The Paradoxical Careers of Colonel Byron Cassius Goss

A biography of Col. Goss by Nancy Burkhalter

The Business Of War

Mention tear gas, and everyone has an opinion. But few know about one man behind its proliferation.

His biography, Gas Man and Great White Hunter Byron C. Goss: A Biography, tells the story of Colonel Byron Cassius Goss, who played a key role in the development and marketing of tear gas, now used worldwide by police, prisons, banks, and governments, to name only a few who benefit from its protection.

Col. Goss had two careers. He was plucked from his post at Princeton University in the
Chemistry Department to serve in the American Expeditionary Forces in France. While there, he gained intimate knowledge of gas munitions, especially tear gas. Once he left the army, he capitalized on that knowledge by building a very profitable business marketing tear gas around the world.

The Chemist And The Ornithologist

In the second half of his life, he led several daring expeditions to far-flung locations, like
Tierra del Fuego, the jungles of Africa, and arctic Iceland, and collected over 183 avian
for museums and zoos. He also found a two-day-old bongo in Kenya that he donated to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

Col. Goss, a warm and loving father, wrote extensively to his daughter, Pat about his adventures.

Luckily, this second part of his life is well documented in twenty years of letters that
have survived to this day.

Cataloging Exploits Preserves Vivid Legacy

Col. Goss also filmed his many exploits. His enterprising granddaughter had the films digitized and took stills of birds for the book, like this huge bird Col. Goss bagged on his trip to Africa.

Great kori bustard. Weight: 30 lbs. Wingspan: 104 inches.

Byron Goss’ granddaughter hired personal historian Nancy Burkhalter to write Col. Goss’ biography and was unstinting in providing details, documents, and fun family stories to show the more human side of a man who was brilliant, resourceful, canny, and above all, driven.

Readers will learn much about World War I, tear gas, and exotic birds and fish, and most of all, about the makings of a man who plunged through life, never looking back.

A life well lived and an interesting one to boot.

Personal Historian Nancy Burkhalter

Nancy describes the biography writing process of the Gas Man and Great White Hunter Byron C. Goss: A Biography

Personal Historian Nancy Burkhalter

Research is key to much of a personal historian’s work. I have spent the last year immersed in research as I write the biography of my client’s grandfather. Even though there is a trove of letters between this man and his daughter they demand a lot of research to provide context and explanation.

One of the best sources is, of course, for family trees. Other productive sources include 1) for military information, 2) for back issues online, 3) archives of hometown papers, and 4) National Archives. My goto resource is 5) my library’s online chat to pose questions. I am astounded at the utility and depth of information the librarians provide from this free service.

I’ve also contacted new owners of properties he bought, museums he donated birds to, historical museums about his hometown, university records, and so forth. At times, I am reticent about approaching some sources, thinking—erroneously—that they will be too busy to talk or email. But to a person, all have been gracious and willing to help.

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