32.36 cu. ft. (5 record storage boxes) (51 document boxes) (1 half document box) (4 5x8 boxes) (3 oversize folders)
circa 1839-1858, 1862-1927
This finding aid was digitized with funds generously provided by the Smithsonian Institution Women’s Committee.
This collection contains papers documenting the scientific and personal life of Dall, especially the Western Union Telegraph Expedition to Alaska (1865-1868). Included
are daily diaries, 1865-1927; Western Union Telegraph Expedition material containing diaries, scrapbooks, field notes, financial accounts, specimen collection notebooks and
incoming and outgoing correspondence regarding Alaskan towns, topography, mineral resources, biology and zoology of Alaska, customs of the Russian-Americans and Alaskan Indian
natives, along with sketches of the latter, their housing, clothing and utensils; description of the intrigue among the members of the Western Union Telegraph Expedition;
Robert Kennicott's field notes; Dall correspondence regarding Kennicott's leadership of the expedition; Dall and others regarding Kennicott's death; diaries, correspondence,
financial accounts, specimen collection notebooks and field notes regarding Dall's explorations to Alaska (1871-1876, 1879-1880) under the United States Coast Survey, and
his explorations to the Pacific coast and Florida under the United States Geological Survey; reports to Secretary of State, Thomas Francis Bayard, regarding the Alaska-Canada
Boundary Question, 1885, 1888; reports for the United States Coast Survey, United States Geological Survey, Division of Cenozoic Paleontology, and United States National Museum,
Division of Mollusks, regarding their progress under Dall's leadership; incoming and outgoing correspondence between Dall and his colleagues, administrators of scientific
and educational organizations, editors, publishers, family members, friends, private collectors of mollusca, and scientific and social societies regarding membership and membership
meetings, identification of fossil collections, publications and manuscripts, personal and family problems, student theses, appointment to the United States Geological Survey,
honorary degrees, politics, economics, social conditions in Washington, D.C., and Dall's personal views regarding his own professional competency and social status; awards;
photographs of Dall, his friends, and members of his expeditions; publications on mollusca, catalogues of mollusk lists, mollusk plates on Dall's Contributions to the Tertiary
Fauna of Florida, and his unpublished work on Hawaiian Island mollusca; Dall's manuscript biography of Spencer Fullerton Baird; Dall's publications and newspaper articles;
poetry written by his father; and material on the genealogy of Dall and his family.
Dean of Alaskan explorations and one of the last of the disappearing class of "systematic naturalists," which included Agassiz, Baird, and Audubon, William H. Dall
(1845-1927) was born in Boston to Charles Henry Appleton Dall, a Unitarian minister, and Caroline Wells (Healey), a feminist and publicist. Educated in the public school system,
Dall did not go on to attend Harvard after graduating from the Boston Latin School. Instead, he pursued his interests in zoology and medicine by studying under the guidance
of Agassiz, Augustus A. Gould, and Jeffries Wyman. Dall's special interest in mollusca came about quite accidentally as a result of his reading Gould's Report on the Invertebrata
of Massachusetts. Dall soon left for Chicago to earn his livelihood, and there he met Robert Kennicott and William Stimpson, both members of the Chicago Academy of Sciences,
where Dall attended evenings to continue his scientific studies.
When Kennicott was given command of the Western Union Telegraph Expedition to Alaska in 1865, whose mission was to find a means of establishing a communications system
with Europe by way of Alaska, the Bering Straits, and Asia, Dall, aged twenty, was invited along as a member of the group's scientific party. Upon Kennicott's death in 1866,
Dall was placed in charge of the Scientific Corps. When the expedition was abruptly terminated by the successful laying of the Atlantic cable, Dall volunteered to stay on
an extra year in order to complete the scientific project. In 1871, Dall was appointed to the United States Coast Survey (USCS), under whose auspices he continued his studies
on Alaska and the northern Pacific Coast. Dall left the USCS in 1884 to accept the rank of paleontologist with the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a position which
he held until 1925.
Having forwarded fossil specimens he had collected as a youth to the Smithsonian Institution, and with the collections of the Alaskan expedition being sent there also,
Dall, upon his arrival in Washington, D.C., in 1868, voluntarily began to assemble and describe the collections of mollusca and other organisms stored by the United States
National Museum (USNM) while working on his publication regarding Alaska. In 1880, Dall was officially appointed honorary curator at the USNM, Division of Mollusks, a position
he held until his death and without remuneration, as he could not be paid for both his work with the USGS and the USNM.
Dall was a prolific writer. Between his earliest writings on the Alaskan expedition in 1865 as a correspondent for the Alta California until his death in 1927, Dall
published more than five-hundred scientific short papers. Among his larger works, Dall's Contributions to the Tertiary Fauna of Florida, 6 volumes (1890-1903), is still
considered the most important American publication on cenozoic molluscan paleontology. Dall's other writings include Alaska and its Resources (1870) and his biography,
Spencer Fullerton Baird (1915). Among his honorary degrees and awards, Dall was awarded the Gold Medal by the Wagner Free Institute of Science, Philadelphia (1899),
for his work on paleontology; the Honorary Doctor of Science degree, University of Pennsylvania (1904); and the Honorary Doctor of Laws degree, George Washington University
GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE, 1865-1927. INCOMING AND OCCASIONAL OUTGOING. ARRANGED ALPHABETICALLY AND CHRONOLOGICALLY THEREUNDER.
This series consists of correspondence received from and occasionally written to publishers, administrators of scientific organizations, colleagues, lawyers, scientific
societies, and private collectors of mollusca concerning receipts for gifts of publications, requests for monographs and journal articles, organizational dues, scientific
and social society meetings, appointments to scientific societies, provisions needed for expeditions, monthly reports for the United States National Museum, Division of Mollusks,
and the United States Geological Survey, United States Coast Survey material, Alaskan politics and the treatment of Alaskan natives by agents of fur companies, translation
of Russian names and vocabulary, nomenclature and requests for identification of mollusk collections, purchase of mollusk collections, lists of collections shipped out and
mollusk collections needed by the United States National Museum, Western Union Telegraph Expedition reports, surveys, field notes, maps, politics, and family and personal
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7073, William Healey Dall Papers