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Henry Cushier Raven papers

Identifier: Mss .R38

Scope and Contents

The items in this collection reflect much of Henry Cushier Raven’s species data research from approximately 1920-1944. The collection consists of handwritten and typed notes and research; hand-drawn illustrations of animals and their dissections; photographs of specimens and expedition sites; and manuscript drafts associated with his various essays, articles, and scholarly publications. Research and illustrations on various whale species, land mammals, and Raven’s data from his Australia/ New Zealand expeditions are included. Also included are various book and film reviews, as well as several transcripts of radio broadcasts which featured Raven as a guest. Most notable items include his detailed illustrations on dissections, his photographs of expedition sites, and a small Mesoplodon pelvic bone.

The field notebook in box 5 records Raven’s planning and notes en-route during the American Museum of Natural History/Columbia University, AMNH Expedition to Central Africa. Similar to other expeditions he joined, Raven’s scientific activities were varied and numerous, ranging from casting plaster life masks, taking specimen and native tribal photographs, and collecting physical specimens for preservation and museum display. The contents of this notebook begin with several pages of contact information for personal letters and specimen shipments as well as a detailed expedition timetable and hand-drawn monthly calendars for reference. Raven hand-wrote several glossaries of common native terms into English (as well as one including the native terms for complex diseases such as tuberculosis), to which he check marked several terms- either those he used often, or those he had learned fully. The journal’s back cover has several b/w expedition photographs pasted on the inside. One of these photographs is of a small child with the name Marthe written underneath. This same name is written in script several times on the last page of the journal; once by a confident hand (possibly Raven), and another, presumably by the young girl herself. Many of Raven’s daily diary entries revolve around the tracking and gathering of gorilla specimens which was Raven’s priority mission on the expedition. The research, specimens, photographs, and illustrations from this expedition would later be used to produce the seminal 1950 publication of “The Anatomy of the Gorilla.” One page of the journal, which itemizes crates of ‘takeaway luggage,’ is of interest: at the end of the list, added most likely in haste, he writes, ‘1 box live chimp.’ This live chimp may well be better known to the Western world as Meshie.


  • circa 1912-1944
  • Majority of material found within 1920-1944

Access Conditions and Restrictions

Please contact Special Collections; materials are sometimes restricted.

Biographical Note

Henry Cushier Raven, (born April 16, 1889, Brooklyn, New York, U.S. -- died April 4, 1944), was an expert scientific illustrator, taxidermist, and collector of essential expedition specimens for several of the top natural history institutions in the United States, including Columbia University, Cornell University, Colorado Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Institution, and the American Museum of Natural History. Henry C. Raven's love for natural history combined with his talent for taxidermy led to a coveted position in 1907 at the American Museum of Natural History as an associate in the Department of Preparation. After a few years of exhibition arrangement, Raven left New York in 1910 and accepted a specimen collecting position at the Colorado Museum of Natural History. Only two short years later, in 1912, Raven was hired by the Smithsonian as a fresh, enthusiastic natural historian to carry on the work of William Louis Abbott and lead their expedition to the East Indies, collecting specimens for display. He spent the next ten years exploring the world in Australia, India, Peru, Greenland and beyond gathering species data and photographing natural habitats for various institutions. His contributions to mammalogy, comparative anatomy, and field photography are indispensable as we continue to understand more about the habitats and musculature evolution of animal species. Raven’s later work as Curator of Comparative Anatomy for the AMNH made it possible for him to utilize more of his skills as an expert taxidermist, dissecting and illustrating various species of whales and primates for the study of muscle structure and evolutionary patterns in development. His attention to detail both in his research notes and his scientific illustrations remain a benchmark for future study.

Outside of the scientific field, Raven is best known for his unofficial adoption of Meshie, a small infant chimpanzee he purchased while exploring the Congo in 1929. Meshie, who was popular with the local media, lived with Raven’s family for many years before being transferred to a zoo in Chicago as an adult. Upon her death, Meshie was returned to the ownership of the AMNH and now resides in the Hall of Primates.

Raven died in 1944 at age 55 from an acute malarial infection most likely contracted on his very first expedition in 1912 to Borneo and Celebes.


2 Linear Feet (5 boxes)

Language of Materials



Original administration notes on this collection are limited to a creator biography and collection summary, as well as related AMNH materials. There was no finding aid produced prior to this processing. Arrangement remains somewhat in original order (research notes, transcripts, manuscripts, etc.) with minimal rearrangement for space. Arrangement is not organized into series and subseries but presented as a detailed container list with folder titles and content descriptions. Field notebook was added to this collection in May 2014.


Fragile. Box 2, Folder 12 contains a small right pelvic bone from a Mesoplodon densirostris (Blainville's beaked whale/dense-beaked whale). Box 1, Folder 21 contains a soiled paper towel tissue in an original envelope marked ‘Physeter [Sperm whale] Blood.’ Current storage and containment of these items are based on the Conservation Department’s suggestions. Original folders have been replaced; photographs and illustrations are now protected in clear Mylar sleeves. The field notebook's spine and boards are rubbed; the top corner of the back cover is folded over, similar to a dog-eared page. Internally, pages are worn and yellowed. Near the rear of the notebook, Raven has inserted one b/w photograph of a sign 'HAUTE-VOLTA' which is not permanently secured.

Source of Acquisition

Transfer; AMNH Dept. of Mammalogy; 1988.

Field Notebook: Gift; Henry Raven (H. C. Raven’s son), 2014.

Separated Materials

No items have been removed or separated from this collection.

Physical Description

Collection contains published and unpublished manuscripts and essays, correspondence, research notes, and several dozen color and black-and-white anatomical illustrations and photographs. The collection also includes Raven's field notebook entitled 'Africa, 1929-1931' (with text on 115 unnumbered pages, 70 black pages, and 12 small photoprints, eleven of which are mounted on the inside back cover. The notebook (17 x 10.4cm) can be found in box 5.

Henry Cushier Raven papers, approximately 1912-1944 (bulk 1920-1944)
Multilevel Complete
Janine Veazue
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation provided support to make this finding aid available in ArchivesSpace (2016-2017). Finding aid created with support from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Hidden Collections grant, 2012.

Repository Details

Part of the Museum Archives at the Gottesman Research Library Repository

American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West
New York NY 10024 USA
(212) 769-5420