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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)
When Cassinia made its debut in 1901, its editor, Witmer Stone, commented:
"Since its organization in 1890, the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club has published an Abstract of its Proceedings, comprising four pamphlets: I, 1890-91; II, 1892-97; III, 1898-99; IV, 1900. These were intended for distribution among the members and their friends.
"With the growth of the interest in local ornithology and the increasing activity of the Club, it seems desirable to issue the more important local papers , which are presented at its meeting in full, and to add such observations on migration, etc. as shall make our publication an annual resume of local ornithology. As it is important for both birds and bird journals to have distinctive names, we have adopted one for our annual which is eminently local and at the same time is a slight tribute to one of America's greatest ornithologists. For the cover design of Cassinia we are indebted to our Associate member Mr. Alfred Morton Githens, while the portrait of Cassin is from a photograph presented to the Academy of Natural Sciences by Miss Lucy H. Baird, formerly to the property of her father, Prof. Spencer F. Baird."
The Githens cover survived through 1945. Subsequent ones have contained bird art or photographs Lead articles in early issues were important and informative biographies of noted ornithologists of the past, commencing appropriately with John Cassin in 1901. Stone contributed the majority with papers on Cassin, John K. Townsend, Samuel Woodhouse, Adolphus Heermann, Thomas Wilson, William Gambel, George McCall and Titian Ramsey Peale; Spencer Trotter wrote on Charles Lucien Bonaparte, William Turnbull and old Philadelphia taxidermists Samuel Rhoads on George Ord and Constantine Rafinesque; and George S. Spencer Morris on Edward Harris and William Bartram. Commencing in 1917 Stone undertook the sad task of writing lead article obituaries of his associates in the Club - Samuel Wright in the 1917 issue, Stewardson Brown in 1921, George Spencer Morris in 1924, Spencer Trotter in 1930 and Charles Pennock in 1937. The last in this almost uninterrupted series was James A.G. Rehn's 1939 tribute to and account of the life of the man who made the D.V.O.C. what it was and what it is-Witmer Stone.
Because so little was known about the distribution of birds in the early days, articles on the travels and findings of the pioneers in South Jersey, the Poconos and other counties to the west and north of Philadelphia were prominent features. Travel was not easy, and some of the accounts make fascinating reading.
For sheer enjoyment of beautiful prose, one must read the essays by such masters of the pen as Cornelius Weygandt with his "Chimney Swifts," "The Wood Thrush," "Consider the Swan," "Some Birds of Brown's Mills," "Summer Birds of Broadhead's Creek" and "Summer in the Poconos"; Morris with "Down the Pocomoke" and "The Valley of the Tacony"; Herbert Coggins with "The Heart of the New Jersey Pine Barrens" and "Crow Roost and Flight Lines"; and Samuel Scoville with "The Evening Grosbeak" and "The Pileated Woodpecker."
Another feature was the spring migration report, assiduously tabulated by Stone with first arrival and bulk arrival dates. These reports continued through 1930, when it was decided that "the cumulative data of many years have pretty well determined the average dates and it is believed that the space formerly occupied by tables will be better used for additional notes on species."
A Field Notes section encompassing all field notes worthy of mention was a valuable and regular feature through the year 1971, when it was regrettably discontinued. Now one must consult American Birds, The Delmarva Ornithologist, Records of New Jersey Birds and, since its inception, Pennsylvania Birds, to find the data which were once an integral part of the magazine.
An interesting feature introduced by Stone in 1901 and continued through 1924 was Club Notes section, with news of the members, their travels, who attended the A.O.U. meeting and how many papers they presented, items about the Spencer F. Baird Club and the Pennsylvania Audubon Society, reports of field trips taken, special events and any other items of interest.
A valuable and very complete bibliography of publications relating to the birds of region first appeared in 1905 and continued through 1951.
More recent issues have contained comprehensive reports on the birds of various regions within the Delaware Valley, often with annotated lists. As the Club has grown, so too have the number of obituaries in these pages. By far the most valuable addition to the product mix in recent years has been the increasing use of photographic documentation of rare and unusual sightings, the majority contributed by Alan Brady and the late Serge LaFrance, whose untimely death in 1988 cut short a brilliant photographic talent.
Cassinia was published annually through 1919. Expanding printing costs and other factors resulted in two or more years sometimes being combined into a single issue. Publication every other year now seems to be the norm that is economically feasible. There have been fourteen editors. Stone's ten-year tenure was the longest, terminated by his selection as editor of the Auk, followed by Meritt with nine issues. Trotter and Choate with six, Robert T. Moore and Chandler Ross with five, Philip Livingston with four, Richard Bell, Ed Fingerhood and Lester Thomas with three, and Wharton Huber, Brooke Worth, Albert Conway, Keith Richards with one, plus Franklin Haas beginning with this issue.
Two years after the Club's founding, a publication committee of Norris, Rhoads and Stone was appointed to prepare the way for a work on the birds of the Delaware Valley. Data were to come from the field notes of the members, all previously published data, and from the replies to a circular to be sent to other ornithologists and sportsmen requesting distribution data. The result was the publication in 1894 by the Club, with Stone as the author, of The Birds of Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. This bound volume of 185 pages was offered for one dollar and brought up to date everything known about the past and present status of the region's avifauna. The thoroughness of the prepara- tion is indicated by a bibliography of 235 titles covering the period from 1799 to 1894.
By far the Club's most important publication was Stone's Bird Studies at Old Cape May in 1937, one of a handful of truly great American ornithological works and winner of the A.O.U.'s coveted Brewster Medal. Nearly one hundred members of the Club are mentioned by Stone as having had a part in its preparation, with special mention given to the contributions of Walker Hand, Julian Potter, Charles Urner, Fletcher Street, Turner McMullen and Richard Miller. Earl Poole painted the frontispiece for each volume, an Osprey and a ' Laughing Gull. Of 240 photographs used, 88 were taken by Huber, 42 by Baily, 25 by Potter, 11 by John Bartram and Street and 10 by Norman McDonald. When long out of print and selling at prices in the secondary market only affordable to book collectors, the Club sold reprint rights to Dover Publications, and the proceeds became the nucleus of the Club's Endowment Fund.
Birds of the Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania, by Phillips Street, which first appeared in the 1954 Cassinia, was published as a book by the Club in 1956.
Pennsylvania Birds by Earl Poole was published in 1964. This annotated list, a condensation of material the author had amassed toward the eventual wnting of a much larger work, is the first state-wide book since Warren's Birds of Pennsylvania in 1890.
The Club has published three editions of A Field List
of the Birds of the Delaware Valley Region, in 1954, 1959 and 1972. A revised
edition is now in preparation.
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