Monday, September 12, 2022

Amadeus Grabau's Eighteen Mile Creek Palaeontology Book


This week a book arrived call the Geology and Palaeontology of Eighteen Mile Creek and the Lake Shore Sections of Erie County, New York - A Hand-book for the Use of Students and Amateurs by Amadeus W. Grabau Fellow in Palaeontology, Harvard University; Late Instructor in Palaeontology in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Published by the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences 1898-1899.

I was attracted to this book for a number of reasons: Amadeus Grabau (1870-1946) is a famous paleontologist, Elvira Wood (1865-1928) did a number of illustrations for this work, the book is signed to a well known naturalist William P. Alexander (1881-1956) in Buffalo, New York, and the Devonian fossils are very similar to the ones we find in Louisville, Kentucky.

It is inscribed: "To Prof. Wm P. Alexander Whose absence on this occasion we deplore. With the compliments Amadeus W. Grabau Aug 19 /33." William Alexander while born in New York, studied violin and cello at the Conservatory of Music in Leipzig, Germany. He attended the University of Leipzig. He returned to the United States and taught agriculture at Cornell University. He served as assistant to Professor Anna Botsford Comstock (1854-1930). In 1920 he became assistant curator of education at the Buffalo Museum of Science. In 1940, he retired from this position in 1940 after co-authoring seven books and numerous articles about nature. It is possible he crossed paths with someone I have written earlier in this blog Elizabeth Letson (1874-1919) who was one time director of the museum and noted malacologist and resident of Buffalo, New York.

In the inscription, Dr. Grabau is referring to a reunion of 75 friends and family at his brother's home in Sunset Hill, New York in 1933. Dr. Grabau had been living in China since about 1920 where he was teaching at the University of Peking and was a member of the Chinese Geological Survey. He returned on June 27, 1933 to the United States to attend the International Geological Congress in Washington D.C. He left to go back to China on September 8, 1933. This trip is documented in an excellent book by Allan Mazur entitled A Romance in Natural History - The Lives and Works of Amadeus Grabau and Mary Antin (2004) on 348-360.
It appears that Professor Alexander missed this event and Dr. Grabau signed a paper seen in the image above that was glued in to the handbook. At an event earlier in the week, the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences hosted a tea in Amadeus Grabau's honor. Dr. Grabau proposed a revision and enlargement of this guide and this book may have been a gift to the curator to help with proposal. No new update was every released.
Below is a sample of the fossil pages in the book. The figure 10 illustration was done by Amadeus Grabau while 10A was copy of a Hall illustration done by Elvira Wood. Throughout the book are blue ink notations listing fossils from the Hibbard Collection.  They refer to a local paleontologist Raymond R. Hibbard (1895-1957). He had donated part of fossil collection (more than 100,000 fossils) to Buffalo Museum of Science. He was appointed research associate in invertebrate paleontology at the museum and made honorary life member of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences. [Source: December 10, 1957 obit. in Buffalo Evening News page 33).