These records document the history, operation, and activities of the AOU, 1883-1977. For many years the papers were scattered in the hands of various officers until
1969 when the Committee on Archives was established. In 1974 the collection was brought together at the Smithsonian Institution. Among the records include those of Hoyes Lloyd,
longtime member and President of AOU from 1945-1948. Materials include correspondence, constitutions and by-laws, minutes, membership lists, nominations, fiscal records, contracts,
manuscripts, reports, biographical and bibliographical materials, drawings, memorabilia, programs, abstracts, scrapbooks, and photographs.
The American Ornithologists' Union (AOU) was organized by three members of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, Joel Asaph Allen, William Brewster, and Elliott Coues, who
wanted to establish an American society for ornithologists similar to the British Ornithologists' Union. They issued a call which was answered by twenty-three noted American
ornithologists, later designated the founders, to meet on September 26, 1883, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Formal incorporation occurred in
1888 in the District of Columbia. The aim of the AOU is the advancement of ornithological science through annual meetings, membership, committees, and publications. There
are several classes of membership: Patron; Benefactor; Member; Elective Member, bestowed upon those members who have made contributions to ornithology; and Fellow, the highest
class, which is bestowed upon Elective Members who have made the most significant contributions. Publications of the Union include its quarterly magazine, The Auk;
the Handbook of North American Birds; the Checklist of North American Birds; and Ornithological Monographs. The affairs of the AOU are administered under
a constitution and by-laws by elected officers and a council.