The Survey: Year V

5thAnnualReport.jpgOn the cover page of each Annual Report of The Geological and Natural History Survey of Minnesota, a list of the “Officers of the Survey” is printed. The first year, the only name that appears is that of State Geologist and Survey Director, Newton Horace Winchell. In the second annual report, Winchell is listed along with S.F. Peckham, State Chemist. Winchell returned to being the sole officer in the annual report for year three, and in year four his name appears with “Assisted By M.W. Harrington.” The Fifth Annual Report for the year 1876 lists the Survey officers as follows:

N.H. Winchell……. In charge.
S.F. Peckham…….. Chemistry.
M.D. Rhame……… Topography.
P.L. Hatch…………. Ornithology.
Allen Whitman….. Entomology
Clarence Herrick… Laboratory Assistant

Five years into the Survey and Winchell got some company. Why the increase in Survey staff you ask? The first four years of Survey work centered mainly upon completing summaries of the geological compositions of the southern counties of the state and investigating the economic potential of natural resources (salt deposits for manufacture, peat for fuel). In 1875, the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota, the body charged by the state legislature to execute the Survey, decided that it was about time to get started on work related to the second part of the Survey’s full title – Natural History.

In the ledger that contains the Meeting Minutes of the Board of Regents, the following entry is recorded for the meeting dated December 22, 1875:

“Regent Bryant offered the following – Whereas, under the State of Minnesota of 1872, the Board of Regents of the State University are charged with the Botanical Survey of the State in connection with that of the Geological Survey believing it important that these kindred subjects should be prosecuted together as far as practicable. Resolved – that Prof. Winchell be requested to prepare for circulation a suitable circular to invite contributions from High and Private Schools, and such Botanical specimens as the different localities of the State may produce to add completeness to this department. Which were only adopted.”

The botanical division of the Survey began the following year in an 1876 version of a “crowd sourced” effort to establish a botanical collection at the University. Winchell prepared a circular that was published in state newspapers that requested botanical materials and lists of flora. He reported in the Fifth Annual Report, “A number of favorable responses have been received, and several valuable papers on the flora of different localities have been contributed. This portion of the work of the survey seems to have been eagerly taken hold of, and there is every prospect that the botany of the state will be thoroughly and at the same time economically worked up.”

Botany wasn’t the only discipline addressed under the “Natural History” heading in 1876. At the May 9, 1876 Board of Regents Meeting, the regents adopted the following resolution:

“Recogni[z]ing the importance of prosecuting the investigations commenced last season respecting the ravages of grasshoppers in the Southwestern part of the State, Resolved: that Mr. Allen Whitman be appointed Entomologist to the State Survey for the year 1876, at a salary of $300 and that he be instructed to confine himself to an investigation of insects injurious to farm products, especially to the ravages of the Rocky Mountain Locust, and to make a report on the same through the State Geologist at the close of the year.”

In the summer of 1873, Minnesota was invaded by a large population of grasshoppers that destroyed crops in the farmland of the Southwestern portion of the state. In an effort to eradicate the infestation of the grasshopper plagues, Governor C.K. Davis ordered Allen Whitman to investigate this species of insect and offer solutions to address the infestation. As the population continued to grow each year, the Regents recognized the importance of ridding the pests from the countryside as the state’s farmers were experiencing much duress.

Though entomologists lent early assistance to the Survey, the discipline of Entomology would later be established administratively as a division of the College of Agriculture, rather than as a department of the College of Science, Literature, and the Arts, as the other interests of the Survey were (Geology, Botany, and Animal Biology).

Insects were not the only creature given consideration for study in the fifth year of the Survey. At the same May 1876 meeting that the Regents appointed a State Entomologist, they also made plans for an appointment to address zoological study.

“Prof. Winchell State Geologist, appeared before the Board and made suggestions regarding the Geological Survey, the investigation of the grass-hopper question, and also in regard to the ornithology of the State; the last item being referred to the Executive Committee for action.”

The Executive Committee appointed Dr. Philo L. Hatch to begin a study of the birds of Minnesota as the State Ornithologist. In the Fifth Annual Report of the Survey Winchell reported that Hatch collected approximately one hundred species of birds in Minneapolis for the General Museum in 1876 and also provided an indication of the course that Hatch’s work would take: “ultimately a complete memoir on the Birds of Minnesota will be prepared.”

In addition to the geological work that was done in Houston and Hennepin counties for which Professor Peckham provided chemical analysis and Professor Rhame made topographical measurements, 1876 was a big year – flora and fauna finally entered the purview of the Geological and Natural History Survey.