Tuesday Tweet: Ornithology via Auto

In October of 1923, Iva Clare Downey sent Thomas Sadler Roberts a poem that she authored inspired by the experience of riding in an automobile and looking at birds.

“Ornithology via Auto” (click on the image for a larger version)

Poem1.jpg Poem2.jpg

Poem3.jpg Poem4.jpgIn reply to a letter Roberts sent to Iva Clare that complimented her poem, the poet revealed, “I think it should have been labeled ‘Ornithology via a Ford.’ You see we seldom go faster than twenty-five miles an hour…

“We” likely referred to Iva Clare and her husband Hal Downey,* who in 1923 was a professor of zoology in the Department of Animal Biology at the University.

Iva Clare revealed that when riding in the Downey automobile, they were often on the lookout for birds. “We even saw a humming bird one day, when we stopped by the roadside. We are always peeved, however, because we can’t call by name all the other birds we see, as we skim along.”

Iva Clare’s greatest thrill:


Meadowlark, young held in hand, June 23, 1924, Herman, MN

*Dr. Hal Downey, a graduate of the University, was on staff from 1903 to 1946. He was professor of zoology until 1929 at which point he became professor of anatomy in the School of Medicine, where he taught until his retirement in 1946. Downey is often referred to as the “Father of Hematology” due to his groundbreaking research in understanding blood and identifying blood diseases. The University Archives preserves the Hal Downey papers, which were donated in 1960 by Mrs. Iva Clare Downey.