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Walcott, Charles D. (Charles Doolittle), 1850-1927  Search this
108.59 cu. ft. (16 record storage boxes) (84 document boxes) (1 half document box) (1 12x17 box) (2 16x20 boxes) (8 5x8 boxes) (oversized materials and framed panoramas)
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Scientific illustrations
Field notes
Black-and-white negatives
Black-and-white photographs
Glass negatives
Nitrate materials
1851-1940 and undated
The Charles D. Walcott Collection Papers (Record Unit 7004) were given to the Smithsonian Institution by his wife, Mary Vaux Walcott, with certain more recent additions. The Archives would like to thank Dr. Ellis L. Yochelson, United States Geological Survey, and Frederick J. Collier, Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History, for their assistance in transferring items from the Walcott family and the Department for inclusion in this collection.
Descriptive Entry:
The Charles D. Walcott Collection documents his personal, professional, and official life as well as activities of his family. Included are papers from his scientific and educational activities at the local and national levels, his career as a paleontologist, his administrative career with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and to a lesser extent with the Smithsonian, and material on one of his sons' participation in World War I. Some of the collection postdates Walcott's life, including condolences to his family, an unpublished biography, correspondence between the biographer and Mrs. Walcott, and paleontological field notes by some of his colleagues. For records relating to Walcott's family there are diaries; photographs; and correspondence with his children, his last two wives, and other family members. There is a considerable amount of material consisting of correspondence, photographs, memorabilia, publications, and official documents from the French and German governments concerning Benjamin Stuart Walcott's involvement with the Lafayette Flying Corps in France during World War I and efforts to establish a memorial in France for the Corps. Other personal records include legal documents; personal financial records; and family correspondence concerning financial investments in power companies, the prolonged illness and death of his son Charles, the death of his wife, Helena, and his daughter's travels through Europe. Walcott's professional life is divided between his service with the USGS and the Smithsonian. Documenting his USGS years are photographs; speeches; scrapbooks; reports and correspondence from his work on forest reserves, the investigation of scientific work conducted by the federal government, and land reclamation; and annual reports. Walcott's Smithsonian career is documented primarily by correspondence written while serving as honorary curator of paleontology and Acting Assistant Secretary in charge of the United States National Museum. One scrapbook includes extensive correspondence from scientists, government officials, and friends upon the occasion of Walcott's appointment as Secretary of the Smithsonian. For a more complete record of Walcott's association with the Smithsonian, the records of the Office of the Secretary (Record Units 45 and 46), records of the Assistant Secretary, Acting (Record Unit 56), and two special series relating to the budget (Record Unit 49) and to the Research Corporation (Record Unit 51) should be consulted. For Walcott's career as a paleontologist, there is documentation in his field notes; publications of his as well as those of others in related areas; manuscripts; diaries; and photographs, including panoramic views of the Rockies in Alberta, British Columbia, and Montana. In addition, there are paleontological field notes by Ray T. Bassler, Charles Elmer Resser, and Edward Oscar Ulrich. Walcott's role in promoting and developing national science policy is partially covered in the records relating to his involvement in the National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, Washington Academy of Sciences, and the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Included are legal documents, correspondence, committee minutes, reports, proceedings, financial statements, membership lists, and related materials. Additional material on the Washington Academy of Sciences can be found in Record Unit 7099. Records documenting Walcott's involvement in the administration and development of the other organizations exist at those institutions. His affiliation with the George Washington Memorial Association is documented with correspondence, trustees' minutes, histories of the Association, and drawings and plans for a building. For other national developments there is correspondence covering Walcott's participation on the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Other types of materials in this collection include certificates, diplomas, awards, and occasionally correspondence concerning his election to honorary and professional societies and the receipt of honorary degrees, and scrapbooks and diaries which touch on events throughout his life. See also the online exhibition "Beauty in Service to Science: The Panoramas of Charles D. Walcott."
Historical Note:
Charles D. Walcott (1850-1927) was born in New York Mills, New York, and attended the Utica public schools and Utica Academy, but never graduated. He demonstrated an early interest in natural history by collecting birds' eggs and minerals; and, while employed as a farm hand, he began collecting trilobites. These he later sold to Louis Agassiz at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. Walcott began his professional scientific career in November 1876 when he was appointed as an assistant to James Hall, New York's state geologist. On July 21, 1879, Walcott joined the United States Geological Survey (USGS) as an assistant geologist. Shortly after arriving in Washington, D. C., he was sent to southwestern Utah to make stratigraphic sections. His later field work with the Survey included expeditions to the Appalachians, New England, New York, eastern Canada, and several Middle Atlantic states, as well as other parts of southwestern and western United States. From 1882 to 1893 he worked with the Survey's invertebrate Paleozoic paleontological collections, and in 1893 he was appointed Geologist in charge of Geology and Paleontology. He also served as an honorary curator of invertebrate Paleozoic fossils at the United States National Museum (USNM) from 1892 to 1907, and as Acting Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in charge of the USNM from 1897 to 1898. His fieldwork from this period resulted in several major publications, including The Paleontology of the Eureka District (1884), a study of fossils in Nevada; The Fauna of the Olenellus Zone (1888) concerning early North American Cambrian fossils; Correlation Papers on the Cambrian (1890); and Fossil Medusae (1898). In 1894 Walcott was appointed Director of the USGS. Serving until 1907, he greatly expanded the functions of the agency and was successful in increasing federal appropriations. In 1891 Congress had given the President the authority to establish public forests, but it was not until 1897 that the administration of the forest reserves was placed under the USGS. Walcott was instrumental in having legislation passed to enforce the preservation of forest reserves and to add additional land to the reserve program. His predecessor at the USGS initiated an arid land reclamation program in 1888 which Walcott continued as part of his forest reserve program. In 1902 he established the Hydrographic Branch to administer the program; but four years later the Branch, since renamed the Reclamation Service, became a separate federal agency. He also created the Division of Mineral Resources to experiment with coal combustion. In 1907 it was renamed the Bureau of Mines. At the request of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, Walcott served as chairman of a committee to study the scientific work being conducted by the federal government. Walcott was appointed Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution on January 31, 1907, and resigned from the USGS in April 1907. His administration at the Smithsonian was marked by numerous accomplishments, including the completion of the National Museum Building (now the National Museum of Natural History) in 1911. He was also successful in convincing Detroit industrialist Charles Lang Freer to donate his extensive Oriental art collection and money for a building during his lifetime rather than after Freer's death, as was originally intended. Walcott also set up the National Gallery of Art (predecessor to the National Museum of American Art) as a separate administrative entity in 1920. To administer Frederick G. Cottrell's gift of patent rights to his electrical precipitator, the Research Corporation was formed in 1912, with revenue from this patent, as well as future ones, to be used to advance scientific research at the Smithsonian and other educational institutions. Walcott served on the Corporation's Board of Directors for several years. To further increase the Smithsonian's endowment, Walcott was planning a major fundraising effort; but this was not pursued following his death an February 9, 1927. In 1922, he and his wife established a fund in their names at the Smithsonian to support paleontological research. Despite his many administrative responsibilities as Secretary, Walcott was able to find time to continue his research and collecting of fossils from the Cambrian and Ordovician periods, with primary focus on the Canadian Rockies. In 1909 he located Cambrian fossils near Burgess Pass above Field, British Columbia. The following season he discovered the Burgess shale fauna, which proved to be his greatest paleontological discovery. Most of this research was published in various volumes of the Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections from 1908-1931. His one major publication during this period was Cambrian Brachiopoda, published in 1912. Walcott continued to return to the Canadian Rockies for most seasons through 1925, when he made his last field expedition. As one of the foremost scientific figures in Washington, Walcott helped to establish several organizations with international renown and restructure existing national organizations. In 1902, Walcott, along with several other prominent individuals, met with Andrew Carnegie to establish the Carnegie Institution of Washington as a center for advanced research and training in the sciences. Walcott served the Institution in several administrative capacities. He was also instrumental in convincing Carnegie that the Institution should have laboratories built for scientists rather than use his gift solely for research grants. Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1896, Walcott played a role in having the Academy become more actively involved in national science policy by serving in many official capacities. In addition to serving on innumerable committees, he held the offices of treasurer, vice president, president, and council member. He was also appointed to two presidential committees--Timber Utilization and Outdoor Recreation--in 1924 and was reappointed to both in 1926. He was the Academy's first recipient of the Mary Clark Thompson Medal. Following his death, his wife established the Charles Doolittle Walcott Fund for achievements in Cambrian research. In 1916 the Academy, at the request of President Woodrow Wilson, created the National Research Council within the Academy to assist the federal government in the interest of national preparedness. Walcott, as one who met with Wilson, became actively involved in the organization of the Council by sitting on many of its committees, including one which planned for the present headquarters of the Council and the Academy. Walcott contributed significantly to the development of American aviation. He pressed for the establishment of the National Advisory Committee for Aviation, which was a predecessor of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He was instrumental in establishing air mail service, organizing the Committee on Aerial Photographic Surveying and Mapping, and writing the Air Commerce Act of 1926. Besides his scientific activities, Walcott lent his influence to other groups, such as the George Washington Memorial Association. That group attempted to create a memorial to Washington by forming an institution to promote science, literature, and the arts, just as Washington had proposed should be done. Walcott was married three times - to Lura Ann Rust (d. 1876), to Helena Breese Stevens (d. 1911), and to Mary Morris Vaux (d. 1940). By his second wife he had four children: Charles Doolittle, Sidney Stevens, Helen Breese, and Benjamin Stuart. Charles died while a student at Yale, and Benjamin was killed in action in France while flying for the Lafayette Flying Corps. In 1914 Walcott married Mary Morris Vaux, who, while accompanying him on his field trips, studied and painted North American wildflowers. Her work was published in five volumes by the Smithsonian in 1925. Although Walcott never received an academic degree, he was the recipient of numerous honorary degrees from colleges and universities in the United States and Europe. His colleagues recognized his contribution to paleontology by awarding him the Bigsby and Wollaston Medals from the Geological Society of London; the Gaudry Medal of the Geological Society of France; and the Hayden Medal from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. He also served as a founder and president, 1899-1910, of the Washington Academy of Sciences; president of the Cosmos Club, 1898; president, 1915-1917, of the Washington Branch of the Archeological Institute of America; and president, 1925-1927, of the American Philosophical Society.
March 31, 1850 -- Born in New York Mills, New York 1858-1868 -- Attended public schools in Utica, New York, and Utica Academy 1863 -- Began collecting natural history specimens 1871 -- Moved to Trenton Falls, New York, to work on William P. Rust's farm and began collecting trilobites January 9, 1872 -- Married Lura Am Rust 1873 -- Sold collection of fossils to Louis Agassiz at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology January 23,1876 -- Lura Ann Walcott died November 1876 -- Appointed assistant to Janes Hall, state geologist of New York 1876 -- Joined American Association for the Advancement of Science July 21, 1879 -- Appointed Assistant Geologist, United States Geological Survey (USGS) 1879 -- Assisted Clarence Edward Dutton in Grand Canyon region in south-central Utah and the Eureka district in Nevada July 1, 1882 -- Placed in charge of Division of Invertebrate Paleozoic Paleontology at USGS 1882 -- Elected Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science -- Field work in Nevada and Grand Canyon 1883 -- Promoted to Paleontologist, USGS -- Field work in Grand Canyon and Cambrian studies in Adirondacks and northwestern Vermont 1884 -- Field work in Cambrian fossils in western Vermont; coal deposits in central Arizona; and Lower Paleozoic of Texas' central mineral region; Published first major paper The Paleontology of the Eureka District (USGS Monograph 8) 1885 -- Field work on Cambrians in Highland Range of central Nevada; Permian fossils of southwestern Utah; and Cambrian fossils in Wasatch Mountains near Salt Lake City 1886 -- Published "Classification of the Cambrian System in North America" -- Cambrian field work in northern New York and western Vermont 1887 -- Cambrian field work in New York, western Massachusetts, and southwestern Vermont 1888 -- Married Helena Breese Stevens; Attended International Geological Congress in London; Placed in charge of all invertebrate paleontology at USGS; Published The Fauna of the Olenellus Zone which discusses Cambrian fossils in North America; Field work in Wales and on Canadian-Vermont border May 17, 1889 -- Son Charles Doolittle born 1889 -- Cambrian field work in North Carolina, Tennessee, Mohawk Valley of New York, Vermont, and Quebec 1890 -- Published Correlation Papers on the Cambrian; Cambrian strata field work in New York and Vermont and Ordovician strata field work in Colorado Springs, Colorado 1891 -- Field work in New York, Colorado, and Appalachians from Virginia to Alabama October 2, 1892 -- Son Sidney Stevens born 1892 -- Placed in charge of all paleontological work at USGS; Field work in southern Pennsylvania and western Maryland 1892-1907 -- Honorary curator of invertebrate Paleozoic fossils at United States National Museum (USNM) January 1, 1893 -- Appointed Geologist in charge of Geology and Paleontology, USGS 1893 -- Vice President, Section E (Geology and Geography), American Association for the Advancement of Science; Examined Lower Paleozoic rocks in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee; Prepared paleontological exhibition for Chicago's Columbian Exposition August 20, 1894 -- Daughter Helen Breese born 1894 -- Placed in charge of all paleontological collections at USNM; Appointed Director, USGS; Field work in central Colorado and White Mountain Range in California and Nevada 1895 -- Cambrian field work in Montana, Idaho, and Massachusetts July 8, 1896 -- Son Benjamin Stuart born 1896 -- Joined National Academy of Sciences (NAS); Field work in eastern California and western Nevada and Franklin Mountains near El Paso, Texas January 27, 1897 -- Appointed Acting Secretary in Charge of the USNM 1897 -- Conducted examination of forest reserves and national parks in Black Hills, Big Horn Mountains, and Inyo Mountains June 30, 1898 -- Resigned as Acting Assistant Secretary in Charge of the USNM 1898 -- Field work in Lexington, Virginia; Teton Forest Reserve, Wyoming; Belt Mountains near Helena, Montana; and Idaho; President of the Cosmos Club, Washington, D.C.; Published Fossil Medusae (USGS Monograph 30) 1899 -- Field work in Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Quebec; One of the founders of the Washington Academy of Sciences 1899-1911 -- President of the Washington Academy of Sciences 1900 -- Field work in Montana and Rhode Island 1901 -- Field work in Pennsylvania January 4, 1902 -- One of the founders of the Carnegie Institution of Washington (CIW) and Secretary of the Board of Incorporators 1902 -- Member of the Advisory Committee on Geology and Advisory Committee on Geophysics of CIW 1902-1905 -- Secretary of Board of Trustees and of Executive Committee of CIW 1902-1922 -- Member, Executive Committee of Board of Trustees of CTW 1902-1923 -- Member of Council of NAS 1902-1927 -- Member, Board of Trustees, CIW 1903 -- Head of Board of Scientific Surveys, CIW; Field work in Uinta Mountains, Utah; House Range of western Utah; Snake River Range of eastern Nevada; Chairman of committee to study scientific work conducted by federal government 1904-1913 -- Honorary Curator, Department of Mineral Technology, USNM 1905 -- Field work in Montana's Rocky Mountains and Cambrian fossils of Utah's House Range January 31, 1907 -- Appointed Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution April 1907 -- Resigned as Director of the USGS 1907 -- Field work at Mount Stephen, Castle Mountains, Lake Louise, and Mount Bosworth in British Columbia 1907-1917 -- Vice President of NAS 1908 -- Field work in Montana, British Columbia, and Alberta 1909 -- Found Cambrian fossils near Burgess Pass above Field, British Columbia 1910 -- Found Burgess shale fauna June 20, 1911 -- National Museum Building (now the National Museum of Natural History) completed July 11, 1911 -- Wife Helena died in train accident in Bridgeport, Connecticut 1911 -- Field work in British Columbia 1912 -- Field work in Alberta and British Columbia; Published Cambrian Brachiopoda (USGS Monograph 51) April 7, 1913 -- Son Charles Doolittle died 1913 -- Burgess shale work in Robson Park district, British Columbia, and in Jasper Park, Alberta June 30, 1914 -- Married Mary Morris Vaux 1914 -- Field work in Glacier, British Columbia, and White Sulphur Springs and Deep Creek Canyon, Montana 1914-1927 -- Vice Chairman, Board of Trustees, CIW 1915 -- Living algae field work in Yellowstone National Park and West Gallatin River; fossil field work in Arizona 1915-1917; President, Washington Branch of the Archeological Institute of America 1915-1919 -- Chairman, Executive Committee of National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics June 30, 1916 -- Elected member of National Research Council (NRC) October 1916 -- Freer Gallery of Art building construction begun 1916 -- Field work in British Columbia and Alberta 1916-1923 -- First Vice Chairman, NRC December 12, 1917 -- Son Benjamin Stuart died in military action in France 1917 -- Appointed member of NRC's Executive Committee, Aeronautics Committee, and Geology and Paleontology Committee; Chairman, NRC's Military Committee; Burgess shale field work around Lake MacArthur and in Vermilion River Valley 1917-1922 -- Chairman, Executive Committee, CIW 1917-1923 -- President, NAS June 1918 -- Helped organize National Parks Educational Committee (became National Parks Association in 1919) 1918 -- Field work in Alberta; Member, NRC's Interim Committee; Chairman, NRC's Military Division and Section on Aeronautics 1918-1919 -- Chairman, National Parks Educational Committee 1919 -- Field work in Alberta; Chairman, NRC's Committee on Scientific Men as Reserve officers in Reorganized Army; Chairman, NRC's Committee on Removal of Offices of National Research Council; Chairman, NRC's Committee on Representation of United States at International Meetings to be held at Brussels 1919-1920 -- Member, NRC's Committee on General Policy and Solicitation of Funds; Chairman, NRC's Government Division 1919-1922 -- Member, NRC's Committee on Federal Grants for Research; Chairman, NRC's Committee on Publication of "The Inquiry" Results 1919-1924 -- Member, NRC's Research Information Service 1919-1925 -- Member, NRC's Executive Board 1919-1926 -- Member, National Parks Association's Executive Committee 1919-1927 -- Chairman, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics -- Chairman, NRC's Division of Federal Relations; Member, NRC's Executive Committee of Division of Federal Relations 1920 -- Field work in Alberta 1920-1921 -- Member, NAS's Federal Relations Committee 1920-1922 -- Chairman, Committee on Budget (jointly with NAS and NRC); Member, NRC's Committee on Building Stone and Committee on Building Plans 1921 -- Field work in Alberta 1921 -- Freer Gallery of Art building completed; Received first Mary Clark Thompson Medal from NAS 1921-1924 -- President, National Parks Association 1921-1927 -- Chairman, NRC's Executive Committee of Division of Federal Regulations 1922 -- Field work in Alberta and British Columbia; Established Charles D. and Mary Vaux Walcott Fund at Smithsonian 1922-1923 -- Member, NRC's Committee on Stabilization of Permanent Foundations; Chairman, Committee on Finance (jointly with NAS and NRC) 1922-1925 -- Member, NRC's Committee on Building; Member, NRC's Committee on Policies 1923 -- Field work in Alberta and British Columbia; President, American Association for the Advancement of Science; Freer Gallery of Art opened 1923-1924 -- Chairman, Committee on Dedication of the New Building (jointly with NAS and NRC) 1923-1925 -- Member, NRC's Interim Committee; Member, Executive Committee, Committee on Exhibits in the New Building (jointly with NAS and NRC) 1923-1927 -- Second Vice Chairman, NRC 1924 -- Field work in Alberta and British Columbia 1924-1925 -- Member, Committee on Exhibits (jointly with NAS and NRC) 1925 -- Field work in Alberta; Life Member, American Association for the Advancement of Science 1925-1927 -- President, American Philosophical Society 1926 -- Helped draft Air Commerce Act of 1926 1926-1927 -- Board of Trustees, National Parks Association February 9, 1927 -- Died in Washington, D.C.
Geology  Search this
Aeronautics  Search this
Paleontology  Search this
Scientific illustrations
Field notes
Black-and-white negatives
Black-and-white photographs
Glass negatives
Nitrate materials
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7004, Charles D. Walcott Collection
Record Unit 7004
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Charles D. Walcott Collection
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Smithsonian Institution Archives