John Craighead Turns 100

One hundred years ago today on August 14, 1916, Carolyn Johnson Craighead was exceedingly surprised when she gave birth to two identical sons, not one as expected. Not only didn’t she know she was having twins, she didn’t know if she was having a boy or a girl. Such was the state of medicine at the time.

Today John Johnson Craighead celebrates his 100th birthday among family and friends. His brother, Frank Cooper Craighead Jr., died in 2001 of the ravages of Parkinson’s Disease. The Craighead twins are shining examples of what young people, even of limited means, can do if they set their minds to it. At 15, they decided to take up the sport of falconry, which was essentially not practiced in North America at that time. Following the few references they could find, they learned how to train hawks to hunt for them, starting with Cooper’s hawks, a bird never before used in falconry. Soon, their friends in Pennsylvania and Washington, DC followed in their footsteps and trained their own birds.

In a few years, the twins had trained a numbers of hawks, owls and eagles and wrote an article about their experiences. National Geographic Magazine accepted the article—along with 25 photos the boys took—for publication.  They next wrote a book about falconry titled Hawks in the Hand.  American falconers today cite that book and their sister’s book My Side of the Mountain as the reason they became interested in falconry.

Teenagers can make a difference—if they focus their attention and set aside many frivolous things.