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Finding Aid for the Chester Stock Papers 1900-1951
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processing History
  • Biography
  • Chronology
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Material
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Chester Stock Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1900-1951
    Collection number: 10043-MS
    Creator: Stock, Chester 1892-1950
    Extent: 3.5 linear feet
    Repository: California Institute of Technology. Caltech Archives
    Pasadena, California 91125
    Abstract: Chester Stock (1892-1950) was professor of paleontology, 1926-1950, and chairman of the Division of Geology, 1947-1950, at the California Institute of Technology. He was a specialist in vertebrate, specifically mammalian, fossils of the Western United States, especially of California and Nevada, and he was involved in the excavation of the Rancho La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles. Stock's papers consist of personal and professional correspondence from his tenure at the University of California, Berkeley (1919-1921), and from the subsequent period at Caltech up to the time of his death in 1950. Also included are geological field notebooks belonging to Stock and others from the period 1900-1920.
    Physical location: California Institute of Technology, Institute Archives
    Language of Material:
    Languages represented in the collection:


    The collection is open for research. Researchers must apply in writing for access.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright may not have been assigned to the California Institute of Technology Archives. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the California Institute of Technology Archives as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Chester Stock Papers, 10043-MS, Caltech Archives, California Institute of Technology.

    Acquisition Information

    The bulk of the Chester Stock papers were acquired from the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences (formerly Division of Geology) at Caltech. The remainder, approximately two boxes of correspondence, was sent to the Caltech Archives from the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum in 1981.

    Processing History

    Processed by Susan Pearson, December 1981.
    Additional processing and revision was done by Bonnie Ludt in 1991 following the transfer of supplementary material by the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, resulting in a new finding aid written by Charlotte Erwin in 1996. In 2001 the biographical note on Chester Stock was written by Judith Goodstein, Caltech's university archivist. A further level of processing and updating of the finding aid was done by Bonnie Ludt and Charlotte Erwin in June and July, 2007.


    Chester Stock was born in San Francisco on January 28, 1892. At the University of California, where he received a B.S. degree in 1914 and a Ph.D. in 1917, Stock studied geology and vertebrate paleontology under John C. Merriam. In 1918, he began working on the Rancho La Brea (now Hancock Park) collection of ground sloths, saber-tooths, and other fossil bones, housed at the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science, and Art, in Exposition Park. Starting as Merriam's assistant in 1917, Stock advanced through the ranks to become an assistant professor in 1921. That year Merriam left Berkeley to become president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and Stock took over Merriam's teaching duties in vertebrate paleontology.
    In 1926, shortly after the Division of Geological Sciences was established at Caltech under the leadership of John Buwalda, Stock joined the faculty as professor of paleontology. In return, physicist Robert Millikan, the head of Caltech, promised to provide $10,000 annually to Stock for the development of paleontology at the Institute. The Carnegie Institution of Washington also provided funds for Stock's research. In 1947 Stock succeeded Buwalda as geology division chairman.
    In addition to his duties at Caltech, Stock spent considerable time on the vertebrate paleontology programs of the Los Angeles Museum (now the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County) and in the development of new projects. At the Museum, he held a number of positions including Curatorial Consultant (1931-1939), Senior Curator of Earth Sciences (1939-1948), and Chief Curator of Science (1948-1950). He played a major role in guiding the planning of a museum (now the Page Museum) to house and exhibit the park's tar-pit fossils.
    During his tenure at Caltech, Stock built up a rather large collection of fossil bones. Much of it came from collecting expeditions to various sites and areas in the West, carried out with the help of E. L. Furlong, curator, W. J. P. Otto, sculptor and preparator, along with students and other assistants. Stock died suddenly in 1950, calling into question the program, and the usefulness, future care, and handling of the specimens.
    In 1957, the Institute sold its entire collection of vertebrate paleontological materials to the Los Angeles Country Museum. The collection consisted of more than 5,000 recorded specimens, 50,000 unrecorded specimens, 8 complete skeletons, and many maps, field, and aerial photographs. Geology division chair Robert Sharp recommended the sale to Caltech president Lee DuBridge, and the Board of Trustees approved. By then, the collections were not being used in research by anyone on the faculty. The funds received were used to create chemical analytical facilities and other laboratory accommodations in Mudd Laboratory, where the collections had been stored.
    Judith R. Goodstein, September 4, 2001.


    Scope and Content

    The Chester Stock Papers at the Archives of the California Institute of Technology were assembled from different sources. The first series represents documents that were given to or simply remained at Caltech in the period following Stock's death in 1950. They reach back to his early teaching years at Berkeley. Series 2 and 3 encompass Stock's years at Caltech. Series 2, covering 1927-1951, was transfered to the Caltech Archives by the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum in 1981. Series 3, which consists of papers which remained at Caltech, runs chronologically parallel to Series 2. Some correspondents will be found in more than one of these three series. Finally, Series 4 reverts to an earlier time. Most of the field notebooks in this section have a clear association with Berkeley. Not all of them were created by Stock himself but were apparently bequeathed to him by colleagues who preceded him in the field. Readers will be aware of gaps in the records, which arise from the piecemeal way in which the papers were preserved. Finally, Box 8 contains copies of the field notebooks in Box 7, made for preservation and study purposes.
    Despite the vast number of vertebrate fossil specimens collected by Stock during his Caltech tenure, no lists or curator's records of the fossil collection have survived in the Caltech Archives.
    The collection is organized into the following series:
    • Series 1. Correspondence and Documents, University of California, 1919-1921
    • Series 2. Correspondence and Documents, California Institute of Technology, 1927-1951
    • Series 3. Geology Division Papers
    • Series 4. Field Notebooks 1900-1920

    Related Material

    The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles holds upwards of 60 boxes of Chester Stock papers, according to an inventory supplied to the Caltech Archives in 1997. The Page Museum is a division of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    California Institute of Technology
    University of California, Berkeley
    Geology--Field work
    Geology--United States