This collection consists primarily of papers documenting the professional career and personal life of Edward William Nelson. A smaller amount of material was created
by Edward Alphonso Goldman and relates to both professional and private matters. Apparently, Goldman assumed control of Nelson's papers after the latter's death, probably
for reference in his continuing work summarizing the results of their Mexico field investigations. Due the pair's close professional relationship, it was decided to keep the
collection intact. The papers of each individual have been kept distinct and reside in separate series, with the exception of photographs, which mostly document the Mexico
field work. Other photographic materials have been placed in the same series as a matter of convenience.
Nelson's papers are valuable in documenting his work as a field naturalist, particularly in Alaska and Mexico; his administrative career with the Bureau of Biological Survey
and consequential involvement in conservation issues of the day; his research on birds and mammals; his participation in professional societies and conservation organizations;
personal and family matters; and commercial ventures, especially his ownership of fruit-growing businesses in California and Arizona.
The papers include a large file of incoming and outgoing correspondence that relates to all aspects of his professional life, but is particularly important in documenting
his administrative tenure with the Bureau of Biological Survey, 1914-1927. The letters provide information on the role of the Biological Survey in conservation issues of the
era, as well as Nelson's own attitudes on the matters--attitudes that sometimes clashed with other conservationists, including William Temple Hornaday. He corresponded extensively
with most of the major figures in the conservation movement including Hornaday, John B. Burnham, Charles Sheldon, George Bird Grinnell, and John C. Phillips. Especially well
represented by correspondence are the negotiations for the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty between the United States and Great Britain, 1916, and the protracted fight
over the Public Shooting Grounds-Game Refuge Bill during the 1920s. The correspondence also relates Nelson's role in the formative periods of several professional societies
and conservation organizations including the American Society of Mammalogists, the American Game Protective Association, and the American Wild Fowlers.
Nelson's career as an explorer and field worker is documented in a series of journals and notebooks maintained between 1877 and 1930. The journals kept during his landmark
work in Alaska and Mexico provide a running narrative of his daily activities and include notes on the fauna, flora, and physiography of the areas explored; information on
specimens and artifacts collected; observations on native peoples and their cultures; and sketches of people, villages, fauna, and natural phenomena. The journals from his
Alaska work are relatively complete; however, journals from the Mexico investigations from 1903 to 1906 are missing. Also included is a journal from the Death Valley Expedition,
1890-1891, and journals and notebooks kept during many of Nelson's official trips for the Bureau of Biological Survey.
The collection includes a series of records documenting Nelson's private life and business affairs. Especially well represented is his involvement with the Nelson-Goldman
Orchard Company, 1911-1933, and the Arizona Orchard Company, 1921-1923. Also included is a voluminous correspondence with his brother, Fred W. Nelson, which concerns family
and business matters; and various records concerning health issues, investments, real estate, and other financial matters.
Nelson's research is documented in a large series of notes, lists, manuscripts, newspaper clippings, photographs, and publications. Most of the material concerns his work
on birds and mammals. The file also contains collected materials on many of the conservation issues of the day.
The papers of Edward Alphonso Goldman found in this collection are just a fragment of the material generated during his long career with the Bureau of Biological Survey.
They are most valuable in documenting his biological survey of Mexico with Nelson. Included is an incomplete series of journals which contain a chronological narrative of
Goldman's activities. Specific volumes are devoted to notes of birds and mammals observed and collected. Other papers of Goldman include correspondence, mostly with Nelson,
and his brothers, George and Luther; and materials documenting his research on mammals.
The collection contains a series of photographs, photograph albums, and glass plate negatives documenting the careers of both men. Most of the material relates to their
biological investigations of Mexico, 1892-1906. Included are images of areas visited, native peoples, and flora and fauna. Many of the photographs are unidentified. Also included
are photographs of Nelson and Goldman; photographs of colleagues; and photographs taken in France during Goldman's service in World War I.
The collection also contains some papers of the conservationist Charles Sheldon, a close personal friend of Nelson. Apparently, Nelson acquired the papers when he was writing
a biographical memorial on Sheldon. They consist of correspondence, notes, photographs, manuscripts, and related materials documenting Sheldon's work in conservation and natural
Finally, the collection includes a manuscript (with Nelson's annotations) of George Shiras' "Hunting Wild Life with Camera and Flashlight; A Record of Sixty-Five Years'
Visits to the Woods and Waters of North America," and a few pieces of correspondence concerning the manuscript.
Additional materials documenting field work of Nelson and Goldman can be found in Smithsonian Institution Archives Record Unit 7176, Field Reports of the United States
Fish and Wildlife Service, 1860-1961, Field Reports. Voluminous field notebooks, lists, and other specimen related records for both men are housed in the Division of Birds
and the Division of Mammals, National Museum of Natural History.
The biological explorations made by Edward William Nelson and Edward Alphonso Goldman in Mexico from 1892 to 1906 have been described as ". . . among the most important
ever achieved by two workers for any single country." They conducted investigations in every state in Mexico, collecting 17,400 mammals and 12,400 birds, as well as amassing
an enormous fund of information on the natural history of the country. The best account of the work is Goldman's Biological Investigations in Mexico, Smithsonian Miscellaneous
Collections, vol. 115, July 1951.
EDWARD WILLIAM NELSON (1855-1934)
Described by Theodore Roosevelt as ". . . one of the keenest naturalists we have ever had . . .," Edward William Nelson was born in Manchester, New Hampshire. He developed
an interest in the outdoors around his boyhood home in New England, and in Chicago where his family moved in 1868. Shortly after enrolling in Cooke County Normal School in
1872, Nelson was invited to join Edward Drinker Cope and Samuel Garman on a fossil collecting trip to the Badlands of Wyoming. After returning to Chicago, his interest in
natural history continued to grow as he became acquainted with Joel Asaph Allen, Robert Ridgway, Stephen A. Forbes, Henry W. Henshaw and others.
In the winter of 1876, Nelson traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet Spencer F. Baird, Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and enlist his help in securing
a position as a field naturalist. Through Baird's influence, Nelson traveled to Alaska as a weather observer in the Signal Corps of the United States Army in April 1877. From
June 1877 to June 1881, he was stationed at St. Michael on the Bering Sea coast of Alaska with a charge to ". . . secure an unbroken series of meteorological observations,
and, in addition, to obtain all the information possible concerning the geography, ethnology, and zoology of the surrounding region." Nelson made several dog-sled excursions
around the region, compiling data on the lives and customs of the native people, and making ethnological and natural history collections for the Smithsonian. The results of
his work were published in "Report upon Natural History Collections Made in Alaska between the Years 1877-1881," 1887, and "The Eskimo about Bering Strait," 1900. In June
1881, he accompanied the revenue steamer Corwin on its search for the missing arctic ship Jeannette. The expedition was the first to reach and explore Wrangell
Nelson spent most of the period from 1882 until 1890 in Arizona recovering from pulmonary tuberculosis contracted in Washington, D.C., while preparing his report on the
birds of Alaska. In 1890, he accepted an appointment as a Special Field Agent with the Death Valley Expedition under C. Hart Merriam, Chief of the Division of Ornithology
and Mammalogy, United States Department of Agriculture. This was the start of a career with the Division and its successor, the Bureau of Biological Survey, that would continue
until 1929. In January 1892, Nelson received orders to conduct a three-month field survey in Mexico with Edward Alphonso Goldman, whom he had recently hired as an assistant.
The trip evolved into an exhaustive, fourteen-year biological investigation of the entire country.
After concluding the Mexico work, Nelson's duties with the Bureau of Biological Survey gradually shifted from scientific to administrative. He was Chief Field Naturalist,
1907-1912; Assistant in charge of Biological Investigations, 1913-1914; Assistant Chief, 1914-1916; Chief, 1916-1927; and Senior Biologist, 1927-1929. Nelson was also an honorary
Research Associate of the Smithsonian Institution from 1930 until his death. During the decade in which he led the Biological Survey, Nelson was actively involved in most
of the major conservation issues of the era. He helped negotiate the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1916 with Great Britain and was an enthusiastic supporter of the Public Shooting
Grounds-Game Refuge Bill, the Alaska Game Law Bill, and the Migratory Bird Conservation Act. He was also instrumental in developing policies to improve conditions of domestic
reindeer herds in Alaska, and the promoting of bird-banding as a method of ornithological research.
In the field, Nelson was an all-round naturalist, observing and collecting most things that he encountered. He was a prolific author, and his bibliography included over
two hundred titles, mostly concerning birds and mammals. Over one hundred animals and plants were named in his honor. Nelson Island and Nelson Lagoon, along the coast of the
Bering Sea, and Nelson Range, a short mountain range in California, also bear his name. Nelson was President of the American Ornithologists' Union, 1908-1909, the Biological
Society of Washington, 1912-1913, and the American Society of Mammalogists, 1920-1923. He received an honorary M.A. from Yale University in 1920, and an honorary Doctor of
Science from the George Washington University in the same year.
Nelson was involved with the Goldman family in the operation of fruit orchards in California and Arizona. He was a co-owner and director of the Nelson-Goldman Orchard Company,
1911-1934, and the Arizona Orchard Company, 1921-1923.
For more detailed biographical information on Nelson, see Edward Alphonso Goldman, "Edward William Nelson - Naturalist," The Auk, April 1935, vol. 52, no. 2; Margaret
Lantis, "Edward William Nelson," Anthropological Papers of the University of Alaska, December 1954, vol. 3, no. 1; and William W. Fitzhugh and Susan A. Kaplan, Inua.
Spirit World of the Bering Sea Eskimo, (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1982).
EDWARD ALPHONSO GOLDMAN (1873-1946)
Edward Alphonso Goldman, field naturalist and mammalogist, was born in Mount Carroll, Illinois. His family moved to Tulare County, California, in 1888, and he went to work
as a foreman in a vineyard near Fresno at the age of seventeen. After a fortuitous meeting between his father and Edward William Nelson of the Bureau of Biological Survey,
Goldman was hired by Nelson in January 1892 to assist his biological investigations of California and Mexico. Thus began an association with Nelson and the Biological Survey
that would continue for the remainder of his life. Shortly thereafter, he received appointment as a Field Naturalist with the Biological Survey, and he spent most of the next
fourteen years with Nelson collecting in every region of Mexico.
Goldman served in a variety of positions with the Biological Survey. He was Field Naturalist, 1892-1917; Biologist in Charge, Division of Biological Investigations, 1919-1925;
Biologist in Charge, Game and Bird Reservations, 1925-1928; and Senior Biologist, Division of Biological Investigations, 1928-1943. Goldman also had an honorary position with
the Smithsonian Institution as Associate in Zoology from 1928 to 1946. His service with the Biological Survey was marked by extensive field investigations in every region
of the United States.
In 1911-1912, Goldman conducted faunal studies as part of the Biological Survey of Panama during construction of the canal. His results were published in The Mammals
of Panama in 1920. During World War I, he was a Major in the Sanitary Corps of the American Expeditionary Forces, in charge of rodent control in France. In 1936, he was
chosen to assist the United States Government in negotiations with Mexico for the protection of migratory birds and game mammals.
Goldman's bibliography included more than two hundred titles. He named over three hundred forms of mammals, most of them subspecies. Approximately fifty mammals, birds,
reptiles, mollusks, and plants bear his name. Goldman Peak in Baja California was also named in his honor. A member of many professional organizations, Goldman was President
of the Biological Society of Washington, 1927-1929, and the American Society of Mammalogists, 1946.
For additional biographical information on Goldman, see Stanley P. Young, "Edward Alphonso Goldman: 1873-1946," Journal of Mammalogy, May 1947, vol. 28, no. 2, pp.
-- CHRONOLOGY OF THE LIFE OF EDWARD WILLIAM NELSON
1855 -- Born in Manchester, New Hampshire, May 8
1868 -- Family moved to Chicago
1872 -- Assisted Edward Drinker Cope and Samuel Garman on a fossil collecting expedition to the Badlands of Wyoming
1876 -- Visited Washington, D.C. and met Spencer F. Baird
1877-1881 -- Weather Observer for the Signal Corps of the U.S. Army at St. Michael, Alaska. Made extensive natural history and ethnology collections and observations of the Bering Strait Eskimos.
1881 -- Accompanied revenue steamer Corwin on search for missing arctic exploring ship Jeannette. Was a member of the first party to explore Wrangell Island.
1887 -- "Report upon Natural History Collections made in Alaska between the years 1877-1881" (Arctic Series of Publications Issued in Connection with the Signal Service, United States Army, no. 3)
1890-1891 -- Special Field Agent, Death Valley Expedition, Division of Ornithology and Mammalogy, United States Department of Agriculture
1890-1907 -- Field Naturalist, Bureau of Biological Survey
1892-1906 -- Field investigations of Mexico with Edward Alphonso Goldman
1899 -- "Revision of the Squirrels of Mexico and Central America" (Proceedings of the Washington Academy of Sciences, vol. 1)
1900 -- "The Eskimo about Bering Strait" (Eighteenth Annual Report, Bureau of American Ethnology, Pt. 1)
1907-1912 -- Chief Field Naturalist, Bureau of Biological Survey
1908-1909 -- President, American Ornithologists' Union
1909 -- "The Rabbits of North America" (U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey, North American Fauna, no. 29)
1911-1934 -- Part owner, Nelson-Goldman Orchard Company, Orosi, California
1912-1913 -- President, Biological Society of Washington
1913-1914 -- Assistant in charge of Biological Investigations, Bureau of Biological Survey
1914-1916 -- Assistant Chief, Bureau of Biological Survey
1916-1927 -- Chief, Bureau of Biological Survey
1918 -- "Wild Animals of North America" (National Geographic Society; rev. ed., 1930)
1918-1919 -- Vice-President, American Society of Mammalogists
1920 -- Honorary Master of Arts, Yale University
1920 -- Honorary Doctor of Science, George Washington University
1920-1923 -- President, American Society of Mammalogists
1921-1922 -- President and Director, Arizona Orchard Company
1922 -- "Lower California and its Natural Resources" (Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 16)
1927-1929 -- Senior Biologist, Bureau of Biological Survey
1930-1934 -- Research Associate, Smithsonian Institution
1934 -- Death, May 19
-- CHRONOLOGY OF THE LIFE OF EDWARD ALPHONSO GOLDMAN
1873 -- Born in Mount Carroll, Illinois, July 7
1888 -- Family moved to Tulare County, California
1891 -- Hired by Edward William Nelson as a field assistant, beginning a long professional and personal association
1892-1917 -- Field Naturalist, Bureau of Biological Survey
1892-1906 -- Biological investigations of Mexico, mostly with Nelson
1910 -- Revision of the Wood Rats of the Genus Neotoma (U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey, North American Fauna, no. 31)
1911 -- Revision of the Spiny Pocket Mice (genera Heteromys and Liomys) (U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey, North American Fauna, no. 34)
1911-1912 -- Conducted faunal studies as part of the Biological Survey of the Panama Canal Zone
1913-1917 -- Biological investigations of Arizona
1918 -- Rice Rats of North America (U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey, North American Fauna, no. 43)
1918-1919 -- Major, Sanitary Corps, American Expeditionary Forces, in charge of rodent control in France
1919-1925 -- Biologist in Charge, Division of Biological Investigations, Bureau of Biological Survey
1920 -- Mammals of Panama (Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, vol. 69, no. 5)
1922-1937 -- Reserve Major, Sanitary Corps, U.S. Army
1925-1928 -- Biologist in Charge, Game and Bird Reservations, Bureau of Biological Survey
1928-1944 -- Senior Biologist, Division of Biological Investigations, Bureau of Biological Survey
1928-1946 -- Associate in Zoology, United States National Museum
-- 1936 assisted with negotiations of United States-Mexico migratory bird and mammal treaty
1944 -- "The Wolves of North America," with Stanley P. Young (American Wildlife Institute)
1944-1946 -- Collaborator, United States Fish and Wildlife Service
1946 -- President, American Society of Mammalogists
1946 -- "The Puma: Mysterious American Cat," with Stanley P. Young (American Wildlife Institute)
PROFESSIONAL CORRESPONDENCE OF EDWARD WILLIAM NELSON, 1878-1934 AND UNDATED.
This series consists of incoming and outgoing correspondence documenting the official and professional career of Edward William Nelson. He maintained a voluminous
correspondence with ornithologists, mammalogists, conservationists, and other professional colleagues. The letters document Nelson's involvement with conservation issues and
legislation, especially the Migratory Bird Treaty between the United States and Great Britain, 1916, and the Public Shooting Grounds-Game Refuge Bill; his work with professional
societies and conservation organizations including the American Ornithologists' Union, the American Society of Mammalogists, the American Game Protective Association, and
the American Wild Fowlers; his field work in Alaska and Mexico; his research on birds and mammals; and the preparation of scientific and popular papers.
Of special interest are several letters from Edward Alphonso Goldman documenting his service with the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I; letters of Alice
Eastwood and Leverett Mills Loomis describing the San Francisco earthquake of 1906; and letters of David Starr Jordan and Wilfred Hudson Osgood concerning the selection of
the fourth Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in 1907.
Occasional photographs, drawings, manuscripts, and publications are found with the correspondence. This material is noted in the folder descriptions.
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7364, Edward William Nelson and Edward Alphonso Goldman Collection
The papers of Alexander Wetmore were received in the Smithsonian Archives in several different accessions between 1978 and 1987.
The Archives would like to thank Mrs. Beatrice T. Wetmore for her help in transferring her husband's papers to the Archives. We also appreciate the assistance of the staff
of the Division of Birds, National Museum of Natural History. The authors thank Susan Glenn and Pamela Henson for their thorough review of the manuscript.
The papers of Alexander Wetmore provide comprehensive documentation of his professional career and personal life. The collection is especially valuable in illustrating
his research career in systematic ornithology and avian paleontology; his many collecting trips and field expeditions; his involvement in professional organizations, scientific
societies, and social groups; his education and the development of his interest in ornithology; his administrative career at the United States National Museum (USNM) and the
Smithsonian Institution; his family history; and personal matters. Less well represented in the collection is material concerning his brief tenure as Superintendent of the
National Zoological Park, 1924-1925. Interested researchers should consult Smithsonian Archives Record Unit 74, National Zoological Park, Records, 1887-1965, and undated.
Wetmore was a prolific correspondent and nearly a third of this collection is made up of letters written and received between 1901 and 1977. The correspondence documents
most aspects of his career and is particularly valuable in illustrating his research on recent and fossil birds. Wetmore exchanged letters with many of the prominent ornithologists
and avian paleontologists of his day, and the correspondence is an important source of information on the history of both disciplines during the twentieth century. It is also
helpful in documenting USNM and Smithsonian history from the mid-1920s to the early 1950s. Especially valuable are letters exchanged with USNM curators which concern field
work, research programs, and exhibits. Wetmore corresponded with many foreign specialists, and several letters from British and European ornithologists contain descriptions
of World War II and its effects on society and science. Also included are countless letters written by Wetmore giving information and advice to amateur ornithologists, bird
watchers, and youngsters interested in birds.
A large file of correspondence, reports, fiscal records, publications, and related materials documents Wetmore's constant involvement in professional activities and national
and international scientific affairs. His seventy-year membership in the American Ornithologists' Union is thoroughly illustrated. Included are files concerning Wetmore's
work with the AOU Committee on Classification and Nomenclature, and his role in the preparation of the fifth edition of the Check-list of North American Birds. Also included
are files concerning Wetmore's work as a delegate and President of meetings of the International Ornithological Congress. Records concerning his work as Secretary-General
of the Eighth American Scientific Congress, and as United States Representative to the Inter-American Committee of Experts on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation provide
documentation of initial inter-American cooperation on conservation issues. Also found are substantial records documenting his associations with the National Geographic Society;
the Gorgas Memorial Institute for Tropical and Preventive Medicine; the Washington Biologists' Field Club; the Cosmos Club; and the Explorers Club. Contained in a separate
series are records dealing with his work as Chairman of the National Academy of Sciences Daniel Giraud Elliot Award Committee.
Wetmore's work as a field ornithologist and scientific expedition member is documented from his first recorded observation of a Florida pelican in 1894 through his last
collecting trip to Panama in 1966. The majority of records concerning his field work are found in three series. The first documents Wetmore's work prior to his appointment
to the U.S. Biological Survey in 1910 and includes field notes, migration records, and lists made during his boyhood in Wisconsin; similar materials compiled during his college
days in Lawrence, Kansas, and on trips to the western United States; and catalogues of his ornithological and natural history collections. The second series consists of correspondence,
field notes, diaries, reports, expense records, and related materials documenting field work carried out for the U.S. Biological Survey and the Smithsonian Institution (with
the exception of trips to Panama). Also included are records created during trips to professional meetings, trips to study museum specimens, and other official travel. The
third series contains records concerning his field trips to Panama, 1944, 1946-1966. Also included is a file of permits used during his field investigations, as well as expense
accounts from his official travel.
Photographic documentation of Wetmore's life and career is a major strength of the collection. Included are voluminous photographs, albums, lantern slides, 35mm color slides,
motion pictures, and negatives documenting his field work and other official travel. Also included are portraits of Wetmore; photographs of Wetmore with family, friends, and
colleagues; photographs from his boyhood; photographs of Smithsonian events, scientific meetings, and social gatherings; and photographs of professional colleagues.
The papers contain a file of collected materials documenting Wetmore's personal life and family history. The file includes correspondence with his immediate family and
other relatives; various biographical information; genealogical data on his family; school and college records; papers and drawings from his early work on birds; congratulatory
correspondence and letters of introduction and recommendation; transcripts of an oral history interview; and personnel records from his service in the federal government.
Of special interest is Wetmore's "private zoo" - a card catalogue of species and subspecies named in his honor. A series of daily diaries and appointment books helps to illustrate
his day-to-day activities.
Wetmore's twenty-eight-year administrative career at the USNM and Smithsonian is partially documented in the collection. Most of the records consist of routine correspondence
inquiring about employment at the USNM. Also included are various files concerning Smithsonian activities, offices, and administrative matters.
The remainder of the collection primarily consists of materials relating to his research in ornithology and avian paleontology. Included is a large group of unpublished
manuscripts, speeches, and radio talks prepared by Wetmore. Also included are numerous letters; specimen lists; notes; published manuscripts; field records; and publications
relating to his research. Of special interest are original journals, lists, and correspondence from field work in Haiti by William Louis Abbott, 1916-1928, and Watson M. Perrygo,
1928-1929. The collection also contains a sample of original illustrations used in his publications on fossil birds; and manuscripts, proofs, drawings, and other materials
from his magnum opus, The Birds of the Republic of Panama.
Also included in the collection are diplomas, certificates, and awards received by Wetmore, and typescript copies of correspondence between John Xantus and Spencer F. Baird.
Additional records documenting Wetmore's professional career can be found in the Smithsonian Archives. Researchers interested in Wetmore's career as Assistant Secretary
in charge of the USNM and Secretary of the Smithsonian should consult Smithsonian Archives Record Units 192 and 46. Field reports written during several investigations he
conducted for the U.S. Biological Survey can be found in Record Unit 7176, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Field Reports, 1860-1961. Records dealing with Wetmore's
work on the fifth edition of the AOU Check-list of North American Birds are a part of record unit 7050, American Ornithologists' Union Collection, 1883-1977. An oral history
interview (record unit 9504) conducted by the Archives in 1974 provides insight to all aspects of Wetmore's career. Record unit 9516, the Watson M. Perrygo oral history interviews,
include many reflections on Wetmore by his long-time field companion.
A voluminous collection of Wetmore's field catalogues, field notes, lists, and other specimen-related records are housed in the Division of Birds, National Museum of Natural
(Frank) Alexander Wetmore (1886-1978), ornithologist, avian paleontologist, and science administrator, was the sixth Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, serving
from 1945 to 1952. He was born in North Freedom, Wisconsin, the son of Nelson Franklin and Emma Amelia (Woodworth) Wetmore. He developed an early interest in birds and at
the age of eight made his first field journal entry - an observation on the pelican recorded on a family vacation to Florida in 1894. His first published paper, "My Experience
with a Red-headed Woodpecker," appeared in Bird-Lore in 1900. By the time he entered the University of Kansas in 1905, Wetmore had made extensive natural history collections
around his Wisconsin home and in Independence, Kansas.
Shortly after his arrival in Lawrence, Kansas, Wetmore received his first museum job as Assistant at the University Museum under Charles D. Bunker. His undergraduate career
was interrupted on several occasions as he took jobs in Arizona, California, and Colorado to finance his education. He also used these opportunities to study and collect the
native avifauna. Wetmore received the Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Kansas in 1912. Wetmore continued his education in Washington, D.C., receiving the Master
of Science degree in 1916 and the Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1920 - both from George Washington University. He would later receive honorary doctorates from the University
of Wisconsin, George Washington University, Centre College, and Ripon College.
Wetmore's career in the federal government began in 1910 when he was appointed an Agent for the Biological Survey, a bureau of the United States Department of Agriculture.
During the summers of 1910-1911 he assisted on field investigations in Wyoming and Alaska. He traveled to Puerto Rico in late 1911 and spent nearly a year surveying the bird
life of that and adjacent islands. In 1913, Wetmore was promoted to Assistant Biologist with the Biological Survey, and he moved to Washington to begin work in the program
on the food habits of North American birds. His career with the Biological Survey was highlighted by constant field investigations which took him to most of the United States,
as well as Canada, Mexico, and South America. Among his more important investigations were a study of the causes of waterfowl mortality around the Great Salt Lake, Utah, 1914-1916;
a survey of North American birds that migrated to the southern part of South America, 1920-1921; and the leadership of the Tanager Exploring Expedition to the islands of the
mid-Pacific, 1923. Wetmore was promoted to the rank of Biologist with the Survey in 1924.
As his professional status grew, Wetmore received offers of curatorial and research positions from several of the leading museums in America. Perhaps the most interesting
came in 1920 when the American Museum of Natural History asked him to join the Roy Chapman Andrews Asiatic Expedition and take charge of the zoological collections. Wetmore
declined this and several other offers. Finally, in November 1924, he accepted appointment as Superintendent of the National Zoological Park (NZP). He remained at the NZP
until March 1925 when he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian in charge of the United States National Museum (USNM). Wetmore held this position for nearly
twenty years, when, in 1945, he was elected the sixth Secretary of the Smithsonian. He retired in 1952 and became a Research Associate of the Institution where he continued
his research on recent and fossil birds.
Wetmore's administration of the USNM and Smithsonian during the era of the Great Depression and World War II faced many constraints. However, he managed to continue the
Institution's basic research aims, while instituting improvements in its administrative operations and exhibits program. Among his most important accomplishments was a move
toward professional management of the Institution by hiring specialists such as John E. Graf and John L. Keddy to assist with federal budgetary procedures and other administrative
matters. He also steered the Smithsonian toward a period of exhibit modernization which was realized after his retirement. Two new bureaus were added to the Smithsonian during
Wetmore's tenure as Secretary - the National Air Museum (now the National Air and Space Museum) and the Canal Zone Biological Area (now the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute).
Despite his administrative responsibilities at the Smithsonian, Wetmore continued an active research program in the field and the laboratory. He conducted several collecting
expeditions to the American tropics between 1927 and 1940. When the outbreak of World War II restricted travel outside the country, he undertook a study of the birds of Shenandoah
National Park in nearby Virginia. In the mid-1940s, Wetmore began a research program that would occupy his energies for the remainder of his life. Between 1946 and 1966 he
took annual trips to Panama - making an exhaustive survey of the birds of the isthmus. This work culminated in the publication of his magnum opus, The Birds of the Republic
of Panama. Three volumes of the work appeared during his life. The final volume was completed by his Smithsonian colleagues and published posthumously.
Wetmore was widely recognized as the dean of American ornithologists, and he worked extensively in the field of avian paleontology and as a systematic specialist. His bibliography
contained over seven hundred entries; including 150 papers and monographs on fossil birds. He described 189 species and subspecies of birds new to science. Wetmore made enormous
natural history collections, which were eventually donated to the Smithsonian. Included were 26,058 bird and mammal skins from North America, South America, Central America,
and the Caribbean area; 4,363 skeletal and anatomical specimens; and 201 clutches of birds eggs. Fifty-six new genera, species, and subspecies of birds (both recent and fossil),
mammals, amphibians, insects, mollusks, and plants were named in his honor - an assemblage which Wetmore called his "private zoo." Also named in his honor was the "Wetmore
Glacier" in the Antarctic and the "Alexander Wetmore Bridge," a canopy bridge in the Bayano River Basin in Panama.
Wetmore was a member of countless professional organizations, scientific committees, conservation groups, and social clubs. He served many of the groups in elected or appointed
capacities. He was a member of the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU) for seventy years and served as President from 1926 to 1929. For many years he was Chairman of the
AOU Committee on Classification and Nomenclature and was instrumental in the publication of the fifth edition of the Check-list of North American Birds. Wetmore also had a
long-term association with the National Geographic Society, serving as a Trustee, 1933-1976, and as Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Research and Exploration. He also authored
several popular publications on birds for the Society.
Wetmore served as President of the Washington Academy of Sciences, 1927; the Washington Biologists' Field Club, 1928-1931; the Biological Society of Washington, 1929-1931;
the Cosmos Club, 1938; the Explorers Club, 1944-1946; and the X International Ornithological Congress held at Uppsala, Sweden, 1950. He was Home Secretary of the National
Academy of Sciences, 1951-1955, and a Trustee (or Director) of the Textile Museum of Washington, 1928-1952; the George Washington University, 1945-1962; and the Gorgas Memorial
Institute for Tropical and Preventive Medicine, 1949-1976.
During his career at the Smithsonian, Wetmore was named to several national and international scientific committees. He was Secretary-General of the Eighth American Scientific
Congress, 1940; United States Representative to the Inter-American Commission of Experts on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation, 1940; Vice-Chairman of the National
Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, 1945-1952; and Chairman of the Interdepartmental Committee on Research and Development, 1946.
His contributions to science resulted in many honors and awards. He was the recipient of the Otto Herman Medal of the Hungarian Ornithological Society, 1931; the Hubbard
Medal of the National Geographic Society, 1957; the Brewster Medal, 1959, and the Elliott Coues Award, 1972, of the American Ornithologists' Union; the Explorers Club Medal,
1962; the Bartsch Award of the Audubon Naturalist Society, 1964; and the Arthur Allen Award of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, 1970. Wetmore married Fay Holloway in
1912, and a daughter, Margaret Fenwick, was born in 1916. After a long illness, his wife died in 1953. That same year he married Annie Beatrice Thielen. Wetmore died at his
home in Glen Echo, Maryland, on December 7, 1978.
For more detailed biographical information on Wetmore, see Paul H. Oehser, "In Memoriam: Alexander Wetmore," The Auk, July 1980, vol. 97, no. 3, pp. 608-615; S.
Dillon Ripley and James A. Steed, "Alexander Wetmore, June 18, 1886-December 7, 1978," Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 56, pp. 597-626,
1987; and John Sherwood, "His Field Notebook Was Started in 1894; It Is Not Yet Complete," The Washington Star, Thursday, 13 January 1977. A discussion of his contributions
to paleornithology is found in Storrs L. Olson's "Alexander Wetmore and the Study of Fossil Birds" in "Collected Papers in Avian Paleontology Honoring the 90th Birthday of
Alexander Wetmore," Storrs L. Olson, editor, Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology, 1976, no. 27, pp. xi-xvi.
June 18, 1886 -- Born in North Freedom, Wisconsin
1900 -- Wrote first published paper, "My experience with a Red-headed Woodpecker" (Bird-Lore, vol. II, pp. 155-156)
1905-1908, 1910 -- Assistant, University of Kansas Museum
1909 -- Assistant, Colorado Museum of Natural History
1910-1912 -- Agent, United States Bureau of Biological Survey
1910 -- Field work, Wyoming
1911 -- Field work, Alaska
1911-1912 -- Field work, Porto Rico
1912 -- Bachelor of Science, University of Kansas
October 13, 1912 -- Married Fay Holloway
1913-1923 -- Assistant Biologist, United States Bureau of Biological Survey
1914 -- Field work, Utah and California
1914-1915 -- Field work, Utah and Montana
1916 -- Master of Science, George Washington University
1916 -- Birth of daughter, Margaret Fenwick
1916 -- Field work, Utah
1916 -- Birds of Porto Rico (U.S. Dept. Agric. Bull. 326, pp. 1-140)
1917 -- Field work, North Carolina
1917-1918 -- Field work, Arkansas and Texas
1918 -- Field work, Western United States
1919 -- Field work, Florida; Arizona
1920 -- Doctor of Philosophy, George Washington University
1920-1921 -- Field work, South America
1921 -- Field work, Georgia
1922 -- Field work, South Carolina; Minnesota; North Dakota; Pennsylvania; Maryland
1923 -- In charge of the Tanager Exploring Expedition to the mid-Pacific islands
1924 -- Biologist, U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey
1924-1925 -- Superintendent, National Zoological Park
1925-1944 -- Assistant Secretary, Smithsonian Institution (in charge of the U.S. National Museum)
1926 -- Observations on the Birds of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile (U.S. National Museum, Bull. 133, pp.1-448)
1926 -- The Migration of Birds (Harvard University Press)
1926-1929 -- President, American Ornithologists' Union
1927 -- Field work, Haiti and Dominican Republic
1927 -- President, Washington Academy of Sciences
1927 -- Isidore Geoffroy St. Hilaire Medal, Societe Nationale d'Acclimitation de France
1928 -- Trip to study bird collections of museums in the western United States
1928-1931 -- President, Washington Biologists' Field Club
1928-1952 -- Trustee, Textile Museum of Washington
1929-1931 -- President, Biological Society of Washington
1930 -- A Systematic Classification for the Birds of the World (Proc. U.S. Nat. Mus., vol. 76, art. 24, pp. 1-8). Revised and reprinted in 1934, 1940, 1948, 1951, and 1960.
1930 -- U.S. Delegate, VII International Ornithological Congress, Amsterdam; field work, Spain
1931 -- The Birds of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, by Wetmore and B. H. Swales (U.S. National Museum Bull. 155, pp. 1-483)
1931 -- Field work, Haiti
1931 -- Otto Herman Medal, Hungarian Ornithological Society
1931-1957 -- Chairman, American Ornithologists' Union Committee on Classification and Nomenclature of North American Birds
1932 -- Honorary D.Sc., George Washington University
1932 -- Field work, western United States
1933-1976 -- Trustee, National Geographic Society
1934 -- U.S. Delegate, VIII International Ornithological Congress, Oxford
1936 -- Field work, Guatemala
1937 -- Field work, Venezuela
1937-1978 -- Vice Chairman, Acting Chairman, and Chairman Emeritus, Committee on Research and Exploration, National Geographic Society
1938 -- President, Cosmos Club
1938 -- Chairman of U.S. delegation, IX International Ornithological Congress, Rouen, France
1939 -- Field work, Mexico
1940 -- A Check-list of the fossil birds of North America (Smiths. Misc. Coll., vol. 99, no. 4, pp. 1-81)
1940 -- Secretary-General, Eighth American Scientific Congress
1940 -- U.S. Representative, Inter-American Commission of Experts on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation
1940 -- Field work, Costa Rica
1941 -- Field work, Colombia
1941 -- Distinguished Service Award, University of Kansas
1944-1946 -- President, Explorers Club
1944, 1946-1966 -- Field work, Panama
1945 -- Alumni Award for Achievement in Science, George Washington University
1945-1952 -- Secretary, Smithsonian Institution
1945-1952 -- Vice-Chairman, National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics
1945-1962 -- Trustee, George Washington University
1946 -- Honorary D.Sc., University of Wisconsin
1947 -- Honorary D.Sc., Centre College of Kentucky
1947-1963 -- Chairman, Daniel Giraud Elliot Fund Award Committee, National Academy of Sciences
1948 -- Chairman, Interdepartmental Committee on Scientific Research and Development
1948 -- Orden de Merito, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, Cuba
1949-1976 -- Member, Board of Directors, Gorgas Memorial Institute for Tropical and Preventive Medicine
1950 -- President, Academy of Medicine of Washington, D.C.
1950 -- President, X International Ornithological Congress, Uppsala, Sweden
1951-1955 -- Home Secretary, National Academy of Sciences
February 14, 1953 -- Death of Fay Holloway Wetmore
December 16, 1953 -- Married Annie Beatrice Thielen
1953-1978 -- Research Associate, Smithsonian Institution
1954 -- Field work, Venezuela
1957 -- Hubbard Medal, National Geographic Society
1959 -- Honorary D.Sc., Ripon College
1959 -- Brewster Medal, American Ornithologists' Union
1962 -- Explorers Club Medal
1963 -- Treasurer, XVI International Congress of Zoology
1964 -- Bartsch Award, Audubon Naturalist Society
1965 -- The Birds of the Republic of Panama, vol. 1 (Smiths. Misc. Coll., vol. 150, pp. 1-483)
1968 -- The Birds of the Republic of Panama, vol. 2 (Smiths. Misc. Coll., vol. 150, pt. 2, pp. 1-605)
1969 -- Field work, Netherlands Antilles
1970 -- Arthur Allen Medal, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology
1972 -- The Birds of the Republic of Panama, vol. 3 (Smiths. Misc. Coll., vol. 150, pt. 3, pp. 1-631)
1972 -- Elliott Coues Award, American Ornithologists' Union
1973 -- "Alexander Wetmore Bridge" dedicated in Panama
1975-1978 -- Honorary President, American Ornithologists' Union
1976 -- Collected Papers in Avian Paleontology Honoring the 90th Birthday of Alexander Wetmore, Storrs L. Olson, editor (Smiths. Contrib. to Paleobio., no. 27)
December 7, 1978 -- Death, Glen Echo, Maryland
1984 -- The Birds of the Republic of Panama, vol. 4 (Smiths. Misc. Coll., vol. 150, pt. 4, pp. 1-670)
This series consists of incoming and outgoing correspondence documenting the professional career of Alexander Wetmore. He maintained a voluminous correspondence
with domestic and foreign ornithologists and avian paleontologists concerning research projects, nomenclatural questions, and various professional issues.
Other correspondents include staff and officials of the Bureau of Biological Survey, United States National Museum (USNM), and Smithsonian Institution; staff and officials
of museums, universities, and research foundations; officers and members of professional organizations; editors of scientific journals and popular publications; bird watchers
and amateur ornithologists; and personal acquaintances.
The correspondence documents all aspects of Wetmore's professional life. In addition to providing a wealth of information on his research on recent and fossil birds, it
is especially strong in illustrating field work and scientific expeditions; the development of his career as a professional ornithologist, museum director, and science administrator;
his participation in professional organizations; and the preparation of scientific papers and popular works. The correspondence is also a valuable source of information on
the history of the Bureau of Biological Survey, 1910-1924, and the USNM/Smithsonian, 1925-1952.
Occasional photographs, manuscripts, and field notes are found in the correspondence. This material is noted in the folder list.
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7006, Alexander Wetmore Papers
This series provides comprehensive documentation of Alexander Wetmore's extensive field work and travel during his service in the federal government. Included are
records documenting field trips undertaken for the Bureau of Biological Survey and the Smithsonian Institution; his attendance at scientific conferences and professional meetings,
especially of the American Ornithologists' Union and the International Ornithological Congress; inspection trips for the National Geographic Society; and study trips to foreign
and domestic museums.
The records include correspondence, field notes, field diaries, expense records, reports, itineraries, photographs and photographic data, newsclippings, reference materials,
maps, publications, and memorabilia.
Records concerning Wetmore's Panama field work are found in series 9. Researchers interested in his field work and other travel should also consult series 1, general correspondence,
and series 13, photographic materials.
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7006, Alexander Wetmore Papers
Folder 7 Nebraska, 1948. To attend the annual meeting of the American Ornithologists' Union at Omaha. Correspondence and itinerary. Correspondents include Olin Sewell Pettingill, Jr., and Frederick C. Lincoln.