DVOC Main Page > History > Street Article > Some Members of Distinction
A History of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club, The First One Hundred Years
by Phillips M. Street (as published in Cassinia No. 63 1988-1989 Centennial Edition)
Some Members of Distinction
The Founders and many others have already been mentioned whose contributions were in the first half century of the Club's existence. Presented here are further notes on some of these persons and vignettes of members who came later. Space does not permit comments on all who did their share and more on behalf of the organization through the years, but the writer hopes that he has included the majority of the most prominent and apologizes for any omissions. The task has been simplified somewhat by only including members now deceased. Some future historian can comment on those now living and active.
Dr. Samuel Woodhouse (1821-1904), the last of that group of early ornithologists which included Cassin, Gambel, Nuttall and Townsend, had long since retired from active service when in 1898 he met Stone at the Academy and was introduced to the D.V.O.C. He regularly attended meetings thereafter and was made an Honorary Member in 1900. His reminiscences of his experiences as physician and bird collector on expeditions to the Indian Territory of the Southwest and to Nicaragua and Honduras to explore mining possibilities and survey a route for an interocean canal, and his recollections of his contemporary ornithologists were a link to the past which fascinated his listeners.
Charles J. Pennock (1857-1935) of Kennett Square became a member in 1895 and was President from 1901 to 1903. He was an expert on the birds of southern Chester County and Delaware, which state appointed him state ornithologist. He was a founder of the American Bird Banding Association and served as curator of oology at the Academy. Almost half of Kastner's "The Good Fellows" is devoted to the incredible story of Pennock's mysterious disappearance upon leaving a D.V.O.C. meeting on the night of May 15, 1913, the subsequent appearance of learned articles on Florida birds in the Auk, Wilson Bulletin and other journals by a John Williams of St. Marks, Florida; and the 1919 discovery by Stone, then editor of the Auk, that the handwriting in a Williams manuscript was that of Pennock. A brother-in-law was sent to St. Marks to find him, and Pennock returned home to continue his life as if nothing had happened and once more became an active member in the Club.
Although it becomes obvious while reading these pages that Witmer Stone (1866-1939) was the architect and guiding spirit of the Club from its inception until his passing, a tribute to him at the Club's twentieth anniversary meeting by George Spencer Morris nicely affirms how true this was even in those early days. "And there is Stone, ever at the tiller, quiet in manner, but potent in influence. No matter who may be President, we all recognize him as the person behind the throne. With infinite tact, he gives a push here and a pull there as occasion requires, keeping us all in line. In our hearts we know that the guiding hand of Stone has made the D.V.O.C. what it is."
Arthur Emien (1882-1941) joined the Club in 1897, was president from 1936 to 1938 and was probably Stone's closest friend in Stone's later years. He served on the Board of Trustees of the Academy and succeeded Stone as president of the Wissahickon Bird Club. His quiet, kindly presence at Club meetings and in the field made him a delight to be with.
Dr. William E. Hughes (1891-1944) became a member in 1891, the same year that he accompanied Robert E. Peary on one of his Arctic expeditions. He was president from 1895 to 1896. A medical doctor, Hughes was widely known as one of the foremost diagnosticians in the country. Stone commented in the Twenty Year Souvenir brochure that "probably no one man did more to make the Club a success than he. Ever ready to take part in or further field work far and near, so long as there was some ultimate prospect of eggs; and once in the field no one could equal his tireless energy or his zeal to promote the interests of other members of the party. As president at a critical time in the Club's history, he added dignity to the conduct of the meetings and at the same time placed everyone at his ease."
J. Fletcher Street (1880-1944), a member since 1903, was president from 1919 to 1921 and was treasurer of the A.O.U. at the time of his death. He was an able artist, a naturalist in the broadest sense and author of the book entitled Brief Bird Biographies, which was illustrated with his own pen and ink drawings. "Popular, energetic, with a faculty of making and keeping friends, Street, next to Witmer Stone, probably did as much as anyone toward building up the Club and stimulating the interest of its members," wrote T.S. Palmer in the July 1947 Auk.
George H. Stuart 3rd (1872-1944) joined in 1913 and served as president from 1925 to 1927. A banker, he was for several years chairman of the In vesting Trustees of the A.O.U. An ardent oologist, his collection, gathered locally and in distant parts of the country and Canada, was presented to theAcademy by his widow.
John D. Carter (1874-1947), a member since 1900, was president from 1928 to 1930. He was an indefatigable nest finder, a good preparator and an oologist. His mounted specimens and collection of nests and eggs are housed in the Westtown School museum. He summered in the Poconos and contributed several articles to Cassinia on its birds.
One of our most colorful members was Samuel Scoville Jr. (1872-1950) who joined in 1907. He was a lawyer, writer and naturalist and an entertaining public speaker whose presence at a meeting or on a field trip always added to the enjoyment of the occasion. For years he wrote a column, "First Aid Law," in The Philadelphia Record, later continued in The Evening Bulletin and signed "A Philadelphia Lawyer." In it he gave legal advice colored with humor and many plugs for the natural world. He wrote several books, among them Boy Scouts in the Wilderness, Wild Folk, More Wild Folk, Lords of the Wild and Wild Honey.
John A. Gillespie (1893-1956), a member since 1927, served as president from 1942 to 1943. He was an avid bander, and he and his wife, Mabel, through whom he became interested in birds, maintained a banding station at their Glenolden home and banded over ten thousand birds. He particularly enjoyed working with birds of prey. He banded 91 Bald Eagles, often with Fred Schmid or Ed Reimann along to do the climbing, and 457 Ospreys. He was active in and a past president of the Eastern Bird Banding Association.
A young man who made an immediate impression was Richard D. Hariow (1889-1962), who became a member in 1904 a day after his fifteenth birthday. In 1910 Stone characterized him "as our most notable accession in recent years. When not engaged in breaking his limbs in pursuit of football fame, he is risking his neck in the pursuit of eggs." The Cassinia from 1905 on contains many contributions, including beautifully written major papers in 1906 on "Summer Birds of Western Pike County, Pennsylvania," in 1910 on "Breeding of the Raven in Pennsylvania," and in 1911 on "The Center Furnace Swamp." Two major papers in the Auk were "The Breeding Birds of Southern Chester County, Pennsylvania" in 1912 and "Breeding Habits of the Northern Raven" in 1922. His final paper, "The Tribal Nesting of the Pine Siskin in Pennsylvania," was published in the 1950 Cassinia. He was curator of oology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology while coaching football at Harvard. In 1936 his fellow coaches named him Coach of the Year, and he was elected into the Football Hall of Fame in 1954. He was a noted botanist specializing in ferns and gentians, and he maintained a garden at LaAnna in the Poconos with rare specimens from many parts of the world. The Club elected him an Honorary Member in 1956.
Julian K. Potter (1883-1963) joined the Club in 1911, served a record eleven years as secretary from 1919 to 1929, was president from 1933 to 1936, and was elected an Honorary Member in 1954. A great field ornithologist, all- around naturalist and teacher in the field of many a young ornithologist, his influence on others was profound. He served as a regional editor of The Seasons in Bird-Lore from its inception until 1960. The Club held a surprise dinner for him in 1958. Among the special guests who spoke were Roger Peterson, Charles Rogers and Alexander Wetmore. He was presented with a painting by Conrad Roland and a citation naming him as the first DEVOC, an award to one whose contribution to ornithology and the Club have been outstanding. Potter's influence continued long after his presidency, and it is safe to say that he is one of but a small handful of persons most responsible for the continued well-being of the Club. Like Stone before him, whether an officer or councillor or not, his influence was always there, either openly expressed or behind the scene. There has been no such dominant figure since.
James A.G. Rehn (1881-1965), a member since 1899, was president from 1922 to 1924. His professional niche at the Academy was entomology, and grasshoppers were his specialty. He described 954 species of Orthoptera new to science He was a naturalist in the widest sense and was equally at home as an ornithologist, mammalogist, herpetologist, ichthyologist or ecologist. Many of the present members have had the good fortune to have known this man of many talents and benefit from the knowledge which he so freely imparted at Club meetings. A kindly, gentle man who enjoyed the association with birders as much as the hobby of birding, delighting in their companionship on field trips and at meetings, was Henry T. Underdown (1875-1965). He served faithfully as treasurer for 32 years between 1927 and 1959 and was awarded a DEVOC in 1960, the second person to be so honored.
Norman J. McDonald (1885-1971), an Australian-born Scotsman, came to Philadelphia as a lad. He became a member of the Club in 1925, was president from 1944 to 1946 and was elected an Honorary Member in 1957. Mac was an all-around naturalist and imparted his knowledge freely to his fellow Club members and especially to the Boy Scouts. He served on the Scouts Philadelphia Council and was a founder of the Comstock Society, an organiza- tion devoted to furthering an appreciation of nature among scouts. Always in the forefront of any conservation effort, he worked for the preservation of open space in Cape May County, where he lived in his later years, for the establish- ment of the Tinicum refuge and for hawk protection in Pennsylvania. For these and many other endeavors, he was awarded a DEVOC in 1963, the third person to be so honored.
Wharton Huber (1877-1972) [Webmaster Note: The death date of 1972 is what is printed in the original Cassinia article. Research has confirmed that the correct date is 1942] joined in 1916, was editor of the 1925-1926 Cassinia and president from 1939 to 1941. He joined the staff of the Academy in 1920 and became curator of mammals in 1934. In 1921 he led the Academy's expedition to Nicaragua, where he and Fletcher Street collected birds, mammals, fish and insects. He did other extensive collecting for the Academy and was an excellent preparator.
Earl L. Poole (1892-1972), ornithologist and artist, became a member in 1910 and was made an Honorary Member in 1946. He joined the Reading Museum in 1925 and was its director from 1.938 until his retirement in 1957. He was a frequent visitor to Hawk Mountain to witness the hawk shooting and active in the campaign to stop it. His Half Century of Bird Life in Berks County is one of the most thorough regional works ever written. Pennsylvania Birds, published in 1964, was an abridgement of a planned much larger definitive work for which, unfortunately, sufficient publication funds could not be found. His paintings and line drawings were used in illustrating Bird Studies at Old Cape May; Birds of the West Indies, as well as the field guide which followed; and The Birds of Colombia.
Charles H. Rogers (1888-1977) became a Corresponding Member in 1905 and an Honorary Member in 1950. He participated in the first Christmas Count in 1900 and missed just one other, because of illness, during his life. He taught ornithology at Princeton and was curator of the bird collection there. One of his students was our fellow member, Robert Ridgely, now at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Rogers was one of the Club's most frequent speakers, often twice annually, describing with specimens the various bird families of the world. For forty years he hosted monthly gatherings of the New Jersey Field Ornithologists, an informal group whose original intent was to write a book on the birds of New Jersey, an idea which never came to pass. They would meet, after cocktails (of which he disapproved) and dinner, at Guyot Hall for an evening of talking birds and examining specimens. Many Club members participated in these interesting and informative sessions.
Joseph A. Jacobs (1917-1977) joined in 1940 and was president from 1970 to 1971. Ornithology and botany were his hobbies and South Jersey his territory. He was a bander and studied the results of pesticides on the reproductive capacity of Bald Eagles and Ospreys. Joe was in the field banding Ospreys when he was suddenly taken in 1977. He was an active conservationist and had a part in having the "Glades" at Fortescue set aside as a preserve. He served on the board of the New Jersey Audubon Society and as an officer of the Wetlands Institute.
John F. Mcllvain (1917-1977) became a member in 1933 at the age of sixteen and was president from 1960 to 1961. In the sixteen years following a near fatal automobile accident which left him crippled, he still managed to travel extensively in search of birds and seldom missed a field trip or census. His determination won the admiration of his many friends.
Next to Potter, the most dominant figure in the D.V.O.C. in the post World War Two years was Ernest A. Choate (1900-1980). He became a member in 1932, edited Cassinia from 1943 to 1949, was President from 1958 to 1959, and was made an Honorary Member in 1969. He enlivened meetings with humorous and often biting comments, opened his home in Cape May to participants in the Christmas Counts, for which he was the compiler for many years, and was active in Cape May conservation battles. He was a founder of the Cape May Geographic Society. Ernie traveled extensively and acquired a very considerable life list. Being both an English teacher and an ornithologist, he became interested in the derivation of bird names. He spoke several times on this subject at Club meetings and in 1973 published The Dictionary of Bird Names, which had a wide circulation. A second edition has been published since his death, with Raymond A. Paynter as editor, to bring it into conformity with the Sixth Edition of the A.O.U. Check-list.
Joseph M. Cadbury (1910-1983) joined in 1929, was president from 1952 to 1953, and became an Honorary Member in 1975. He excelled as a teacher of the natural sciences at the Germantown Friends School for over forty years and as an instructor at the Audubon summer camp in Maine. He was a sharp observer, with a superb ear, which was the envy of his birding friends. Countless persons have been made aware of nature's wonders through being fortunate enough to have been under this kindly man's tutelage.
Rodolphe Meyer de Schauensee (1901-1984), a member since 1922, was curator of ornithology at the Academy. He did field work and collecting in South America, Guatemala, Burma, Thailand and South Africa and reported on these expeditions to the Club in earlier years when he was an active member. He was a museum scientist, later specializing in systematics and distribution. His publications, widely used by Club members on their South American travels, included The Birds of Colombia, The Species of Birds of South America and Their Distribution, Guide to the Birds of South America and, with William H. Phelps Jr., A Guide to the Birds of Venezuela. A final work, published just two weeks before his death, was The Birds of China.
Another colorful member was Philip A. Livingston (1901-1986). A member since 1922, editor of Cassinia for the four issues from 1927 to 1941, president from 1956 to 1957, he was made an Honorary Member in 1971. He was never at a loss for words, was a delight to travel with and an excellent photographer and botanist. His Livingston Publishing Company specialized in publishing scientific books, and many of today's important bird books, as well as Cassinia, were edited and produced by Phil. He established the D.V.O.C. Book Club in 1952 to purchase bird books for the members at the publisher's discount and split the resultant saving between the purchaser and the Club treasury.
James Bond (1900-1989) joined the Club in 1923 and was made an Honorary Member in 1965. He was a curator of ornithology at the Academy and our oldest member in tenure at his death. He devoted a lifetime to the study of birds of the West Indies, and his Birds of the West Indies and the Field Guide to Birds of the West Indies which followed are the standard works on the region. For these studies he was awarded the Brewster Medal by the A.O.U. His other love was Maine, where he summered, and its warblers. He was an active participant in Club affairs for many years until ill health prevented his attendance. He presented many papers on the birds of the West Indies and Maine. A singular honor, of which he was most proud, was his selection in 1987 as an Honorary Member of the British Ornithologists' Union.
Horace Alexander (1889-1989) married an American lady in 1958 and shuttled between England and America until moving here permanently in 1969. He joined the D.V.O.C. in 1960 and was made an Honorary Member in 1973. This delightful English Quaker was an authority on the Phylloscopus warblers, which he studied both in Britain and in India. He spent a total of about ten years in India over five decades and was a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi. He served as an intermediary between India and Britain in the complex negotia- tions leading to Indian independence and stood by Gandhi's side on that day of independence. He enjoyed his membership in the Club, the field trips and outings with members. On several occasions he presented programs on the birds of Britain and India and the seabirds noted on fifteen crossings of the Atlantic. He was one hundred years of age at his death last year.
An exception must be taken from the previous statement that living members will not be included in these vignettes. Recognition is given here to James Meritt, who edited Cassinia for the four issues between 1961 and 1966 and then retired, only to step into the breach a year later and once again assume the editorship through another five issues. He was secretary from 1976 to 1977, vice president from 1978 to 1979 and president from 1980 to 1981. Then, when another crisis arose, he once again alleviated it by volunteering to serve as treasurer, an office he held for four more years. No other person in the history of the Club has served in so many capacities, and we owe him our grateful thanks.
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