Skip to main content

Department of Vertebrate Paleontology correspondence

Identifier: VPA 105

Scope and Contents

Department of Vertebrate Paleontology correspondence from 1887-1966, alphabetized by subject or author. Hundreds of scientists worldwide are represented by correspondence and include Alexander Agassiz, Glover M. Allen, Florentino Ameghino, Erwin H. Barbour, Franz Boas, Stephen F. Borhegyi, Robert Broom, Barnum Brown, Hermon C. Bumpus, Edwin H. Colbert, Thomas Alva Edison, Walter Granger, William T. Gregory, Claude W. Hibbard, D.A. Hooijer, William T. Hornaday, Remington Kellogg, Charles R. Knight, George Kunz, Bjorn Kurten, Richard Swann Lull, Richard Lydekker, James Reid Macdonald, William D. Matthew, Malcolm C. McKenna, John C. Merriam, Charles C. Mook, J.P. Morgan (Sr. and Jr.), Frederick K. Morris, Henry Fairfield Osborn, Alfred Romer, Bobb Schaeffer, George Gaylord Simpson, Charles H. Sternberg, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Jacob Wortman, and Zhongjian Yang (C. C. Young).


  • 1887-1966


Language of Materials

English, French, German, Italian

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed in the Division of Paleontology. Please contact the collection manager for access; materials are sometimes restricted.

Historical note

The Department of Vertebrate Paleontology began as a new department of the American Museum of Natural History with the arrival of Henry Fairfield Osborn (1857-1935) as curator in 1891. Under the guidance of H. F. Osborn, the years following are marked with substantial areas of growth in the department’s paleontology collections and scientific staff. In 1895 and 1897, the Museum purchased Edward Drinker Cope’s (1840-1897) North American fossil mammal collection consisting of approximately 10,000 specimens, many of which are important Type specimens that became the core of the fossil mammal collection.

From the mid-1890s, notable vertebrate paleontologists arrived, namely William Diller Mathew (1857-1935), William K. Gregory (1876-1970), Walter Granger (1872-1941), Jacob Wortman (1856-1926), and Barnum Brown (1873-1963). H. F. Osborn’s astute hiring of these outstanding paleontologists marks the beginning of memorably-lead expeditions by Granger in 1901 to Egypt’s Fayum Basin, which added complete assemblages of Cenozoic animals to the collections, and in the 1920s, to the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, referred to as the Central Asiatic Expeditions. In 1902, Brown’s collecting at Hell Creek, Montana, lead to the discovery of the most famous dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus rex, and to the Dinosauria discoveries in the Rockies and Alberta.

In 1916, H. F. Osborn, by then Museum President since 1908, and the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology began a long association with Childs Frick (1883-1965) until his death. Through this association, the Museum gained through donation in 1965, Frick’s collection of 200,000 fossil mammals collected by his expedition teams to the American West.

Twentieth century collecting and curatorial influence continued through 1966 with another generation of distinguished Paleontologists. Employed during this period were Edwin H. Colbert (1905-2001), authority on Dinosauria; George Gaylord Simpson (1902-1984), expert on mammal diversity and evolutionary theory; Bobb Schaeffer (1913-2004), expert of fossil fish; Malcolm C. McKenna (1930-2008), authority on mammal classification.


46.04 Linear Feet (111 boxes)


Alphabetized by subject or author.


Historic Call Number: 1:1

VPA 1, VPA 13



American Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Paleontology general correspondence, 1887-1966
Melissa Silvestri, Allyson Mellone, Alana Gishlick, 2021
2021 August
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Minimal level collection record created with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Museums for America grant, 2020.

Repository Details

Part of the Vertebrate Paleontology Archives Repository

200 Central Park West
New York NY 10024-5192