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Frederick B. Butler collection on the 1925 field season of the Third Asiatic Expedition

Identifier: Mss .B88

Scope and Contents

This collection contains field notes written by Butler during the 1925 field season (April 11-August 20) of the Third Asiatic Expedition. It also contains a typed diary detailing his experiences in Mongolia and discussing expedition staff members. Correspondences include letters to and from Butler and his wife in Tianjin (Tientsin), China, and official correspondences. Also included are various lectures ("Speech to the Algonquin Club. Boston, Dec. 7, 1926"; "Expedition lecture with lantern slides, Tientsin, China, October, 1925"; "Notes for interpreter on Mongolian lecture to be delivered to the Japanese officers, April 5, 1926") and article drafts (The China Pony and Mapping with Third Asiatic Expedition) written by Butler, issues of periodicals (The Cavalry Journal, Vol. 35, July and October 1926; and The Military Engineer, Vol. 18, July/August 1926) containing the published articles and a letter in response, a formal report of the expedition written by Butler for Army officials, and newspaper clippings reporting on the expedition (primarily from The Los Angeles Times and The San Francisco Chronicle). There is also a felt patch with the expedition insignia and a box containing 38 bits of Mongolian flints. This collection provides insight into Butler’s cartography work on the Third Asiatic Expedition and his personal experiences in Mongolia and with other members of the expedition.


  • 1924-1927
  • Majority of material found within 1925-1926



Please contact Special Collections; materials are sometimes restricted.

Biographical Note

Frederick Butler was born in California on October 5, 1886. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1918 and from the U.S. Army Engineer School ca. 1921. In 1925, First Lieutenant Butler was a cartographer with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. He had been recently married and stationed in Tianjin (Tientsin), China, when he was appointed assistant topographer for the 1925 field season of the Third Central Asiatic Expedition led by Roy Chapman Andrews. Butler worked as part of a three-member topographic team headed by Chief topographer, Major L. B. Roberts. Butler and his team left Peking (Beijing), China for Mongolia on April 11, 1925. The topographic team traveled a couple days in advance of the rest of the expedition to conduct topographical surveys of the area. The team recorded the expedition route and located on the maps places of particular scientific interest. During the trip, Butler also interacted with Mongolian natives and took note of the changing political times. The trip ended in August of 1925 and Butler returned to Tientsin. He went on to write a report on the trip for his Army superiors, a published article on his cartographic work, and gave lectures on his experiences. After the expedition, Butler returned to West Point as an instructor in the department of tactics. In the 1930s, Butler worked as Assistant Director of Public Buildings and Parks in Washington D.C. while his wife worked as a White House secretary. Both Butler and his wife worked in close contact with President Herbert Hoover and the first lady. Butler and his wife moved back San Francisco after Hoover’s presidency, where he helped build Treasure Island, an artificial island for the 1939–1940 Golden Gate International Exposition. Butler served as Brigadier General during World War II and was involved in the African and Italian campaigns and the invasion of Southern France. He received the Distinguished Service Cross and the Legion of Merit. After retiring from the Army ca. 1954, Butler became manager of the San Francisco International Airport. He died on June 20, 1987.


1 Linear Foot (3 boxes)

Language of Materials


Container list note

Box 1: Field notebooks, flint, and TAE patch

Box 2: Correspondences, newspaper clippings, Army report, and a Japanese article

Box 3: Article drafts, lectures, diary, The Military Engineer, and The Cavalry Journal

Source of Acquisition

This collection was donated by William H. Butler, Frederick Butler’s son, on August 21, 1987.

Related Materials

Central Asiatic Expeditions papers, circa 1919-1930s Mss .C446

Roy Chapman Andrews papers, 1912-1944 Mss .A51-.A54

The new conquest of central Asia : a narrative of the explorations of the Central Asiatic expeditions in Mongolia and China, 1921-1930 by Roy Chapman Andrews Q115 .C373

Central Asiatic Expeditions of the American Museum of Natural History By Roy Chapman Andrews Q115 .C37

"Topographic Surveys." Natural History, Vol. XXVI, No. 5 By L. B. Roberts QH1 .N346

On the trail of ancient man : a narrative of the field work of the Central Asiatic Expeditions by Roy Chapman Andrews Q115.C46 A52 1926

Dragon hunter : Roy Chapman Andrews and the Central Asiatic expeditions By Charles Gallenkamp QH31.A55 G36 2001

Separated Materials

Lantern slides, duplicate photographs, and negatives were removed and stored in the following locations:

70 lantern slides: LS 343 Butler TAE (2 boxes)

Duplicate field photographs: PPC C4462 Box 1 – Butler’s Scrapbook Box 2 – Miscellaneous duplicates – Butler’s sleeved and in separate envelope

Empty Negatives Albums, 4x5 (possibly containing one of Butler’s): PPC C4461 Central Asiatic Expedition, 1921 – 1930

Missing Negative Album, 1 5/8 x 2 1/2

Physical Description

Contains handwritten field notes, letters, article drafts, printed publications, a typed diary, flint and a felt patch.

Frederick B. Butler collection on the 1925 field season of the Third Asiatic Expedition, 1924-1927 (bulk 1925-1926)
Laura Smith
November 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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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