C. D. Marshall, Corresponding Secretary,
Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, 1863 - 1869
P. M. Eckel
Res Botanica
Missouri Botanical Garden
October 6, 2004
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C. D. Marshall, Corresponding Secretary,
Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences,
1863 - 1869


P. M. Eckel, Editor, The George W. Clinton Papers


Buffalo in the 1860's was a large and prosperous city on the western end of Lake Erie. It was an important transshipment center for freight carried from and to ports upstream on the lakes and downstream, primarily on the Erie Canal, eastward across New York State to Albany, New York, thence down the Hudson River to the port of the city of New York. When such an eminent community decided to form a society for the promotion of the study of natural history, it was a matter of some social importance to natural scientists in the young United States and the associated territories of British Canada (in 1867 with passage of the British North America Act, to become the Dominion of Canada), and to Europeans.


The burden of communicating with the first members of this new society - the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences (BSNS) - fell upon the Corresponding Secretary. The communications involved local affairs of a social and business nature as they related to the new society, but also the secretary was charged with the task of formulating a program for "corresponding members of the society." These were individuals who agreed to assist in the development and success of the new organization, members who would serve at a distance and by mail.


Among the criteria used to establish a network of correspondents for the Society was the significance of the contribution of the individual correspondent  to the natural sciences. The more distinguished the individual, the more important the interaction, be it by the exchange of photographs, autographs (authentic samples of handwriting), the content of the letters themselves (should an extensive series of letters be generated between a principal of the Society and the corresponding member), as well as the donation or exchange of specimens or seed money. Corresponding Members were entitled to announcements of Society activities. The Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, for example,  sponsored no less than four meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences in the decades after the conclusion of the Civil War (1865).


The first Corresponding Secretary for the BSNS was  Samual Slade, to be replaced after one year by Charles De Angelis Marshall. Not much is known of Mr. Slade and the following is a brief summary of information relating to Mr. Marshall. As Mr. Marshall's name and/or office appears scattered throughout the various letters to and from George Clinton (see below), it was thought useful to prepare the present parenthetical note.


Charles D. Marshall first appears in Goodyear's history of the BSNS (Goodyear 1994) as being in attendance at an early meeting (November 21, 1861) to organize the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, along with:


Albert T. Chester, Charles S. Farnham, Leon F. Harvey, Theodore Howland,  Coleman  T. Robinson, Charles F. Wadsworth, and Charles Winne.


After another meeting on December 5, 1861, the society's new constitution was read out. Of the nine curators of collections from various departments of natural history, Charles Marshall was designated Curator of Entomology, the Society's first curator of insects.


On January 23, 1863, Charles D. Marshall signed the certificate of incorporation of the BSNS, along with:


Albert T. Chester, George W. Clinton, David F. Day, Charles C. F. Gay, Leon F. Harvey, Theodore Howland, Henry A. Richmond, Coleman T. Robinson, William W. Stewart, and Hiram Ewers Tallmadge (Goodyear 1994: 17).


Charles D. Marshall was, then, the first Curator of Entomology, serving 1861 - 1862. He was also an early member of the Board of Managers. Goodyear indicated that "From the beginning, curatorships changed often, probably averaging four or five each year. Many of them changed from one department to another and back again, for example, the department of Ichthyology was removed from the joint department of Herpetology and Ichthyology, both under one curator when initiated in December 5, 1861 under Hiram Ewers Tallmadge, Lars G. Sellstedt becoming Curator of Ichthyology early in 1863, either department only being in existence one year. " (p. 15). Entomology was of general interest in the 1860's, the physician and/or surgeon Leon F. Harvey, M. D. being one, Otto Reinecke another. Henry S. Sprague was the third Curator of Entomology (p. 175). Marshall is said to have contributed specimens to the society's insect collections (p. 175).


Charles D. Marshall served on the Board of Managers from 1861 to 1871 in the formative years of the society; 1874-1877 and 1879-1882. He died April 22, 1908.


Among the Corresponding Secretaries, Marshall served from 1863 to 1869. He was Treasurer in 1882 (end of term apparently not known). He was a Charter Member of the BSNS and a member "higher than life" beginning in 1866.


George W. Clinton, the primary corresondent of the BSNS, as its first president, was the youngest son of the famous DeWitt Clinton, governor of the State of New York. DeWitt Clinton was known throughout the United States for his efforts to conceptualize, politically promote, and effectuate the Erie Canal, a marvel in its time of public will and civil engineering, when the young United States was a  federation of once independent government (colonial)  bodies. The states were exceptionally jealous of their own fiscal autonomy. The fervent gratitude to DeWitt of the people of New York State, of the people of the Great Lakes and New England regions for the extraordinary propulsion forward of their economic, political and social well-being due to this one canal, solely financed by the State, devolved upon his son George. George W. Clinton's prestige as well as his person, accounted for much of the enthusiasm by which distinguished botanists in correspondence with him sought contact and exchange. George was also apparently quite willing to facilitate introductions and the exchange of specimens between these colleagues. He promoted the distribution of the annual report of the Regents of the State of New York in which the equivalent of research publications of the scientific survey of the State were disseminated at home and abroad, for Clinton sought also to develop the natural history collections of the State in Albany, the State's capitol, as well as in Buffalo. Clinton had a long and distinguished career as a member of this Board of Regents.


It was through the efforts of the various Corresponding Secretaries of the BSNS that Clinton communicated with the Society's corresponding membership, who assiduously donated important books and other publications fundamental to the study of natural history, a photograph collection of the correspondents, and specimens that form the substance of the botanical collections of the present Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences (Buffalo Museum of Science) and important components of its documentary archival collection. The Society's herbarium was later named the Clinton Herbarium (BUF) in George W. Clinton's honor.


To have been invited to become a Corresponding Member of the new Society of Natural Sciences in Buffalo was both an honor and a responsibility. Throughout the collected correspondence of George Clinton in the Research Library of the Buffalo Museum of Science, references are made to such contact.


A preserved example of Marshall's formal invitation to become, not a Corresponding, but an Honorary Member of the BSNS, and the printed stationary on which the invitation was hand-written, is preserved in the George Engelmann Papers of the Missouri Botanical Garden (MO) in St. Louis, Missouri. Note that in the original BSNS constitution there were four membership classes: Member (unqualified), Corresponding Member, Honorary Member, and Life Member. "... Corresponding membership was granted to those non-residents of the local area who were interested in the goals of the BSNS and usually engaged in some scientific endeavor. Honorary membership, a somewhat higher class of membership than corresponding membership, was granted to those who were eminent in some branch of science. Both classes were acted upon by the Executive Board, many more for corresponding than for honorary. Members of both classes often gave scientific material, both specimens and publications, to the BSNS." (Goodyear 1994: 15).


Clinton first made contact with Dr. George Engelmann of St. Louis by a letter on March 15, 1862, a few months after the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences was organized, and when Clinton was its President. He was invited to contact Engelmann by his friend Robert Buchanan of Cincinnati, who furnished "the names of a few gentlemen of the West whom he regards as able and willing to aid us by correspondence and exchanges, and specifies yourself [i.e. Engelmann] among them."  Engelmann was collaborating with Asa Gray in revising the next edition of the Gray's Manual  of Botany. Engelmann had worked earlier with Gray and John Torrey on two railway reports sponsored by the United States government, treating the Cactaceae. He provided the treatments of Callitriche, Cuscuta, Euphorbia, Juncus, Isoetes, Pinus, and Sagittaria to the Fifth Edition of Gray's Manual of 1867. Clinton would regularly send specimens of these genera to St. Louis.


Through the generosity and digital expertise of the Missouri Botanical Garden archivist, Andrew Colligan, Curator of the George Engelmann Papers, the following transcription of the Marshall letter to Engelmann and a digital image of it is here presented as part of the editorial preparation of the Clinton Correspondence at the Buffalo Museum of Science in Buffalo, New York.



Transcription of the Marshall letter (one sheet, two-sided image):




[Top of sheet: 'Ansd' [?, Engelmann's handwriting?]


[Engelmann's handwriting:]

Recd Aug. 28'

Ans  Aug. 29


[Marshall's handwriting:]    Buffalo N.Y. August 22d 1863,


Dr. George Engleman [sic]


St. Louis  Mo.


Sir: In looking over the papers & c. left by the former Corresponding Secretary of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, (Our Samuel Slade) I do not find any acknowledgment from you of the rec'pt of the notification of your election as an ['Corresp' crossed out] Honorary Member of the Society.


I am therefore led to infer, either that Mr. Slade omitted sending such notice, or that the letter, if sent, mis-carried, and in either case esteem it a duty to communicate the fact to you.    You were elected an Honorary Member, on nomination of Hon. G. W. Clinton at a regular meeting of the Society held on the 3d day of April 1862,


Respectfully Yours,


Chas D. Marshall


Corresponding Secretary




On the reverse of the hand-written letter is a printed notice:





Organized December 5th, 1861. - Incorporated January 28th, 1863


The object of this Society is the promotion and study of the Natural Sciences, through the formation of a Museum and Library, the procurement of Lectures and the use of such other means as shall be found effective.


Its primary duties and objects, are the collection and preservation of specimens of every vegetable, and of every animated being, (other than man and the domestic animals,) indigenous to Buffalo and its vicinity, and of every rock, fossil, and mineral of the surrounding country; to classify, arrange, and make catalogues of them; to send catalogues of them to its correspondents, and to all lovers of natural science, who may desire them; to observe, record and diffuse a knowledge of all facts illustrative of the nature and habits of such animals and plants; and, so far as it can, to supply the desiderata of its friends and correspondents.


By a reciprocation of the services it desires to render others, as well as by such purchases as it may be able to make, and the gifts of our liberal citizens, its collection will soon represent far more than the local natural history; and it hopes and expects that its rooms will be attractive and useful to naturalists, as well as gratifying to the instructed admirers of God's wonderful works.







REV. A. T. CHESTER, 1st Vice-President.


HENRY A. RICHMOND, 2nd Vice President.


THEODORE HOWLAND, Recording Secretary.


CHARLES D. MARSHALL, Corresponding Secretary


LEON F. HARVEY, M.D., Treasurer.


R. K. NOYE, Librarian.



PROF. GEORGE HADLEY, M.D., Curator of Ornithology.


PROF. WM. S. VANDUZEE, Curator of Zoology.


W. W. STEWART, Curator of Crustacea and Radiata


H. EWERS TALMADGE [sic], Curator of Herpetology.


 L. G. SELLSTEDT, Curator of Icthyology.


AUG. R. GROTE, Curator of Entomology.



COLEMAN T. ROBINSON, Curator of Conchology.


C.F.GAY, M.D., Curator of Botany.



ALBERT H. CHESTER, Curator of Minerology.

THEODORE HOWLAND, Curator of Geology.


DAVID F. DAY, Curator of Paleontology.



CHARLES WINNE, M.D., Curator of Ethnology and Comparative Anatomy"








Note that for comparative purposes, the roster of original elected officers and curators at the December 5 meeting in 1861 was as follows (Goodyear 1994 p. 14), individuals with asterisks before their names were replaced in the list of officers for 1862-3 printed above:






ALBERT T. CHESTER, 1st Vice President



*CHARLES WINNE, 2ND Vice President



*SAMUEL SLADE, Corresponding Secretary


THEODORE HOWLAND, Recording Secretary


LEON F. HARVEY, Treasurer


RICHARD K. NOYE, Librarian


David F. DAY, Curator of Paleontology



*WILLIAM S. VANDUZEE, Curator of Ornithology


*HIRAM EWERS TALLMADGE, Curator of Herpetology and Ichthyology


CHARLES D. MARSHALL, Curator of Entomology


COLEMAN T. ROBINSON, Curator of Conchology


CHARLES C. F. GAY, Curator of Botany


*CHARLES S. FARNHAM, Curator of Geology


*CHARLES F. WADSWORTH, Curator of Minerology

*GEORGE E. HAYES, Curator of General Zoology


In George Clinton's botanical collecting diary, Clinton wrote in 1862:

'Friday, May 16. With C. T. Robinson and C. D. Marshall, walked the first wood beyond the Tollgate in the right of the Williamsville Road, perhaps 1/3 mile from it. This is part of "The [Buffalo] Plains," in which, everywhere, the flinty limestone comes to or very near, the surface.'] For August 26-30: Aug. 26: 'Went to Meadville, Pa. with Coleman L. Robinson and Charles Marshall, to see the remains of a Mammoth found about 8 miles from that place.  Were hospitably received by our correspondent, A. B. Richmond, Esqu., at whose house we stayed.'


Goodyear, George F. 1994. Society and Museum, A History of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences 1861-1993 and the Buffalo Museum of Science 1928-1993. Bulletin of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences 34.





Images courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden Archives