An early encounter with Grinnell

Hello blog readers! My name is Greg Borman, and I joined the Archives team in May to help make fieldnotes, correspondence, annotated maps, and related materials more accessible to researchers.

While these materials contain a rich array of scientific insight, they also occasionally tell little stories.

Walter P. Taylor, 1909Walter P. Taylor, 1909

During my preliminary work on a finding aid for the Walter P. Taylor papers (assisted by valuable work completed by previous blogger Darren Lu), I came across a weather-beaten, 118-page item containing field notes in what we in the MVZ Archives refer to as “non-standard binding.” During his lifetime, Taylor (1888-1972), a biologist and educator, was a major figure in ornithology. He received his PhD from UC Berkeley in 1914, and served as Assistant Curator of Mammals at the MVZ from 1909-1911 and Curator of Mammals from 1911-1916. The non-standard binding item, which I assigned the title “Southern California field notes and catalog” in the finding aid, covers the dates 1904-1909. As the MVZ was founded in 1908, the work done in this item overlaps both the Museum’s founding and the beginning of Taylor’s tenure with the institution.

In one passage dated August 18th, 1907, Taylor describes traveling in the San Bernardino Mountains. Along with noting that the area has trees that “beat anything I ever saw,” Taylor mentions that they made their way to Joseph Grinnell’s camp. This is an unusual mention in the MVZ Archives’ holdings of an interaction with Grinnell prior to the Museum’s founding in 1908.

Once they met up, Taylor learned that Grinnell wanted to go fishing in the South Fork of the Santa Ana River. Taylor agreeably went along with him. Remaining focused on developing his field notes, Taylor describes the flora and fauna that they encounter on their way to the fishing site. In one passage, however, he relates something that might not be generally known:

Professor [Grinnell] is a crackerjack fish catcher.

And during their fishing activities, Grinnell, as any good naturalist would do, speculates about the fish and their origins.

It is the idea of the Professor, and the idea sounds very plausible, that the spotted upper creek trout are the original fish in these waters, and that the ones taken further down are the introduced brook trout. He plans to send some of each kind to Stanford in order to see if his surmise is correct.

The finding aid for the Walter P. Taylor papers is now online at the Online Archive of California’s website:

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