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Historical Fossil Fish Collection

Identifier: VPA 140

Scope and Contents

The materials in this collection are correspondence, records, notebooks, drawings, photos, illustrations, and maps that pertain to fossil fish reports of finds, distribution and cataloguing, descriptions and publications, private and museum collections, exchanges, purchases, gifts, and exhibitions activities. This collection originally belonged to the Department of Ichthyology and Herpetology, then in 1944 moved to the Department of Geology and Paleontology, which is now the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology. The moves produced some disorder in the records and correspondence. To create a logical order for the collection, the materials are filed by subject and placed alphabetically within each box.

See VPA 1, Department of Vertebrate Paleontology general correspondence files for: Hussakof, L., letter dated December 1, 1944, regarding fossil fish collection move; and Gregory, W. K.; Herman, G.; Sternberg, George F.; Eastman, C. R., for additional reference and information regarding the fossil fish collections.

Box 1 (1912-1975) contains correspondence regarding fossil fish exchanges, donations, sales, type specimens, distribution, and cataloging. Concern matters in Algeria, Cameroon, Beirut, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and England, includes a memo to Simpson regarding cataloging collection and microfilming (folder 8).

Box 2 (1884, 1906-1976) contains correspondence about fossil fish species groups, exchanges and purchases, loans and gifts, and specimen finds. Includes Bashford Dean letters (1906-1918) to Lee R. Craig, B. and A. Hauff, Thomas Illidge, F. Krantz, Colin Norris, Charles Sternberg and E. Waite regarding inventory of Newberry Collection (folder 1); The Bashford Dean Memorial Exhibit, titled “Four Hundred Years of Fish History,” June 1929 (folder 2); Frick Collection list of specimens, 1930-1969, catalogued by John G. Lundberg, 1970 (folder 4); notebook containing handmade drawings of sections and various views of Palaeaspis.

Box 3 (1909 – 1980?) contains photos (some mounted) of various specimens and exhibition installations.

Box 4 (1860s-1880s, 1905 – 1943) contains copies of William K. Gregory publications in the New York Academy of Sciences Section of Biology (1905-1943); Science, Evening Post, The Scientific Monthly, Popular Science Monthly, Journal of Paleontology (1897-1951); aerial photos, old maps, and Laudon’s map of Wapiti Lake, British Columbia (folder 4); and the John S. Newberry Papers of correspondence, a collection of original handwritten letters, newspaper clippings, and notebooks.

Box 5 contains a photo album of Bashford Dean fossil fishes, as well as 3 folders of detached photos.

Partial List of Box 4 contents:

* Folder 5: John Strong Newberry: (1902-1977) Correspondence: disposal of collections and records.

* Folder 6: John Strong Newberry: (1886-1890) Letters: Frank Becker, William Borden, Alex Butters (condition restricted), William Clark.

* Folder 7: John Strong Newberry: (1882-1870) Letters: Wm. M. Fontaine, W. D. Gebbard, G. K. Gilbert.

* Folder 8: John Strong Newberry: (1871-1890) Letters: S. F. Kend, William Kepler, J. Klippurt.

* Folder 9: John Strong Newberry: (1862-1886) Letters: O. C. Marsh, William McAdams, S. W. Loper, A. Lully, Edward Orton, R. B. Rousse.

* Folder 10: John Strong Newberry: (1885-1889) Letters: M. S. Statler, Tomas Stock, Park Terrell, Jay Terrell, R. S. Traquois, J. Ward, A. S. Woodward.

* Folder 11: John Strong Newberry: (1880s): miscellaneous notes and prints undated and often unsigned, Part I.

* Folder 12: John Strong Newberry: (1880s): miscellaneous notes and lists undated and often unsigned, Part II.

* Folder 13: John Strong Newberry: (1860s-1880s): fragmentary notes.

* Folder 14: John Strong Newberry: Group of 4 notebooks by J.S. Newberry (Notebook: list of people who received a copy of the Geological Survey of Ohio Report, Vol. 1, 1873; Notebook: Geological Survey of Ohio fossils and locations; Notebook: Ohio Geological Survey notes and sections of 1st District; Notebook: brief notes, mostly on Triassic fishes) * Folder 15: John Strong Newberry: 2 detail drawings of Catopterus redfieldi (fig. 5 & 6).

Box Contents

Box 1
Correspondence, 1912-1975
Box 2
Correspondence, specimen lists, sketches, photos, 1884 – 1976
Box 3
Photos of specimens and exhibition installations, 1909 – 1980?
Box 4
William K. Gregory publications; Wapiti Lake, Canada maps; John S. Newberry papers, 1862 – 1890
Box 5
Bashford Dean fossil fish photo album; 3 folders of detached photos


  • 1862-1980


Language of Materials


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 collections of Fossil Fish were originally part of the Department of Ichthyology and Herpetology. In 1944 (see letter in Hussakof correspondence Dec. 1, 1944) they were moved to the Department of Geology and Paleontology, which later became the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology. Bashford Dean (1867-1928) was a curator of arms and armor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and honorary curator of the Department of Ichthyology at the American Museum of Natural History. He also was a professor of zoology at Columbia University. Dean's interest in armor and fishes began in his early childhood. He attended college at the City College of New York, studied geology and fossil fishes at Columbia University and received a Ph.D. from Columbia University at 23 years of age, his dissertation was entitled "Pineal Fontanelle of Placoderm and Catfish." As the curator of the Department of Fishes at the AMNH, Dean, along with his assistant, Louis Hussakof, planned and directed the installation of a series of mounted habitat groups, illustrating the life and habits of the ganoid fishes. He and his staff also installed the synoptic exhibit of fishes and the "fossil aquarium," containing life-like restorations of many of the fossil fishes of the Old Red Sandstone of Scotland. The AMNH assisted in his extensive work, "Bibliography of Fishes." (source: William K. Gregory, Science, December 28, 1928, Volume 68, No. 1774, pages 635-638.) Bashford Dean was appointed Curator of Fishes and Reptiles in the then newly created Department of Ichythology and Herpetology in 1909. In 1913 he was given the rank of Curator Emeritus through 1917. He held the title Honorary Curator until his death in 1928.


3 Linear Feet (5 boxes)


Chronologically within folders.

Related Archival Material

Related materials to this collection are the Field Diaries in VPA 38, under the title American Museum of Natural History. Department of Vertebrate Paleontology. Field Diaries.


Historic Call Number: 2:4 and 2:5

Formerly VPA 15

Historical Fossil Fish Collection, 1862-1980
Melissa Silvestri, Allyson Mellone, Alana Gishlick, 2021; Amanda Raquel Dorval, 2023
2021 August
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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