Skip to main content

Joseph Asaph Allen correspondence, 1870-1919

Identifier: Mss .A451-.A452


  • Majority of material found within ( 1899-1902)


Restrictions on Access

Please contact Special Collections; materials are sometimes restricted.

Biographical sketch

Joel Asaph Allen was a museum curator, ornithologist, zoologist, taxonomist and writer. He was curator in the American Museum of Natural History's Dept. of Mammalogy and Ornithology, 1885-1920. Allen began collecting and classifying birds at the age of 13. He studied at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) and became a staff member in 1871, meanwhile participating in the 1865-1866 Thayer Expedition to Brazil, on which he collected bird and mammal skins, geological specimens, fishes, reptiles and other vertebrates. Allen also participated in several U.S. expeditions, collecting, surveying and making scientific observations. At the AMNH, Allen increasingly concentrated his attention on acquisitions, research and writing, and editorial work, cataloging thousands of specimens of birds and mammals in the museum's collections and providing editorial supervision for the Bulletin of the AMNH and the Memoirs of the AMNH. He was the first president of the American Ornithologists' Union for seven years from its formation in 1883, and was editor of The Auk for 27 years.


2.25 Linear Feet (8 boxes)

Language of Materials



Correspondence (A451) arranged: Organized into two groups: A451. Correspondence (7 boxes). A452. Collection (1 box). chronologically, 1870-1903, with some separate folders.

Scope and content

The collection consists almost entirely of Allen's scientific correspondence, handwritten and typewritten. The last box includes some newspaper clippings and invitations. Box 1 contains a large folder of correspondence from the years 1900-1902 between Allen and N.G. Buxton concerning Buxton's work in Siberia collecting zoological specimens as part of the 1897-1903 Jesup Northwest Pacific Expedition. There are also undated letters, including two from Herbert H. Smith. Box 2 contains one folder of miscellaneous correspondence, from 1870 to 1903. The bulk of the material, boxes 3 through 7, covers the period from Dec. 1899 through Dec. 1902. Correspondents include Outram Bangs, Frank M. Chapman, T.D.A. Cockerell, Daniel Giraud Elliot, William T. Hornaday, Morris K. Jesup, C. Hart Merriam, Gerrit S. Miller, Henry Fairfield Osborn, and Oldfield Thomas. The last box contains some additional miscellaneous letters; a folder of letters from 1909-1918; letters commenting on Allen's 1916 work, Autobiographical notes and a bibliography of the scientific publications of Joel Asaph Allen; a folder of notices of Allen's awards, honors, and elections to memberships in scientific organizations; a folder of letters from Osborn; and a folder of newspaper clippings and letters from Jonathan Dwight, T. Gilbert Pearson, Catherine Dutcher (writing on behalf of her husband, William) and others, relating to a 1911 controversy involving a proposed gift of $125,000 over five years from a group of gun manufacturers to the National Audubon Society.

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