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Updated Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Life and Final Resting Place of John Cassin

The DVOC's journal, Cassinia, is named in honor of John Cassin.

There are five North American birds that honor John Cassin in their common names - Cassin's Auklet, Cassin's Finch, Cassin's Kingbird, Cassin's Sparrow, Cassin's Vireo

John Cassin was born in Delaware County PA on September 6, 1813

Click Here for an article from Cassinia Volume XXII (1918) about his birth place

Cassin was one of the giants of American ornithology

To quote from Wikipedia...Click Here to read the full article.)

"John Cassin (September 6, 1813 - January 10, 1869) was an American ornithologist. He is considered to be one of the giants of American ornithology, and was America's first taxonomist, describing 198 birds not previously mentioned by Alexander Wilson and John James Audubon. Cassin drew, printed and hand-colored many of the illustrations for the Pacific Railroad Surveys as the western regions of the United States were explored. He was named curator of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences in 1842, and after John T. Bowen's death, he took control of the Academy. His "Illustrations" was intended to be a 3-volume work, but financial considerations prevented more than one volume being published."

Click Here for a more complete biography.

Click Here for a biography by Witmer Stone as published in Cassina Volume V (1901)

Click Here for information on John Cassin as published in Cassinia Volume XXII (1918)

Cassin died in Philadelphia on January 10, 1869

This is the "Return of a Death" that is in the Philadelphia City Archive.


Click Here for a larger image of this document

The official cause of death is listed as "Remittent Fever"

A definition of "Remittent Fever" is "A fever pattern in which temperature varies during each 24 hour period, but never reaches normal. Most fevers are remittent and the pattern is not characteristic of any disease, although in the 19th century it was considered a diagnostic term."

The actual cause of death, as listed in several places, was probably arsenic poisioning.

"Cassin's own life was dedicated to, and shortened by his love of birds. It is certain he knowingly suffered two decades of arsenic poisoning to further his knowledge. It is probably the arsenic led to his death at the age of 55. Yet John Cassin continued, in his own words, "mortgaging myself by perpetual lease to Arsenic and Liver complaint." The arsenic was contained in the mixture used to preserve the bird skins he would not stop handling. This was an era long before plastic gloves. John Cassin truly gave his life to bird study. Click Here for the full reference.

Cassin is buried in plot J97 of the Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia PA

Here is the grave marker at the Laurel Hill Cemetery

Here is a view of the Cassin plot. John Cassin's marker is the flat stone to the right.