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Roger Conant collection

 Collection
Identifier: Mss .C667
Correspondence, monographs, maps, articles, personal papers and oil paintings.
Roger Conant (1909-2003) was a herpetologist whose specimen collection resides in the herpetology department of this museum. The author of the “Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians: Eastern and Central North America,” he served as the director of two Zoos, in Toledo and Philadelphia, and for many years was on the faculty of the University of New Mexico as an adjunct professor.

Conant was a prolific writer. Letters, magazine articles, pamphlets and books of many sizes flowed from his pen, pencil and typewriter over a long span of years. By any measure he was a self-made man. Unable, because of family finances, to go for more than two years to the University of Pennsylvania, he entered the scientific community with no academic credentials, only the interest in and knowledge of reptiles that began when he was a boy. But these were enough to gain him his first professional position, as curator of reptiles at the Toledo Zoo in 1929. Conant’s autobiography, “Field Guide to the Life and Times of Roger Conant,” was published in 1997 and the Museum has a copy. A “Resume” that he wrote in February 2003, a few months before he died, is in a folder at the beginning of Box 1.

The oldest document in the collection is the marriage license of Conant’s mother, dated 1904. The earliest date in Conant’s own file, is 1921, when he was a Boy Scout. The preponderance of the documents in this collection is letters, which he was firing off almost to the day he died. Most of his correspondence was with herpetologists or other scientists with an interest in herpetology, and it is to be assumed that the men, and few women, to whom he wrote represented the spectrum of his field. Two who stand out for reasons other than their herpetological connection are Sherman A. Minton Jr., M.D. whose father was appointed to the Supreme Court by Harry Truman, and Arthur Loveridge, who settled on the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic after he retired from the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. There is also an exchange of letters with Robin Roberts, a star of the Philadelphia Phillies, after he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976.

It is known that two of Conant’s correspondents died of snake bite: Karl P. Schmidt and Frederick A. Shannon, M.D. Conant himself lost a thumb to one of his specimens, an event described in detail in chapter 3 of his autobiography.

Dates

  • 1904-2003
  • Majority of material found within 1930-1995

Creator

Restrictions on Access

Please contact Special Collections; materials are sometimes restricted.

Extent

57.25 Linear Feet (117 boxes)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Bequest of Roger Conant.

Related Archival Materials

AMNH Special Collections has additional material from the Conant collection in Photographic Prints.
Title
Roger Conant collection, 1904-2003 (bulk 1930-1995)
Status
completed
Author
Eleanor N. Schwartz
Date
April 2007
Language of description
English
Sponsor
The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation provided support to make this finding aid available in ArchivesSpace (2016-2017).

Repository Details

Part of the Research Library Special Collections Repository

Contact:
American Museum of Natural History
Library Services, Special Collections
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York 10024-5192 USA US
(212) 769-5420