A Buffalo Named Black Diamond

Published July 13, 2020 by tindertender

The historic, “Indian Head Nickel” once appeared on a 1970’s protest poster that read, “…The only Indian America ever cared about”.

The true story of the subject of the coin includes the account of the sad fate of, “Black Diamond”, the majestic bison that served as the model on the nickle’s reverse face. Black Diamond [nicknamed, “Toby”] was called The, “contrariest” animal in a New York City zoo where he was kept, hailed as the largest of his kind who in his prime weighed more than 1,500 pounds. After the Buffalo Nickel went into circulation, Black Diamond became something of a celebrity, with many people coming to the zoo just to see the buffalo from the coin. Amazingly, after an unsuccessful public auction, the Central Park Zoo sold Black Diamond to A. Silz, Inc., a meat-packing company.

Despite many efforts to save him, Black Diamond was slaughtered. A taxidermist mounted his head and turned his hide into an automobile robe. The A. Silz company began selling steaks to restaurants under the “Black Diamond” brand. ~ November 17, 1915.

New York Times article excerpt ~

“The mighty bison Black Diamond bravely stood his ground in the Joseph Stern & Co. slaughterhouse on West 40th Street in New York City, staring at the man aiming the .38-caliber revolver at him. When the man pulled the trigger, the weapon kicked in his hand as the bullet hit Black Diamond’s head, but didn’t penetrate his four-inch-thick skull, which was covered with a hide two inches thick. Instead, the bullet dropped to the ground, flattened, amazing onlookers [400 people were reported to be in attendance] , Black Diamond, angry and sensing danger, lowered his head to charge his assailant, but a second assassin was waiting, this one holding a sledgehammer. When the bison, nicknamed Toby, lowered his head, that man gave a mighty swing and the sledgehammer made a sickening thud as it crushed Black Diamond’s skull…”

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