Special Delivery!

University Archives underwent an office remodel last week. File cabinets were moved across the room, cubicles were deconstructed, shifted, and rebuilt. At one point during all of the commotion, one of the movers found an interesting item…

Envelope from Villa & Sacco, 2429 W. Superior A., Chicago, Illinois addressed to the Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota, postmarked January 29, 1937.

What was even more interesting was what was inside the envelope…


Snake skins!


I turned to the Incoming & Outgoing Correspondence in the Bell Museum records to investigate further. It appears that Villa & Sacco was a commercial taxidermy firm that museum director Thomas Sadler Roberts contracted to prepare specimens for the museum study collection in the late 1930s. Several letters between the firm and Roberts discuss the particulars of preparing different skins.

In reference to the snake skins, Roberts wrote to Villa and Sacco on February 28, 1937:

“The specimens of tanned snake skins were very attractive and you may hear from us along such lines. Do you have to have the fresh killed snakes or the fresh skins?”

In reply, Villa and Sacco wrote on March 8, 1937:

“The specimens of tanned snake skins that we send you there were from fresh salted skins.”

Why this envelope containing snake skins was found behind a cabinet in the University Archives suite remains a mystery. When you think about it, it is rather fitting that the skins were found here. Hissssssstory is a snake’s favorite subject after all.

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