The papers of Alvin Seale, Superintendent of the Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences, who was a well-respected
ichthyologist and leader of scientific expeditions. Includes publications, correspondence, manuscripts, and photographs.
Alvin Seale, the famed ichthyologist and aquarium designer, was born in Fairmount, Indiana on July 8, 1871. In 1892, at the
age of 21, he rode his bicycle from the cornfields of Indiana to the coast of California to attend Stanford University in
Palo Alto. He was off to study under the guidance of the eminent ichthyologist, David Starr Jordan. In a normal situation,
Mr. Seale would have graduated from Stanford in 1896, however, Mr. Seale was not a normal student.
In 1896, Mr. Seale was selected by Professor Jordan to travel to Point Barrow, Alaska to search out Salmon in the Mackenzie
River. He would later return there to collect sea birds. In 1899, he again left Stanford to act as a field naturalist for
the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii. Two years later, Mr. Seale was appointed Curator of Fishes by the Bishop Museum. This
position lasted until 1904, when Mr. Seale returned again to Stanford. He finally graduated in May 1905, thirteen years after
he began. In this time Mr. Seale became a world authority on the fishes and fisheries of Polynesia and a well-respected ichthyologist.
In 1906, Mr. Seale was again in Alaska as leader of the Anna Alexander Expedition to gather bears, moose, bighorn sheep and
other mammals for the Alexander Museum. The following couple of years brought an important appointment from President Theodore
Roosevelt as Chief of the Division of Fisheries for the Philippine Bureau of Science (1907) and marriage to Ethel Prouty (1908).
Mr. Seale spent the next ten years conducting numerous first studies on various fish, shellfish, and sponges. He helped develop
the sponge, pearl button, and sardine industries, profoundly altering the Philippine economy. In addition, he drew up laws
to help regulate the industries. Mr. Seale was tireless in his studies of the fish and fisheries of the Philippines and her
His interests went beyond the local fishes and he successfully introduced a number of fishes from other areas; Black bass
was brought from California, Carp from China, and mosquito fish from Hawaii. Mr. Seale also drew up plans for an aquarium
in Manila, supervised its construction, and collected fish for display.
In 1917, he resigned his post at the Bureau of Science and accepted placement as ichthyologist at the Harvard Museum of Comparative
Zoology. Upon his retirement in 1920, Mr. Seale moved to his ranch in Corallitos, California.
This retirement, however, was short lived. In 1921, Mr. Seale was recruited by Barton W. Evermann, of the California Academy
of Sciences, to assist in the planning of the Steinhart Aquarium being built at the Academy in Golden Gate Park. After the
Aquarium’s completion and opening in 1923, Mr. Seale was appointed Superintendent, a post he would hold until his final retirement
During his tenure at the Academy, Mr. Seale traveled to Samoa (1929), the Galapagos Islands, as head of the scientific staff
on the G. Allan Hancock Expedition, (1931-32), and Hawaii (1935 & 1939) to gather fishes for the Aquarium. He also lost his
wife, who had been ill for quite some time when she committed suicide in 1936.
That same year he donated 1300 volumes of his library to the Pacific Grove Public Library in her memory. In 1938, Mr. Seale
married a woman named Jesse Frapwell and embarked on a trip around the world with his new bride. They visited aquariums in
the Philippines (the one he built in 1910), Ceylon, Italy, Germany (Frankfurt and Berlin), Holland, France, England (London
and Brighton), New York, and Chicago. The purpose of these visits was to examine ways of improving the Steinhart Aquarium.
Alvin Seale passed away on July 28, 1958, at his ranch in Corallitos. He was author or co-author of some 162 books and pamphlets.