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Finding Aid for the Donald Ryder Dickey Field Notes 1909-1948
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • UCLA Catalog Record ID
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Material
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Donald Ryder Dickey Field Notes,
    Date (inclusive): 1909-1948
    Collection number: 110
    Creator: Dickey, Donald R. with associates and students 1887-1932
    Extent: 6 linear feet ( 4 document boxes)
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library History and Special Collections Division
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1490
    Abstract: The field notes consist of bound notebooks, and their 13-reel microfilm copy, of observations made about birds and mammals found in various locations in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Latin America, and a few in Michigan, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. Some additional notes, carbons, typescripts, drawings, and a very few photographs and maps were also contributed by Dickey and others. The notebook entries (with time range of coverage) were made by: Donald R. Dickey (1909-29), A.J. van Rossem (1911-48), W.H. Burt (1928-31), H.H. Sheldon (1928-30), R.A. Stirton (1925-26), G.A. Stirton (1925) and L.M. Huey (1915-33). Van Rossem's notes are mostly related to the work published in 1938 under his and Dickey's names, "The Birds of El Salvador".
    Physical location: History and Special Collections Division, Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library, University of California, Los Angeles
    Language of Material: Collection materials in English


    The collection is open for research. Contact the History and Special Collections Division, Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library, UCLA, for information.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights in the physical objects belong to the UCLA Biomedical Library. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish if the Biomedical Library does not hold the copyright.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Donald Ryder Dickey field notes (Manuscript collection 110). Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library History and Special Collections Division, University of California, Los Angeles.

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 1217817 

    Acquisition Information

    In 1940 Mrs. Donald R. Dickey gave the entire "Donald R. Dickey Collection of Vertebrate Zoology and Library of Vertebrate Zoology" to the University of California, Los Angeles. After the creation of the Biomedical Library in 1947, the ca. 10,000 books, almost 8,000 photographs, papers and maps, including the notebooks and other field material described herein, were transferred to the Biomedical Library. The approximately 50,000 bird and mammal specimens are housed by UCLA's Department of Biology. In 2001, Donald R. Dickey Jr. deeded more family items to the Biomedical Library and has also supported the collections his father built with funds to the Library and to the Biology Department for preservation.


    DONALD RYDER DICKEY (March 31, 1887-April 15, 1932) was an adventurous wildlife photographer as well as an ornithologist and mammalogist. He was well known in his time for: his photographs (both still and moving) of birds and mammals; for his lectures on wildlife; and eventually for his substantial specimen collection of birds and mammals. He was drawn to outdoor life in his childhood and youth, but considered this nothing more than a hobby. During his senior year at Yale, having already achieved election to Phi Beta Kappa, he experienced a serious heart collapse and was sentenced to immediate and complete bed rest. Allowed to graduate with his class because of his high academic standing, he returned after graduation to his parents' home in Pasadena for two years of inactivity. After about a year he began to visit a friend's ranch in the Ojai Valley and there, from his steamer chair, he began to observe, and after a time to photograph, local birds and their nests.
    As Dickey became stronger he also became more active, taking longer and longer photographic jaunts and starting to collect small mammals in an amateur way. When he had finally regained full strength, in about 1916, he found that he was "too interested by that time in what started as a hobby, to forego it for a conventional business life." (from an autobiographical note, quoted in "The Condor", 36(2), p. 62, Mar-Apr 1934). He determined to establish a research center for vertebrate zoology in Southern California, and to build up a study collection of specimens with photographs and books to support it.
    By 1926 the collection had grown to nearly 30,000 specimens of mammals and birds (nearly doubled six years later), backed by a sizable working library and an outstanding group of still and movie photographs. In that year the California Institute of Technology provided space to house the materials and named Dickey a Research Associate in Vertebrate Zoology. The collection covers North and Central America, but focuses mainly on southwestern fauna including the Pacific slopes of Mexico and Central America, with important pictorial records also of the birds of Laysan Island, Hawaii, and the moose and caribou of New Brunswick, Canada. The Dickey photographs were used heavily to illustrate major ornithological texts, by Dickey himself and others, and formed part of the records of the Smithsonian Institution's Laysan Island expedition. (Additional information may be obtained from Dickey's bibliography, obituary, and remembrances by his colleagues: "The World's Work", v.52: 566-570 and v.52: 557-565, 1926; "Condor", v.36: 59-66, 1934; "Auk", v.49: 517-518, 1932.)
    The limitations of his health and the breadth of vision and ambition for his collection dictated that Dickey had to use others' talents and energy to carry out much of the work. Eighty percent of the field notes in these papers were written by men other than Dickey.
    A true collaborator and eminent ornithologist in his own right, ADRIAAN JOSEPH van ROSSEM was co-author of many of Dickey's articles and, after Dickey's death, completed their major publication, "The Birds of El Salvador". Van Rossem worked for and with Dickey from 1911 on. He was curator of the collection before it was transferred to UCLA in 1940 and remained curator after the transfer for 3 years. Van Rossem was born in 1892 and died in 1949.
    LAURENCE MARKHAM HUEY collected specimens for Donald R. Dickey from 1915-1932. An expert on the birds and mammals of the Southwestern United States and Baja California, Mexico, Mr. Huey was entirely self-taught, his formal education having ended with the eighth grade. He was Curator of Birds and Mammals at the San Diego Natural History Museum from 1924-1962, and a member of the American Ornithological Union, the Cooper Ornithological Society, the Wilson Ornithological Society, the American Society of Mammalogists, the Society of Systematic Zoology and the Biological Society of Washington. Mr. Huey published 164 articles describing 84 species and sub-species of birds and mammals. He was born in the Tiajuana Valley of San Diego County on the 6th of September, 1892, and died in San Diego, California on the 11th of June, 1963.
    RUBEN ARTHUR STIRTON went to El Salvador in 1925 and again in 1927 on the Donald R. Dickey expeditions. He was a zoologist specializing in mammalogy and ornithology. R. A. "Stirt" Stirton was born on August 20, 1901 near Muscotah, KA, and died on June 14, 1966. GEORGE A. STIRTON may have been his son; no biographical information was found. In addition to the El Salvador notes, the Stirtons also provided notes on fieldwork in Michigan and in Kansas.
    WILLIAM HENRY BURT assisted Dickey in field surveys of mammal species in Nevada from 1928-1931, in Arizona in mid-1931 and in Baja California, Mexico in late 1931. Dr. Burt earned his doctorate from the University of California in 1930, spent six years as a research fellow at the California Institute of Technology from 1930-1935 and was a professor of Zoology beginning in 1935 at the University of Michigan until his retirement in 1969. He was born in Haddam, Kansas, January 22, 1903 and died in 1987.
    HENRY HARGRAVE SHELDON collected for Dickey from 1928-1930, and John Zoeger provided field notes for the collection from 1962 and 1967 trips to Nicaragua and a 1964 trip to Mexico.

    Scope and Content

    This part of the larger Dickey Collection consists solely of the field notes and photo logs written by Dickey and his collaborators from 1909 to 1967, plus some typescripts, drawings, maps, photos, and letters that pertain to the field work. Some of the approximately 5900 pages have been transcribed and typed, but most are handwritten. For long-term preservation, these pages were microfilmed unto 13 reels.
    The notebooks and logs are housed in folders. Folder numbers are the same as those identified on the thirteen reels of microfilm which are housed in Box 4 and identified as series nine. The beginning and end of each microfilm reel are noted on the appropriate folder in the finding aid.
    Abbreviations Used:
    AJvR: Adriaan J. van Rossem; DRD: Donald Ryder Dickey; GAS: George A. Stinton; HHS: Henry Hargrave Sheldon; KESD: Katharine E. S. Donahue; LMH: Laurence Markham Huey; RAS: Reuben Arthur Stinton; WHB: William Henry Burt
    The collection is organized into the following series:
    • Series 1. Field Notes of Donald Ryder Dickey, 1909-1929. 26 folders
    • Series 2. Field Notes of Adriaan Van Rossem, 1911-1948. 59 folders
    • Series 3. Field Notes of Laurence Markham Huey, 1915-1922. 23 folders
    • Series 4. Field Notes of Ruben Arthur Stirton and George A. Stirton, 1925-1930. 9 folders
    • Series 5. Field Notes of Henry Hargrave Sheldon, 1927-1930. 3 folders
    • Series 6. Field Notes of William Henry Burt, 1928-1932. 5 folders
    • Series 7. Field Notes of John Zoeger, 1954-1967. 1 folder
    • Series 8. Miscellany, 1919-1995. 4 folders
    • Series 9. Microfilm, 1909-1948. 1 document box

    Related Material

    UCLA Biomedical Library History and Special Collections Division, Manuscript Collection no. 59: "Donald Ryder Dickey Photographic Collection, 1908-1962", consisting of over 4000 early 20th century photographs of birds, mammals, and habitat, documenting field work in California, the Southwest, New Brunswick, Laysan Island, etc. Three-hundred and fifty of these images, from 1911 to 1929, are viewable online at: http://unitproj.library.ucla.edu/biomed/dickey
    UCLA Biomedical Library History and Special Collections Division, Manuscript Collection #213: "Personal scrapbook belonging to Anna Ryder Dickey" (mother); includes photos from Sierra Club trip Dickey took at age 16 with the naturalist John Muir.
    UCLA Biomedical Library History and Special Collections Division, Manuscript Collection #301: "Personal scrapbook", photos of honeymoon trip of Dickey and wife and their first home in Pasadena.
    UCLA Research Library Department of Special Collections, Manuscript Collection #707: "Dickey papers and correspondence".

    Indexing Terms

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


    Burt, William Henry, 1903-
    Huey, Laurence M. (Laurence Markham), 1892-1963
    Stirton, George A.
    Dickey, Donald R. (Donald Ryder), 1887-1932. Birds of El Salvador.
    Sheldon, Henry Hargrave, b. 1883
    Stirton, R. A. (Ruben Arthur), 1901-1966
    Van Rossem, A. J. (Adriaan Joseph), 1892-1949
    Birds--Central America
    Birds--North America.
    Mammals--North America