J. Archibald McKackney (Collector of Whiskers)/Publisher's Preface



THE remarkable researches and discoveries of Mr. J. Archibald McKackney have hitherto been buried in the monographs of the American Society for the Promotion of Curious Science. Mr. McKackney, it may be remarked, is an elderly gentleman of great wealth and an eager mental activity whose estate is one of the show-places of the New England coast. For several years he had been engaged in assembling his unique collection of Human Whiskers before his discovery and employment of their musical vibrations made a world-wide stir among the students of Acoustics and Harmony.[1]

For the information of the layman it is perhaps well to refer to the circumstances which preceded the organization of the now famous Hirsute Orchestra, as described in the following pages. Having wearied of the more commonplace objects of the collector's ardor, including Japanese pottery, unset gems and Roman coins, Mr. McKackney turned with the utmost enthusiasm to the task of obtaining the photographs, paintings and drawings of all the styles, patterns, designs and front elevations of the beards, whiskers and mustachios that have ornamented the human face from the days of the ancient Egyptians.[2]

He has visited almost all the inhabited ners of the globe in the hope of adding new trophies to his classified list of one hundred and eighty-seven distinct or catalogued varieties of whiskers, and the walls of his immense library are covered with bewildering sequences of facial landscapes.

In selecting the following incidents from among his manifold experiences Mr. McKackney has attempted to present only the more popular and entertaining features of his avocation. He does not introduce, for example, that important phase of his activity which deals with the whisker as a new field for nature study.[3] His more serious and wholly scientific work, "The Whisker Book," will not be ready for publication (in three quarto volumes) before 1909. Its scope and the enthusiasm with which Mr. McKackney has devoted himself to the immense task of writing the final word on the whisker in Art, History and Music, may be glimpsed in these lines of an address delivered before the American Society for the Promotion of Curious Research:

"I am proud, gentlemen, to have had the honor of adding, within the last year, no fewer than fourteen new species to the catalogue of my collections. I would rather make two whiskers grow where one grew before than to gain fame in any other way under Heaven. From the steppes of Siberia to the steaming jungles of Madagascar I have hunted whiskers at peril of life and limb. Among civilized races it is possible that the whisker may be doomed to extinction, since custom ordains that the devastating razor should more and more wreak its handiwork. I hope, however, before it shall be too late, to complete the monumental work which has absorbed my energies for eight long years."

  1. For technical references see Annual Reports Am. Soc. P. C. S., Vol. XII., pp. 287-324 (1901); Vol. XIV., pp. 103-149 (1903). Also Appendix B. Revised Edition—Der Mechanismus der Menschlichen Sprache nebst Beschreibnng einer Sprechenden Maschine von Wolfgang von Kempelen (Vienna). Also latest Edition, Theory of Harmony, Weitzman.

    Also A Critical Analysis of the McKackney Theory of the Analogy between the Æolian Harp and the Human Beard or Whisker, (Pamphlet by Dr. Bruno Heilig, published by Leighton & Leighton, London, 1904.

  2. "My first impulse to ward this field of investigation was inspired as the result of an idle hour in a crowded railway station. I began to note the whiskers of the hurrying pedestrians and was surprised to discover that their patterns were as severally distinct and individual as the faces of their wearers. I counted no less than seventeen successive types, no two of which were identical in any respect. It occurred to me at that time that if such a wide variety could be found in this casual observation, there must be an opportunity for a scientific study of these highly entertaining and important human phenomena." (Extract from the owner's Introduction to the Illustrated Catalogue of the McKackney Collection.)
  3. This topic was ably presented in a paper read before the faculty and students of the University of Zweitzig on the occasion of the bestowal of an honorary degree upon Dr. J. Archibald McKackney.