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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)

The Early Years

The Delaware Valley Ornithological Club came into being on February 3, 1890, when seven young men between the ages of 23 and 30 met at the 1624 Arch Street residence of William L. Baily's family in Philadelphia and adopted a constitution. The groundwork had been laid at a similar meeting there a week before. Those attending the preliminary meeting were Baily, George S. Morris, J. Harris Reed, Samuel N. Rhoads and Spencer Trotter. They were joined by Witmer Stone and Charles Voelker at the second meeting when the organization was formalized. The seven founders chose Baily as president and Rhoads as secretary-treasurer. We will hear more about these enthusiastic pioneers later.

The early history of the Club is well documented, but most of the sources of this information are not readily available today. Cassinia, the Club's journal, made its debut in 1901, and it was preceded by four small printed publications entitled Abstract of Proceedings of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club covering the years 1890 to 1900. The founding and aims of the young club were also described by Rhoads in a 1902 issue of Bird-Lore, "Bird Clubs in American, The Delaware Valley Club."

By far the most intimate and detailed account of the early years is presented in a souvenir brochure issued for the twentieth anniversary meeting. No author is credited with this delightfully written and amusing production, but one strongly suspects that it was Stone. The title on the cover is "D.V.O.C.1890-1910." The sub-title reads:

D. V. 0. C.
Twenty Year Souvenir
A Personal History of the Club
A Chronological List of Members and their Achievements

The bound minutes of all the meetings from the Club's inception through 1969 are in the custody of the Library of the Academy of Natural Sciences. There, too, is a meticulously prepared scrapbook containing much historical data for the years 1890 to 1899. In it are printed postcard meeting notices, bird paintings and sketches, field trip photographs, other Club announcements and clippings from the Public Ledger and The Philadelphia Record reporting on the meetings. Later minutes are still to be bound and placed in the Academy's care.

A 1986 book by Joseph Kastner, entitled A World of Watchers, traces the history of bird watching in this country "from its scientific beginnings to the great birding boom of today." The author devotes a fascinating chapter "The Good Fellows," to the Club. It is nice to read here that "even among the bird clubs, which were originally pretty exclusive groups themselves, the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club (D.V.O.C.) was considered to be the exclusive birding club, a reputation which persists to this day." Thank you, Mr. Kastner!

It is from all these sources, the notes of my father, J. Fletcher Street and my own, and the personal recollections of fellow members, that this account of the Club's history has been prepared.

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