GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE, 1858-1982, AND UNDATED. ARRANGED ALPHABETICALLY.
This series consists of correspondence documenting the history and operation of the Division of Mollusks and the research interests of the professional staff, from
its establishment in 1880 until 1982. A small amount of material pre-dating the official creation of the Department is found. Correspondence prior to 1937 is mostly incoming.
After that date both incoming and outgoing letters are present. See Series 3 for outgoing letters, 1885-1937.
Correspondents include domestic and foreign malacologists; shell collectors and avocational conchologists; Smithsonian administrators, curators, and staff; staff of museums,
universities, and research organizations; editors and staff of scientific publications; and officers and members of professional organizations.
Included is correspondence concerning the acquisition, identification, exchange, and loan of specimens; malacological research and the publication of results; museum and
divisional administration; professional activities, especially the early history of the American Malacological Union; and expeditions and field work.
A small number of photographs and specimen lists are found with the correspondence and are noted in the folder list.
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 73, National Museum of Natural History, Division of Mollusks, Records
58.76 cu. ft. (39 record storage boxes) (9 document boxes) (26 tall document boxes) (9 microfilm reels)
1851-1982 and undated
The Archives would like to thank the staff of the Division of Mollusks for their cooperation in transferring the records to the Archives. We especially appreciate the
help of Clyde Roper, Richard Houbrick, and Michael Sweeney.
This collection provides comprehensive documentation of the operation and activities of the Division of Mollusks from its establishment in 1880 until 1982. A small
amount of records predate the formal creation of the Division. The collection is also a major source of information on the professional careers of William H. Dall, Paul Bartsch,
Charles Torrey Simpson, Robert Edwards Carter Stearns, Harald A. Rehder, Joseph P. E. Morrison, Joseph Rosewater, and Clyde F. E. Roper.
The majority of the collection consists of a large file of incoming and outgoing correspondence (Series 1) that documents all aspects of the Division's work. The correspondence
provides a wealth of information for researchers interested in the history of malacology during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Many of the foremost workers in the
field corresponded with the staff of the Division. Henry A. Pilsbry, William J. Clench, S. Stillman Berry, William G. Binney, Edward S. Morse, Carlos de la Torre, Addison
E. Verrill, and Joshua L. Bailey are just a few of the outstanding malacologists represented by letters. The correspondence is also helpful in illustrating the early history
and activities of the American Malacological Union, the development of the Smithsonian collection of mollusks, and everyday activities of the Division. Divisional correspondence
is also housed in two other series. Series 2 contains letters exchanged between the Division and the Smithsonian Institution, United States National Museum, and various United
States government agencies. This correspondence documents the administration of the Division by its parent organizations, as well as cooperative efforts with other government
bureaus to increase and care for the national collection of mollusks. Also included are many letters relating to William H. Dall's official duties as a paleontologist with
the United States Geological Survey. Series 3 consists of bound letterpress books containing copies of outgoing letters, 1885-1937.
A large series of specimen related records includes catalogues of individual collections; report books in which specimen identifications were recorded; invoices; requisitions;
and log books which contain notations on everyday activities of the Division. The remainder of the collection consists of annual reports, 1884-1969, and miscellaneous administrative
For additional records relating to the history of the Division of Mollusks, researchers should consult the William H. Dall Papers (Record Unit 7073), the Paul Bartsch Papers
(Record Unit 7089), and the Harald A. Rehder Interviews (Record Unit 9519).
The origin of the mollusk collections under the care of the Smithsonian Institution predates the formal establishment of the Department of Mollusks in 1880. Collections
of shells began arriving at the Institution from many of the early exploring expeditions conducted during the 1840s and 1850s. Voluntary assistance in arranging and describing
the collections was provided by many eminent invertebrate zoologists including Augustus Addison Gould, Philip Pearsall Carpenter, Isaac Lea, William Greene Binney, William
Stimpson, and Thomas Bland.
The Department of Mollusks was created as an administrative unit of the United States National Museum (USNM) in 1880. As a result of an administrative reorganization of
the USNM in 1897, the name was changed to the Division of Mollusks. In 1914, the Division was merged with the Division of Marine Invertebrates under the latter title. In 1921,
the Division of Mollusks regained independent status. At that time the coral and helminthological collections were turned over to the Division's care.
William H. Dall's association with the Smithsonian began in 1865 when he came under the influence of Spencer F. Baird while preparing for his role on the Western Union
Telegraph Expedition. After he returned from Alaska in 1868, Dall was given space in the Smithsonian Building to arrange his collections and prepare his scientific reports.
While Dall spent the majority of his career as a paleontologist with the United States Geological Survey, he also served as Honorary Curator of the Division of Mollusks from
1880 until his death in 1927. Dall was the author of over 1,600 scientific papers on both recent and fossil mollusks.
Paul Bartsch, an authority on West Indian land shells, was appointed Aid in 1896. He served as Assistant Curator, 1906-1916, and Curator, 1916-1946. After his retirement
he was an Associate in Zoology until his death in 1960. Harald A. Rehder joined the staff in 1932 as Senior Scientific Aid. He was promoted to Assistant Curator, 1934-1942;
Associate Curator, 1942-1946; Curator, 1946-1965; and Senior Zoologist, 1965-1980. Rehder specialized in the study of the marine mollusks of the Indo-Pacific region. He maintained
the title of Zoologist Emeritus until his death in 1996.
Other staff members of the Division of Mollusks have included Robert Edwards Carter Stearns, Assistant Curator, 1884-1893, and Associate in Zoology, 1894-1909; Charles
Torrey Simpson, Aid, 1889-1902; William B. Marshall, Aid, 1895-1896, 1903-1914, and Assistant Curator, 1914-1934; Horace G. Richards, Assistant Curator, 1932; Joseph P. E.
Morrison, Senior Scientific Aid, 1934-1942, Assistant Curator, 1942-1946, and Associate Curator, 1946-1974; R. Tucker Abbott, Assistant Curator, 1946-1949, and Associate Curator,
1949-1954; Joseph Rosewater, Associate Curator, 1961-1969, and Curator, 1969-1985; Clyde F. E. Roper, Associate Curator, 1966-1972, and Curator, 1972 - ; Richard S. Houbrick,
Associate Curator, 1977-1978, and Curator, 1978 - ; and Arthur H. Clarke, Associate Curator, 1977-1980.