The papers of Charles P. Alexander (Record Unit 7298) were received by the Smithsonian Archives in 1981, 1982, and 1984. The papers are open to researchers and may
be consulted in the Archives.
The Archives would like to thank Dr. Wayne N. Mathis, Chairman, Department of Entomology, National Museum of Natural History; Dr. F. Christian Thompson, Research Entomologist,
Systematic Entomology Laboratory, United States Department of Agriculture; and Professor T. Michael Peters, Department of Entomology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst,
for their help and cooperation in the transfer of the Alexander Papers to the Archives.
The papers of Charles P. Alexander offer comprehensive documentation of his professional career and personal affairs. Especially well represented in the papers is material
relating to his early studies of birds and insects, his collegiate career at Cornell University, his research on the Tipulidae, the development of his crane fly collection,
field work and collecting trips, his teaching and administrative careers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and his activities in entomological societies and professional
Alexander was a prolific letter writer, and over half the collection consists of correspondence written and received between 1906 and 1979. The correspondence reflects
all phases of his career and is particularly rich in documenting crane fly research and the building of Alexander's personal collection of Tipulidae. Alexander's network of
correspondents was world-wide, and in several instances letters describing political and social issues (especially during World War II) are found. Also included are many letters
to friends and family members concerning personal matters.
The collection is particularly strong in documenting field work and collecting trips conducted by Alexander, 1904-1964. Included are field notes, diaries and journals (kept
by both Alexander and his wife, Mabel) documenting his initial observations on birds and insects in upstate New York; extensive collecting in the western United States, western
Canada and Alaska; and field work executed in New England, the Great Smoky Mountains and the maritime provinces of Canada. Field work is also illustrated by many photographs
and color slides taken by Alexander.
Materials relating to the personal life and family history of Alexander, and his wife Mabel, are found throughout the collection. Included is genealogical and biographical
information on their families; an autobiographical sketch which documents Alexander's life to 1915; magazine articles and newspaper clippings concerning Alexander; correspondence
relating to honors and awards, lectures and his retirement from teaching; and records summarizing his research, publications and collection. Of particular interest is his
"Crane Fly Haven" Guest Book which contains many personal reminiscences and includes biographical data on entomologists.
Photographic documentation of Alexander's life and work is a major strength of the collection. Included are numerous photographs of Alexander, 1895-1979; pictures of his
wife Mabel; and various family photographs. Alexander was an outstanding photographer and his papers contain over 10,000 35mm color transparencies. The slides thoroughly illustrate
field work conducted by Alexander, 1951-1964, especially in western North America and include many fine pictures of flora and fauna encountered on the trips. Many slides of
entomologists, professional colleagues and family members are also found.
Records dealing with Alexander's crane fly research and collection include specimen lists, research notes, species tabulations, locality data, loan documentation, maps,
photographs, drawings and figures, shipment lists, information on collectors, bibliographic references, manuscripts and reprints.
The papers contain a wealth of information for researchers interested in the history of entomology. In addition to corresponding with many prominent entomologists, Alexander
also collected biographical data on, and photographs of, many colleagues. The material includes autobiographical sketches solicited by Alexander, photographs, biographical
data assembled by Alexander, newspaper clippings, obituaries, and publications. His collection of 35mm color slides also includes many pictures of entomologists.
The papers also include diaries and notebooks kept by Alexander during his student years at Cornell University and during his career at the University of Massachusetts,
Amherst; diplomas and certificates awarded Alexander; copies of lectures and examinations given by Alexander; correspondence and a notebook of the New Zealand insect collector,
Thomas R. Harris; and photographs, correspondence, and family papers of the entomologist, Jay R. Traver.
Charles P. Alexander (1889-1981), entomologist and authority on the Tipulidae (crane flies), was born in Gloversville, New York. He developed an early interest in natural
history, primarily through the influence of an older brother, William P. Alexander. His earliest studies concentrated on ornithology, and he published his first paper on birds
at the age of 13 in 1903. Gradually his interests shifted to the study of insects, and his first entomological paper, "Rove Beetles of Eastern New York," appeared in 1909.
In that year, Alexander enrolled at Cornell University to study entomology under John Henry Comstock, James G. Needham, Alexander D. MacGillivray, Oskar A. Johannsen and others.
At Cornell, the study of crane flies became his primary entomological pursuit. His first paper on the family, "Fulton County (New York) Tipulidae," was published in 1910--one
of 25 papers on crane flies which he authored as an undergraduate. Alexander received the Bachelor of Science degree in 1913 and the Ph.D. in 1918, both from Cornell.
Alexander's professional career began in 1917 when he accepted the position of Curator of the Snow Entomological Collection at the University of Kansas. From 1919 to 1922,
he served as a Curator with the Illinois Natural History Survey. In 1922, Alexander was appointed Assistant Professor at the Massachusetts Agricultural College at Amherst
(now the University of Massachusetts), where he remained as a faculty member and administrator for the rest of his career. On his retirement from teaching in 1959, the University
awarded him an honorary Doctor of Science degree.
Alexander's research was almost exclusively focused on the study of the Tipulidae, the largest family of the order Diptera. He described close to 11,000 species of Diptera,
over 10,000 of them belonging to the family Tipulidae. Alexander assembled a huge personal collection of crane flies which contained more than 10,500 species. He acquired
many specimens on numerous field trips and collecting expeditions. Between 1934 and 1964, Alexander (assisted by his wife Mabel) made 18 collecting trips to the western United
States, western Canada and Alaska. He also collected extensively in New England, the Great Smoky Mountains, and the maritime provinces of Canada. His collection was also increased
by means of a large network of insect collectors, former students, and professional colleagues who sent him specimens from around the world. The collection was purchased by
the Smithsonian Institution in 1973. His bibliography includes 1017 papers and books totaling over 20,000 pages, with 15,000 of his own illustrations.
Alexander was active within the entomological profession, and his achievements were widely recognized. A member of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) from 1910
until his death, Alexander served as President of the Society from 1941 to 1943 and was elected an Honorary Member in 1969. In 1976 he received the L. O. Howard Award for
Distinguished Achievement in Entomology of the Eastern Branch of ESA. Alexander was also a Corresponding Member of the American Entomological Society; an Honorary Member of
the National Pest Control Association; an Honorary Fellow of the Sociedad Chilean de Entomologia; an Honorary Member of the Kebun Raya Indonesia (Botanical Gardens of Indonesia);
and a Fellow of the Entomological Society of London. In 1952, he was the recipient of the Bernardo O'Higgins Order of Merit of the government of Chile.
For additional biographical information on Alexander see George W. Byers, "In Memoriam. Charles P. Alexander, 1889-1981," Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society.
55 (1982) 409-417; Ashley B. Gurney. "Charles Paul Alexander." Fernald Club Yearbook, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, No. 28 (1959), 1-6; and John Sherwood. "Doc
Alex: The World's Greatest Crane Fly Electronic Data Bank." The Washington Star, November 22, 1979.
September 25, 1889 -- Born in Gloversville, New York
1903 -- Published first natural history paper, "A Young Woodcock," American Ornithology, at age 13
1906 -- Encouraged by E. Porter Felt, begins study of crane flies
1909 -- Published first entomology paper, "Rove Beetles of Eastern New York," Philatelic West
1910 -- Published first paper on crane flies, "Fulton County (New York) Tipulidae," Entomological News
1913 -- Bachelor of Science, Cornell University
November 10, 1917 -- Married Mabel Marguerite Miller in Lawrence, Kansas
1917-1919 -- Curator, Snow Entomological Collection, University of Kansas
1918 -- Ph.D., Cornell University
1919, 1921 -- "The Crane Flies of New York," Cornell University Agricultural Experimental Station Memoirs
1919-1922 -- Curator, Illinois Natural History Survey
1922-1930 -- Assistant Professor, Massachusetts Agricultural College (now the University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
1929 -- Diptera of Patagonia and South Chile, Part I, Crane Flies, British Museum (Natural History)
1930-1938 -- Professor in charge of Entomology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
June-September 1934 -- Collecting trip to the western United States
1938-1948 -- Chairman, Department of Entomology and Zoology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
June 1939 -- Collecting trip to Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina and Tennessee
May-June 1940 -- Collecting trip to Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina and Tennessee
June-August 1941 -- Collecting trip to the western United States
1941-1943 -- President, Entomological Society of America
May-July 1942 -- Collecting trip to the western United States
1943 -- "The Diptera or True Flies of Connecticut (Tipulidae)," Connecticut State Geological and Natural History Survey, Bulletin 64
1945-1946 -- Acting Dean, School of Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
June-September 1946 -- Collecting trip to the western United States
1946-1952 -- Dean, School of Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
June-September 1947 -- Collecting trip to the western United States and Canada
June-September 1948 -- Collecting trip to the western United States
1948-1959 -- Chairman, Department of Entomology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
June-August 1949 -- Collecting trip to the western United States and Canada
June-August 1950 -- Collecting trip to the western United States
June-July 1951 -- Collecting trip to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia
June-September 1952 -- Collecting trip to the western United States and Canada
1952 -- Bernardo O'Higgins Order of Merit, Chilean Government
June-September 1953 -- Collecting trip to the western United States
June-September 1954 -- Collecting trip to Alaska
June-September 1955 -- Collecting trip to the western United States
June-August 1956 -- Collecting trip to the western United States and Canada
May-August 1957 -- Collecting trip to the western United States
May-August 1958 -- Collecting trip to the western United States
1959 -- Retirement from University of Massachusetts, Amherst
1959 -- Honorary Doctor of Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
June-September 1959 -- Collecting trip to the western United States and Canada
1959-1981 -- Professor of Entomology, Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
July 1960 -- Collecting trip to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick
June-August 1961 -- Collecting trip to Newfoundland
June-July 1962 -- Collecting trip to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick
1963 -- Honorary Membership, Entomological Society of America
March-July 1963 -- Collecting trip to California
January-June 1964 -- Visiting Professor, University of California, Berkeley
1965 -- A Catalog of Diptera of America North of Mexico (Tipulidae), USDA Agricultural Research Service
1967 -- "The Crane Flies of California", Bulletin of the California Insect Survey
1970 -- A Catalogue of the Diptera of the Americas South of the United States (with Mabel M. Alexander) Museu de Zoological, Univer. de Sao Paulo, Brazil
1976 -- L. O. Howard Award for Distinguished Achievement in Entomology, Eastern Branch of the Entomological Society of America
1976 -- One-thousandth paper on crane flies published
1979 -- Death of Mabel M. Alexander
December 3, 1981 -- Death
1982 -- Dedication of the Charles and Mabel Alexander Conference Room, Fernald Hall, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (May 10)