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O. A. Stevens papers and correspondence

Identifier: Mss .S748

Scope and Contents

The items in this collection reflect Stevens’ academic correspondence between the years of 1909 and 1959. The majority of the topics center on his collection of bee and wasp specimens, their proper naming, and their research value to other amateur and professional entomologists. Some correspondence also touches on his botanical and ornithological pursuits, including several letters between Myron H. Swenk, Stevens’ long time correspondent and co-author of the highly regarded paper entitled “The Harris’s Sparrow and the study of it by trapping.”

Due to the volume of individual letters and their relative original disorder, the correspondence in this collection is organized alphabetically by correspondent and chronologically therein. Date ranges of the correspondence are included on the folder tab for easier searching.


  • 1909-1959
  • Majority of material found within 1920-1940


Access Conditions and Restrictions

Requests to use the collection should be made in advance to the Special Collections Librarian, who may be contacted at 212-769-5420 or at [email protected]

Biographical Note

O. A. Stevens (1885-1979) was born on a farm near Blue Rapids, Kansas. He spent most of his childhood interested in his local flora and had established a small but detailed herbarium by the time he graduated high school. His interest in botany only grew throughout his secondary education at Kansas State College, where he received his bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 1907. In 1909 he moved to North Dakota to work at the newly created State Seed Laboratory as a seed analyst. Stevens’ plant collecting continued on throughout his life, with studies resulting in several books on the subject including the celebrated The Handbook of North Dakota Plants in 1950. Throughout his academic career, he consistently added to his original childhood herbarium until it contained nearly 40,000 individual specimens. He eventually donated the collection to North Dakota State University (NDSU) where he served as professor for many years.

Parallel to his devotion to plant and seed preservation and study, he also collected native North Dakota bees and wasps that helped pollenate his plant subjects. Stevens’ entomology collection amassed more than 12,000 specimens, a few dozen of which had not yet been academically recorded. Due to this, he received the honor of having several species named after him, including Prosopis stevensi and the Dasymntilla stevensi.

Later in his life, Stevens also became involved in ornithology, serving as editor for the Inland Bird Banding News, secretary for the Inland Bird Banding Association, and author of the “North Dakota Bird Notes” series in the Fargo Forum and nearly 250 articles in North and South Dakota Horticulture.


0.75 Linear Feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials



Many of the letters are brittle due to age and paper quality. Those which are currently deteriorating have been put into mylar sleeves.

Related Materials

University Archives, North Dakota State University, Fargo Date: 2009 Creator: O. A. Stevens Extent: 12 linear ft. Note: Split into 15 series: Biography,Birds, Gale Monson Correspondence, Correspondence, Manuscripts, Interesting North Dakota Plants, Botany Newsletter, Radio Talks, Seed Analyst and Seed World, Dakota Farmer, Press Releases, North Dakota Bird Notes, Publications, Handbook of North Dakota Plants, and Subject Files.

AMNH Department of Invertebrate Zoology Creator: O. A. Stevens Note: Uncatalogued bee and wasp specimens from Stevens’ personal collection.

Physical Description

Contains mostly handwritten and typed correspondence. Also includes several itemized specimen lists. A handful of items in this collection are in the form of correspondence on small postcards which can be misplaced easily. Folders are labeled numerically and continue throughout the two boxes.

Processing Note

Processed by Janine Veazue, May 2014.


O. A. Stevens papers and correspondence, 1909-1959 (bulk 1920-1940)
Multilevel Complete
Janine Veazue
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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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