five pounds of fish. Available soon: a kit for mounting small fur-bearing animals.
For further information write directly to Norman K. Meyer, Taxidermist, 3808 Reemelin Road, Cincinnati 45210.