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The Origins of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club

(From four hand-written pages by William L. Baily in the D.V.O.C Scrap Book 1890-1899 in the Archives of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA Box 570)

“Birds! Did I hear you say birds?” “Yes, why are you interested in birds?” “Well I should think I was.” “Well let’s shake, you’re the very fellow I’m looking for”

In the early part of December 1889, amid desks and tables, pencil and triangles many draughtsmen were engaged planning houses, bridges and railroads, a conversation between to hard worked(?) designers was overheard by a third weary toiler.

Had conscience, duty or narrow mindedness kept this restless youth at his drawing board, had he not made the acquaintance of the enthusiast across the room, had that short word “birds “to some so insignificant been unheard, the chances of the formation of an ornithological club would have been very small.

During numerous talks so slyly indulged in during working hours, the subject of keeping daily notes gradually worked its way to the surface and this was the foundation stone of our Delaware Valley Ornithological Club.

Mr. Reed made a copy of an old postal card I used to use and had a lot printed bearing a list of our common birds, a number of which were sent to our correspondents for the daily recording of the birds seen by each man, these were to be remailed to Mr. Reed who was to compile the data and furnish a copy to each.

Our solicitations met with the following results

To Mr. Reed from Haddonfield N.J.
“Shall be glad to help you as asked, and hope soon to make you a call.
Truly
S. N. Rhoads

To me from Swarthmore
“Your note and postals received. It is a capital idea and I will aid you by anything that I can”
Spencer Trotter

Mess. Morris and Voelker replied verbally.

Dr. Trotter soon after wrote the following
”I have a suggestion to make, why can’t some of we kindred spirits form a zoological society, to meet socially, read original papers and discuss various questions. It will help us all I am sure. Let me know what you think of it. We could meet at each others houses or somewhere, say once in two weeks or even once a month, and have a very pleasant, profitable and interesting time, write me your feelings in the matter”
Very truly your friend
Spencer Trotter
January 15, 1890

I suggested that we meet at my father’s city residence (then vacant) 1624 Arch St. and accordingly all were notified and Wednesday January 22, 1890 was set for the occasion.

Mr. Reed and myself were in waiting at least an hour ahead of time, to give our guests as hearty and comfortable a reception as the circumstances would permit – the house being vacant and the thermometer at about 20 degrees. We cut and carried several baskets of wood from the cellar to the second story front room and made a fire in the open grate. Reed, Trotter, Rhoads, Morris and I were in attendance. I was nominated chairman and Rhoads secretary.

The meeting was a grand success and adjourned to the following week when Mr. Voelker appeared making the sixth member. The question then came up for discussion in regard to a name for our club. From the many which were offered it was unanimously agreed to accept the one offered by Dr. Trotter.

At the third meeting Mr. Stone made his debut making a total of seven members when the constitution, was adopted and the wheels of the society set in motion.

William L. Baily

[copied from paper read before the Club January 5, 1891]