Baird’s Report to Dickinson College as Curator of Museum (1846)

Baird reported annually to the College on the status of the museum’s growing collection. His 1846 report lists recent acquisitions and looks forward to the day when Baird’s own remarkable bird collection will become part of the Dickinson College museum holdings.

July 8, 1846

The Curator begs leave to present the following report.

During the past year he has made various arrangements, and entered into correspondence with several individuals both in this country and in Europe, for the purpose of increasing the collections of natural history belonging to the Instituion. . . . The donations recently received consist of—1st. A box of very beautiful minerals principally calcareous, from Samuel Ashmead Esq. of Philadelphia, intended to supply the [deficiency] caused by the destruction of similar specimens in the fire on November 1844.—2. A box of minerals together with some shells from Mr. George Gibson, of Carlisle. Among these are some valuable ones of Iron, Lead, and Copper.—3. A box from Dr. [G?] B. Hamill of Bedford Pa., containing fossils of that [vicinity]. These will be interesting as forming a nucleus around which to gather a collection of the Organic Remains of this country, to which it is intended that special attention shall be directed. . . . Prof. Caldwell has subjected to my order a very valuable series of shells principally African, together with a number of Corals, minerals, and Organic remains. The undersigned has been engaged for some time in arranging his collection of North American birds with the intention of placing it in the museum. This is the result of six years’ labor, under very favorable circumstances, and now composes the largest and most extensive collection of the Kind in the world. It consists of about 450 species in all their variations of age and sex, amounting to about 2500 specimens, each carefully labelled with the locality, sex, age, dimensions, and other particulars as far as could be ascertained. Many of these specimens are unique, being the only ones ever procured, and consequently not to be found in any other collection. There is also a good series of the Birds of Europe, which will be largely increased this summer.

S. F. Baird

Baird’s collection would only remain at Dickinson College until 1850, when he took up his position as Assistant Secretary of the Smithisonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

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One Response to Baird’s Report to Dickinson College as Curator of Museum (1846)

  1. Parts of Baird’s collection–especially his birds–still exist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. If you visit the Smithsonian, you may need to ask to see his bird skins and mounts in their drawers. He was called the “divine pack-rat,” and when he left Carlisle, PA, his natural history specimens–skins, bones, mounts, feathers, rocks, fossils, etc.–filled two boxcars.

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