Manuscripts Division William L. Clements Library University of Michigan
Finding aid for Henry Fairfield Osborn Papers, 1879-1885
Finding aid created by Rob S. Cox, January 1994
Title: Henry Fairfield Osborn papers Creator: Osborn, Henry Fairfield, 1857-1935 Inclusive dates: 1879-1885 Extent: 14 letters and 2 photograph albums Abstract:
The Henry Fairfield Osborn collection contains the papers of the noted biologist, paleontologist, and president of the American Museum of Natural History. This includes correspondence, both professional and personal, and two photograph albums from trips to Russia and Colorado.
Language: The material is in English Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave. The University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190 Phone: 734-764-2347 Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
The collection is open for research.
Copyright status is unknown.
Henry Fairfield Osborn Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan.
Henry Fairfield Osborn graduated at Princeton in 1877 and pursued his interest in the biological sciences and paleontology through additional study at several New York City medical schools and with Thomas Henry Huxley in Britain. Returning to the United States, Osborn accepted a position at Princeton, teaching natural sciences from 1881 until 1891, when he moved to Columbia University to organize the Biology Department there, and in 1891, he also helped to organize the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History. Osborn's close association with the American Museum continued for over 45 years, and included a long tenure as its President, 1908-1933. During these years the museum's collections expanded enormously and it became one of the preeminent research institutions for natural history in the world. Apart from his own research, Osborn is perhaps best remembered for the sponsorship of the five immensely successful Central Asiatic Expeditions during the 1920's and 30's led by Roy Chapman Andrews.
William Berryman Scott (1858-1947), a fellow Princetonian, was among the more important American vertebrate paleontologists of the late 19th and early 20th century. Like Osborn, Scott traveled to Europe after his graduation to continue his education, landing at Heidelberg, where he took specialized course work in embryology and paleontology, and also like Osborn, Scott returned to his alma mater to teach, working at Princeton for the remainder of his career.
Collection Scope and Content Note
The Henry Fairfield Osborn papers represent a very small portion of an originally voluminous personal and professional correspondence. They contain five letters from William Berryman Scott to Osborn, 1879-1885, 9 letters from Osborn to his wife, Loulee, dated 1925 (one n.d.), and two extensive photograph albums assembled by Osborn during trips through Central Europe and Russia (1898) and Colorado (1899).
The Scott letters are scattered, but include two important letters written in Heidelberg, 1879 and 1880, when Scott was pursuing research on the embryology of the lamprey, Petromyzon and working toward his dissertation. At the time, Osborn was traveling in England, studying with Thomas Huxley. These letters provide an all too brief glimpse into the life of an American graduate student in Germany at the high point of the German academic tradition, and provide a fascinating insight into the early development of "professional" paleontology in the United States. The other three letters from Scott were written during the field seasons of 1882 and 1885, when he was working in the Great Plains states, excavating mid-Cenozoic mammalian fossils, including discoveries of some of the classic specimens of oreodonts, creodonts and fossil rhinoceroses.
The remaining letters in the collection were written by Osborn during a vacation at Trinchera Ranch, Fort Garland, Colo., in the summer of 1925. They are newsy, personal letters with little content of general interest.
Paleontology--Collectors and collecting.
Subjects - Visual Materials:
Osborn, Henry Fairfield, 1857-1935.
Scott, William Berryman, 1858-1947.
Container / Location
Box : 3, American Science and Medicine Collection
Henry Fairfield Osborn letters, 1879 February 8 - 1885 August 19 [series]