The Smithsonian Institution Archives began its Oral History Program in 1973. The purpose of the program is to supplement the written documentation of the Archives'
record and manuscript collections with an Oral History Collection, focusing on the history of the Institution, research by its scholars, and contributions of its staff. Program
staff conduct interviews with current and retired Smithsonian staff and others who have made significant contributions to the Institution. There are also interviews conducted
by researchers or student on topics related to the history of the Smithsonian or the holdings of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.
Blackwelder was interviewed for the Oral History Collection to document his career in entomology and his role in the founding of the Society of Systematic Zoology.
Blackwelder was interviewed by Pamela M. Henson on January 17, 1978. The interview covers Blackwelder's education; field work in the West Indies; his career with the
USDA, American Museum of Natural History, USNM, St. John Fisher College, and Southern Illinois University; his research interests; the SSZ; and his colleagues. The interview
focuses on his years in the Division of Insects, USNM, his curatorial duties, research on Staphylinidae, his colleagues, relations with the USDA staff, and USNM administration.
Blackwelder discusses the founding of the SSZ, his role in its development, and relations between the SSZ and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and other
zoological societies. Blackwelder reminisces extensively about his friend and colleague, Waldo LaSalle Schmitt, Head Curator of Biology in the USNM and a founder of the SSZ.
Richard Eliot Blackwelder (1909-2001), received the B.A. (1931) and Ph.D. (1934) in zoology from Stanford University. From 1935 to 1938, he conducted entomological
field work in the West Indies with the Smithsonian's Walter Rathbone Bacon Traveling Scholarship. He then worked briefly for the White-Fringed Beetle Identification Unit,
Bureau of Entomology, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) before accepting an Assistant Curatorship in Entomology at the American Museum of Natural History in 1938.
In 1940 Blackwelder joined the staff of the United States National Museum (USNM) as an Assistant Curator in the Division of Insects and in 1942 advanced to Associate Curator.
His research specialty was the morphology, classification, and nomenclature of the family Staphylinidae. During World War II, Blackwelder worked in electronics research and
development while on leave from the museum. After the war he returned to the Division of Insects and was active in the development of the Society of Systematic Zoology (SSZ),
as Secretary-Treasurer from 1949 to 1960, President in 1961, and Editor of its journal, Systematic Zoology.
In 1954 Blackwelder left the USNM and pursued his broader research interests in the principles of zoology. From 1956 to 1958 he was an Associate Professor at St. John Fisher
College, and from 1965 until his retirement in 1977 was Professor of Zoology at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
This collection consists of two volumes of Blackwelder's field notes concerning his entomological observations and collecting activities in the West Indies.
Richard Eliot Blackwelder (1909- ) was awarded the Walter Rathbone Bacon Traveling Scholarship of the Smithsonian Institution from 1935 to 1938, following the completion
of his doctorate in zoology at Stanford University in 1934. Blackwelder's research during the period he held the scholarship was concerned with a study of the Staphylinid
beetles of the West Indies. In this connection, he made a number of field trips to the West Indies from 1935 to 1938.
Richard E. Blackwelder received a doctorate in entomology from Stanford University in 1934. The following year he received the Walter Rathbone Bacon Traveling Scholarship,
which enabled him to conduct field work on the beetles of the West Indies from 1935 to 1938. These papers consist of journals from Blackwelder's field work in the West Indies
while he was recipient of the Walter Rathbone Bacon Traveling Scholarship (1935-1938); journals of his wife, Ruth M. Blackwelder, from the same period; notebooks from his
research in museums in the United States and England; a notebook listing species in his personal collection; a notebook containing recollections on entomologists met by Blackwelder;
a journal kept on field trips to the American west, 1960, 1962, 1964; and an album of photographs from his field work in the West Indies. For field notes from Blackwelder's
West Indies work see Record Unit 7156.