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Central Asiatic Expeditions records

Identifier: Mss .C446

Scope and Contents

This collection is a record of the Museum’s explorations undertaken during the 1920s in the Gobi Desert under the leadership of Roy Chapman Andrews. A list of the men who participated in the CAE can be culled from the expeditions’ letterheads used by museum personnel in New York. All but three of the men cited on these letterheads are represented here. Those not found are Mont Reid, a physician, James Wang, an interpreter and G. Horwath of motor transport. The variety of other correspondents ranges from a Russian veterinarian working in Mongolia (Andrei Dudukaloff) to three members of the Colgate (soap) family. Missionaries were important to Andrew’s work and they are represented in both Correspondence: Individuals and Expedition Subjects. The collection also deals with the publication of The Natural History of Central Asia. Twelve volumes of The Natural History of Central Asia were scheduled but only six were published. There are papers for all but Nos. 6, 7 and 9 in this collection; references to Nos. 6 and 7 can be found in Henry Fairfield Osborn’s folders, Box 4.

1) “The New Conquest of Central Asia” by Roy Chapman Andrews. Published 2) “Geology of Mongolia” by C.P. Berkey & F.K. Morris. Published 3) “Geologic Studies in Mongolia” by C.P. Berkey & others 4) “The Permian of Mongolia” by A.W. Grabau. Published 5) “The Topography of Mongolia” by C.P. Berkey & others 6) “The Age of Reptiles in Mongolia” by H.F. Osborn and Walter Granger 7) “The Age of Mammals in Mongolia” by H.F. Osborn and Walter Granger 8) “The Archaeology of Mongolia” by H.C. Nelson and Alonzo Pond 9) “The Fresh-water Fishes of China” by J.T. Nichols. Published 10) “The Reptiles of China” by Clifford Pope. Published 11) “The Mammals of China and Mongolia” by Glover M. Allen. Published 12) “The Botany and Paleobotany of Mongolia” by R.W. Chaney


  • 1916-1940
  • Majority of material found within 1921-1933


Access Conditions and Restrictions

Please contact Special Collections; materials are sometimes restricted.

Biographical Note

Andrews, Roy Chapman

As leader and zoologist, Andrews was chiefly responsible for fundraising and organizing the Expedition. He attended Beloit College before working at the AMNH in the taxidermy department while earning a masters degree in mammalogy from Columbia University. Andrews traveled the U.S. to raise awareness and funds for the CAE, eventually to become a well-known figure and director of the American Museum of Natural History.

Badmajapoff, T.

Badmajapoff was officially part of the CAE as a representative of the Mongolian government. An advisor to the minister of justice in 1922, he eventually became a high-ranking government minister.

Beckwith, Radcliffe H.

Beckwith was a geologist during 1926 and 1927 Expeditions and author of Contributions to the Geology of Northern Mongolia (1934).

Berkey, Charles P.

Berkey was the chief geologist during the 1926 and 1927 Expeditions, and a professor at Columbia University. He was a consultant for extraordinary construction projects, including the Catskill Aqueduct, the George Washington Bridge across the Hudson River, the Triborough Bridge, Lincoln Tunnel, Saint Lawrence Seaway, Queens-Midtown and Brooklyn-Battery tunnels, Hoover Dam, Grand Coulee Dam, the Panama Canal, and the United Nations Building. He wrote Geology of Mongolia: a reconnaissance report based on the investigations of the years 1922-1923 and co-authored Life and Letters of R.A.F. Penrose, Jr.

Butler, Fredrick B.

Butler was a lieutenant of the Army Corps of Engineers before becoming a member of the CAE as assistant topographer in 1925. He rejoined his military unit after the expedition. Butler prepared an intelligence report on his observations in Inner Mongolia for the War Office in Washington.

Chaney, Ralph W.

Chaney was a paleobotanist for the 1925 Expedition. In 1970, he was awarded the Paleontology Society Medal, one of the Paleontological Society’s most prestigious honors awarded to a person whose eminence is based on advancement of knowledge in paleontology.

Colgate, S. Bayard

Colgate was the chief of motor transport for the 1922 season. He graduated from Yale, and was an accomplished mechanic. Before the Expedition, he further refined these skills with a special training at the Dodge and Fulton factories. His father, Sidney M. Colgate, and two of his uncles, Austin and Russell Colgate of the Colgate-Palmolive Company and Colgate University, were influential supporters of the CAE.

Eriksson, Joel

Eriksson operated Swedish missions at Hallong Osso and Hatt-in-Sumu where the Expedition frequently stopped. From 1926 to 1930, he acted as an expedition agent in, for instance, organizing the purchase of a new camel caravan when it was lost to bandits. He also relayed reports to Andrews from nomad informants about fossil deposits.

Garber, A.Z.

A medical doctor at Peking Union Medical College, Garber joined the CAE as surgeon for the 1930 expedition.

Grabau, A.W.

Grabau was a German-American paleontologist. As research associate for the CAE, he represented the National Geological Survey, a government-supported organization whose main functions were to conduct geological and paleontological research, locate mineral resources, and train students in these fields. In 1901, Grabau became a professor at Columbia University in New York and later became a professor at Peking National University in 1919. A prolific author, he published at least 10 books in the first half of the 20th century, including The Permian of Mongolia, the 4th volume of The Natural History of Central Asia.

Granger, Walter

As chief paleontologist and second-in-command of the CAE from 1921-1930, Granger was the associate curator of fossil mammals before joining the CAE. He discovered the velociraptor, oviraptor and protoceratops, and the skull of a mammal from the Cretaceous period. He was known for his prolific collection of fossil vertebrates in Wyoming, New Mexico, Fayum (Egypt), China and Mongolia.

Hill, W.P.T.

Hill was as one of the Marine Corps’ first aviators. He served as a geologist during the survey of the Alaskan coal fields as a member of the Naval Alaskan Coal Commission. As Captain, he commanded a company assigned to the American Legation in Peking, China. While there, he participated in the CAE as topographer in the 1920 Expedition. Established in 1985 in his honor, the W.P.T. Hill award recognizes quality food service operations and best messes in the Marine Corps.

Horvath, G.

As assistant to Mac Young, Horvath was responsible for motor transport in the 1928 Expedition. He was previously employed as an expert mechanic for Frazar Federal Company of Tientsin as an agent for the Dodge Brothers motorcars.

Johnson, Albert F.

Johnson was a paleontologist employed by the American Museum of Natural History. After working extensively with the paleontologist Barnum Brown, he joined the 1923 CAE as assistant in paleontology. He discovered a group of 9 dinosaur eggs at the Flaming Cliffs.

Johnson, C. Vance

Vance Johnson was head of motor transport in 1923. An expert mechanic, Johnson was recruited from an automobile distributor in Peking to join the CAE.

Kaisen, Peter C.

Kaisen was an assistant in paleontology for the 1923 Expedition. He was previously a member of the American Museum of Natural History’s 1900 expedition to the Bone Cabin Quarry in Wyoming which discovered Ornitholestes, the first theropod to be found.

Larsen, F.A.

Larsen was an interpreter and expedition agent for the CAE from 1922 to 1926. A respected foreigner from Sweden, Larsen arrived as part of the first Christian and Missionary Alliance missionary to Mongolia in 1893, but soon abandoned it for breeding and selling horses in Kalgan and Urga. The Hutukhtu, the Living Buddha, awarded Larsen an honorary title as the “Duke of Mongolia,” for his emissary role on behalf of the Mongolians in resolving political issues with the Chinese, as he was conversant in Chinese and Mongolian. Larsen assisted Andrews on numerous occasions, outfitting the party with scarce supplies, and arranging to borrow heavy-duty carts, interpreters, and horses. He also accompanied the Expedition as translator and excavation assistant, and acted as Andrew’s personal representative in obtaining permission for exploration after the 1921 upheaval.

Loucks, H.A.

Loucks was the first surgeon to join the Expedition in 1925 while on leave from the Peking Union Medical College. Loucks discovered the skull of a titanothere, which Olsen excavated. It was named Embolotherium loucksi in his honor.

Lovell, Norman

A British mechanic, Lovell assisted in motor transport in 1925. He discovered eighteen eggs standing on end in a double row at the Flaming Cliffs.

Matthew, W.D.

A vertebrate paleontologist who worked primarily in mammal fossils, Matthew planned to join the Expedition in 1926 before it was cancelled. Matthew was curator of the American Museum of Natural History from the mid-1890s to 1927, and director of the University of California Museum of Paleontology from 1927 to 1930. An evolutionary theorist and author, Matthew published the classic work, Climate and Evolution (1915) in which he argued that mammals had migrated out of Asia to far-distant parts of the globe by means of land bridges such as the Bering Strait between Asia and North America, the Isthmus of Panama into South America, and now-vanishing connections between Europe and Africa, and Southeast Asia and Australia. Like Osborn, he was a proponent of the Asia hypothesis, which proposed that the great plateau of Central Asia was the dispersal center for primates and their human offshoots.

Morris, Frederick K.

Morris was a geologist for the 1922, 1923 and 1925 Expeditions. He was a Columbia faculty member, structural geologist and former consultant in geography to the U.S. Department of State. He also taught in China at Pei Yang University in Tientsin.

Nelson, Nels C.

A Danish-American archaeologist, Nelson joined the CAE in 1925. In 1911, he began work at the American Museum of Natural History on an archaeological survey of the upper Rio Grande valley on New Mexico excavating Pueblo ruins. At the Gobi desert’s Flaming Cliffs, Nelson discovered an array of man-made artifacts and named the Neolithic people who used them “Dune Dwellers.” In 1925 Nelson explored a number of caves along the banks of the Yangtze River in search of prehistoric man. In 1926, Nelson and Granger mapped a paleontological and archaeological survey of Yunnan Province.

Olsen, George

Olsen was an assistant in paleontology for the CAE from 1923 to 1925. He discovered the first specimen of Alectrosaurus in 1923, as well as Gilmoreosaurus. The CAE became known for his historic discovery of fossilized dinosaur eggs in 1923 at Shabarakh Usu. He also excavated a tintanothere skull discovered by Loucks, later named Embolotherium loucksi. Olsen and Osborn wrote Andrewsarchus, Giant Mesonychid of Mongolia.

Perez, J.A.

Perez served as the surgeon for the 1928 Expedition. He operated on Andrews’ leg after an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound, and treated Horvath for a knife injury. Perez also treated Chinese Muslim men suffering from advanced stages of syphilis at a temple in Kansu.

Pond, Alonzo W.

An archaeologist for the 1928 Expedition, Pond helped excavate the Dune Dweller sites, as well as ancient tombs in the Gobi desert. In 1924, he was assistant curator of the Logan Museum of Anthropology in Beloit, Wisconsin before conducting excavations of prehistoric sites in Northeastern Algeria in search of primitive man in 1925-26.

Pope, Clifford H.

Pope was a herpetologist of the CAE’s Chinese division from 1921 to 1926. Between 1921 and 1923, Pope collected specimens in the provinces of Anhwei, Hunan, Shansi and the island of Hainan. In 1925-26 he worked in Kiangsi and Fukein. He collected over six thousand specimens – the most comprehensive collection of reptiles, amphibians, and fish of that time. Pope eventually became a prolific author and one of the world’s leading herpetologists, holding curatorial positions at the American Museum of Natural History and the Field Museum. He wrote China’s Animal Frontier and The Reptiles of China, Volume X of Natural History of Central Asia.

Roberts, L.B.

Roberts was the chief topographer in the 1925 Expedition. He was a member of the Army Reserve, and rejoined his military unit after the 1925 Expedition.

Robinson, H.O.

An Englishman assigned to the First Royal Lancashire Regiment at the British legation in Peking, Robinson was an assistant topographer in 1925. At the Flaming Cliffs, he uncovered a cache of egg fragments laid by a giant ostrich known as Struthiolithus that had inhabited the Gobi during the Pliocene or early Pleisocene epoch.

Shackelford, J.B.

Shackelford was the Expedition photographer in 1922, 1925 and 1928. An expert in handling the Akeley camera, Shackelford produced footage and photographs of the Expedition, including the last Festival of the Maidari or “Coming Buddha” in Urga in 1922. He is credited to have discovered the Flaming Cliffs, as well as the skull of a parrot-beaked, frill-headed dinosaur named Protoceratops andrewsi in 1922.

Spock, L. Erskine Spock was a student of Berkey’s and geologist for the 1930 Expedition. He also worked on map formations. He co-authored Pennsylvanian Foraminifera from Mongolia (1933).

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre

Teilhard de Chardin joined the 1930 Expedition as a geologist. He was a French philosopher, Jesuit priest and scientist who trained as a paleontologist and geologist and took part in the discovery of Peking Man in 1929 and Piltdown Man. Teilhard de Chardin devised the concept of the Omega Point and developed Vladimir Vernadsky’s concept of Noosphere.

Thompson, Albert

Thompson was an assistant in paleontology for the CAE from 1928 to 1930. He had previously assisted Granger and Osborn on the American Museum of Natural History’s Bone Cabin Quarry expedition in Wyoming in 1899. At the CAE’s Wolf Camp, he and Granger discovered the remains of a mother and infant shovel-tusked Platybelodon. Wyman, W.G.

Graduate of the US Military Academy in 1919, Wyman served as a topographer for the CAE. He prepared an intelligence report on his observations in Inner Mongolia for the War Office in Washington, D.C.

Young, J. McKenzie

Young was the chief of motor transport for the expedition from 1923 to 1930, and responsible for Expedition affairs in China in Andrews’ absence. Prior to the Expedition, Young studied mechanical engineering at Carnegie Institute of Technology, and business administration at Pittsburg Academy. He also served with the Canadian Garrison Artillery, the Royal Air Force, the Royal North West Mounted Police, and the US Marine Corps.


7 Linear Feet (14 boxes)

Language of Materials



Some fragile documents.

Related Materials

Call number: 51-F v.1 , 2, 3 Title: Journals of expeditions to Mongolia from 1919 to 1930 Author; Andrews, Roy Chapman, 1884-1960.

Collection of journals kept during the Asiatic Expeditions to China and Mongolia, 1919-1930. Also available on microfilm: Archives Microfilm #31

Call number: Film Collection no. 146 Title: The Central Asiatic Expeditions fauna.

Filmed during the AMNH Third Asiatic Expedition to China and Mongolia, 1921-1930. The expedition collected zoological specimens throughout Mongolia, but the main collecting was done in the Gobi Desert.

Call number: Film Collection no. 147 Title: Central Asiatic Expeditions fossils and artifacts. Filmed during the AMNH Third Asiatic Expedition to China and Mongolia, 1921-1930. The film records the paleontological finds of the expedition. The most important is shown first: the discovery of the "perfect dozen" nest of dinosaur eggs by George Olsen, paleontologist, at the Flaming Cliffs of Shabarakh Usu in the Gobi Desert.

Call number: Film Collection no. 148 Title: Central Asiatic Expeditions maps, staff and transportation. Filmed during the AMNH Third Asiatic Expedition to China and Mongolia, 1921-1930. The film opens with animated maps tracing the routes of the expeditions. Members of the expedition staff are introduced as they work in the field

Call number: Film Collection no. 149 Title: The Central Asiatic Expeditions Mongols.

China and Mongolia, 1921-1930

Call number: Film Collection no. 150 Title: The Central Asiatic Expeditions Peking.

Filmed during the AMNH Third Asiatic Expedition to China and Mongolia, 1921-1930. Film brought from the U.S. was intended for recording the expedition, but some precious film was used to photograph Peking (now Beijing), the site of the expedition's headquarters.

AMNH Library Special Collections has ca. 4896 photographic prints, including various expedition photographs, drawers 194, 195 and 196; field photographs, 1923, PPC.A63; and public relations photographs, 1921-1926, PPC.A631.

Additional archival material is available in the AMNH departments of Mammalogy and Paleontology.

General Physical Description note

Typewritten and handwritten letters including a few photographs and publications.

Central Asiatic Expeditions records, 1916-1940 (bulk 1921-1933)
Finding aid prepared by Jessica Fisher
August 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script 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
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New York NY 10024 USA
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