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Alfred Russel Wallace correspondence

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: Mss .W3551

Scope and Contents

The collection consists almost entirely of handwritten, signed letters from Wallace to Cockerell, along with a few postcards. There are also one letter from Wallace's wife, Annie, and four letters (one typewritten) and a postcard from Wallace's son, William, following Wallace's death; and one newspaper clipping. The bulk of the letters are an ongoing one-sided conversation between the two naturalists on their scientific work and theories, beginning with a discussion of Wallace's book, Darwinism, recently published at the beginning of the correspondence. Cockerell had apparently made some suggestions and Wallace wrote back. The letters continue until Wallace's death; Mrs. Wallace died a year later. The clipping is an announcement that the family of Alfred R. Wallace have invited James Marchant to edit a collection of Wallace's letters, requesting that people send in any they may have, and promising their speedy return. One of William Wallace's letters contains his thanks for Cockerell's giving up his own planned memoir in deference to Marchant.


  • 1890-1914


Restrictions on Access

Please contact Special Collections; materials are sometimes restricted.

Biographical / Historical

Alfred Russel Wallace was an English naturalist most famous for having independently developed the theory of natural selection before Darwin published his On the origin of species (1859). With Henry Walter Bates, Wallace made two major exploring expeditions: to the Amazon Basin, 1848-1852; and Indonesia and the Malay Archipelago, 1854-1862, both undertaken in order to study the questions of natural variation and evolution of species. Wallace's South American collection was lost in a shipwreck, leaving him with no evidence to support any publications; but his findings during his Indonesian trip led Wallace to publish an influential paper in 1855. His 1858 memoir sent from Maluku, Indonesia (Moluccas), had a powerful influence on Darwin and pushed him towards publication of his own work. During the 1880s, Wallace lectured on evolution, touring the United States in 1886-87. He published approximately 400 articles and over 20 books in his lifetime, including Geographical distribution of animals (1876), Island life (1880), and Darwinism (1889). Wallace's scientific views on evolution became increasingly influenced by his religious beliefs in his later years.

Biographical / Historical

Theodore Dru Alison Cockerell was a zoologist specializing in entomology. Cockerell was born in England, and in 1891 was appointed curator of the public museum in Jamaica. In 1893 he transferred to New Mexico as professor of zoology, eventually settling in Boulder, Colo. Cockerell began identifying specimens of insects sent to him from the American Museum of Natural History, and became a research associate in the Dept. of Insects and Spiders. Seventy-five of his over 3,000 scientific articles were published as Bulletins of the AMNH or American Museum novitates, the majority of them on insects, primarily bees. Cockerell was an expert on bees of the Rocky Mountains region, but pursued many other zoological interests, especially mollusks, and also including botany, ichthyology and paleontology. He led or participated in a number of collecting expeditions all over the world, accompanied by his wife, Wilmatte, who also collaborated in his research.


0.25 Linear Feet (1 box with 57 items)

Language of Materials



Organized into five folders. Arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift from Willmatte Cockerell (Mrs. T.D.A.), 1948.

Related Materials

AMNH Library has Alfred Russel Wallace : letters and reminiscences (2 v.) [compiled by] James Marchant (1916) located in the Main Stacks at QH31.W2 A5 1916.

AMNH Library has Darwinism (1889) located in RBC 10-F; a copy of the 3rd ed. (1905) is in the Main Stacks at QH366.W2 1905.


This collection is also known as Cockerell-Wallace correspondence or Wallace-Cockerell correspondence.

Alfred Russel Wallace correspondence, 1890-1914
Language of description
Script of description
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