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Albert S. Bickmore papers

Identifier: Mss .B5351- .B5358

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of correspondence, diaries, manuscripts, reports, newspaper clippings and photocopies of journal articles, photographs of Bickmore, and one drawing. The bulk of Bickmore's papers (32 boxes) consists of correspondence, mostly typewritten, relating to his work as superintendent of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) and curator of the Dept. of Public Education. Additional material consists of handwritten diaries from Bickmore's travels; the typescript of his two-volume autobiography (1908); handwritten letters to his family, the earliest dating from 1854, and other personal items including photographs; and a typescript of a report on the work of the Dept. of Public Instruction dated February 9, 1900. The collection also includes a handwritten letter from Cyrus W. Field, dated May 7, 1892, in which he offers his collections of stuffed birds (accepted by Frank M. Chapman) and slides of soundings of the Atlantic Ocean to the museum; newspaper clippings and photocopies of articles about Bickmore and the AMNH; a list of Bickmore's donations to the AMNH; and an undated drawing by P.R. Uhler and Bickmore of a plan for a natural history museum. Correspondents include William Beutenmüller, Frank M. Chapman, Frederick A. Cook, Bashford Dean, Melvil Dewey, George T. Emmons, Louis A. Fuertes, George W. Fuller, J.B. Holder, William H. Holmes, E.O. Hovey, Charles R. Knight, George F. Kunz, Eadweard Muybridge, Henry F. Osborn, President Theodore Roosevelt, Heinrich Schliemann, Ernest Thompson Seton, Nikola Tesla, and A. Hyatt Verrill.


  • 1854-1914
  • Majority of material found within ( 1865-1903)


Conditions Governing Access

Please contact Special Collections; materials are sometimes restricted.

Biographical / Historical

Albert S. Bickmore was a museum curator and superintendent. Bickmore was the principal founder of the American Museum of Natural History and the organizer and first curator of the Dept. of Public Education; he was also curator of archaeology and curator of ethnology. After receiving his B.A. and M.A. from Dartmouth, and working at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, Bickmore traveled for three years between 1864 and 1867, through Indonesia, East Asia, Siberia and Europe, collecting specimens and studying ethnology, visiting the Ainu, Gilyaks and other peoples. On his return to the U.S., Bickmore worked with a group of prominent New Yorkers, including Morris K. Jesup, to draw up a petition and plan for an American natural history museum. When the AMNH opened in 1871, Bickmore was appointed superintendent. He developed a series of Lectures to teachers (1888-1903), illustrated with lantern slides, covering all the scientific disciplines in which the museum was involved, which could be presented to school groups or used by teachers in their classrooms. In 1884, he resigned his post of superintendent in order to act as curator of the Dept. of Public Instruction (later named the Dept. of Public Education), established in 1886. Bickmore continued to expand the educational work of the museum, offering lectures to the public and, in collaboration with Columbia University, developing courses in forestry, astronomy, mineralogy and chemistry. He retired in Jan. 1905 to become curator emeritus.


24 Linear Feet (43 boxes)

1 Item : drawing ; 45 x 70 cm.

Language of Materials



Correspondence (B5354) arranged: Organized into eight groups: B5351. Report of Feb. 9, 1900. B5352. Autobiography. B5353. Diaries, manuscripts, clippings, photographs. B5354. Correspondence, 1865-1903. B5355. Letter from Cyrus W. Field. B5356. 1996 accession, personal and family correspondence. B5357. Drawing of plan for museum. B5358. Letters to do with the founding of the AMNH, and Bickmore's donations. alphabetically by personal or corporate name, government agency, or subject.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Bickmore's letters from Asia, 1866-1867: Gift; Bickmore family.

Letter from Cyrus W. Field: Gift; Frank M. Chapman; 1935.

Drawing of museum plan and other documents relating to the formation of the AMNH: Gift; Mrs. Philip R. Uhler; 1938.

Bickmore's travel diary from Indonesia, 1866: Gift; Major Albert H. Bickmore III; 1990.

Miscellaneous personal letters and objects: Gift; Sharon Timmer; 1996.

Related Materials

AMNH Library has Lectures to teachers (typescripts, 43 vols.), located in RBC 71-A, and a microfilm set (4 reels), Archives Microfilm #70.

AMNH Library Special Collections has ca. 20,000 lantern slides (Catalogs available in Ref-Special Collections at TR653.A55: Lantern slides for public school use; and Lantern slides for general circulation to schools and other educational institutions).

Albert S. Bickmore papers, 1854-1914 (bulk 1865-1903)
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The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation provided support to make this finding aid available in ArchivesSpace (2016-2017). Minimal level collection record created with support from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Hidden Collections grant, 2010.

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