Finding Aids to Personal Papers and Special Collections in the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 7319
Gabrielson, Ira Noel, 1889-1977
Ira Noel Gabrielson Papers, 1918-1987
Ira N. Gabrielson (1889-1977) was born in Sioux Rapids, Iowa, and grew up on a farm where his interest in wildlife began. He graduated from Morningside College in Iowa in 1912 and taught biology at Marshalltown High School, Marshalltown, Iowa, until 1915.
In 1915 he joined the Bureau of Biological Survey and worked in the western states on economic ornithology, rodent control, and game management; he was particularly interested in waterfowl. In 1934 he became assistant chief of the Division of Wild Life Research, and in 1935 he became chief of the Bureau of Biological Survey. When the Biological Survey and the Bureau of Fisheries were joined to form the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in 1940, Gabrielson was named director of the new organization. During his tenure in that position, 1940-1946, he succeeded in adding millions of acres to the National Wildlife Refuge System. During World War II, he served as deputy coordinator of Fisheries and as a United States delegate to the International Whaling Conference in 1946.
In 1946 Gabrielson retired from government service and assumed the presidency of the Wildlife Management Institute. He held that post until 1970 when he was elected chairman of the Institute's Board of Directors. He helped found the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in 1948, helped organize the World Wildlife Fund (United States) in 1961, and served as a trustee of the World Wildlife Fund (International) and the North American Wildlife Foundation.
His concern for wildlife and conservation was not limited to his official role. He lived in Northern Virginia and was a founder of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, serving as its chairman, 1959-1976, and as chairman emeritus until his death.
Gabrielson received honorary degrees from his alma mater, as well as from Oregon State University, Middlebury College, and Colby College. He received the Audubon Conservation Award, the Distinguished Service Award of the Interior Department, the Leopold Medal of the Wildlife Society, the Hugh Bennett Award of Friends of the Land, the Distinguished Service Award of the American Forestry Association, and was posthumously named to the National Wildlife Federation's Conservation Hall of Fame.
Gabrielson was the author of four books and the co-author of six others, including The Birds of Alaska, with Frederick C. Lincoln, his colleague in the Bureau of Biological Survey and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Gabrielson was a member of the American Ornithologists' Union, the Society of Systematic Zoology, the Audubon Society, the Izaak Walton League, the Washington Academy of Sciences, the Washington Biologists' Field Club, and the Cosmos Club.
This finding aid was digitized with funds generously provided by the Smithsonian Institution Women's Committee.
This collection is composed of four distinct parts. Records documenting the writing of The Birds of Alaska, which he co-authored with Frederick C. Lincoln, include correspondence, species notes, and drafts of chapters. "The Memoirs of Ira Noel Gabrielson and What Others Have Said About Him," compiled by his son-in-law, Robert A. Nesbitt, contains obituaries, reminiscences, and an autobiography which Gabrielson began and never completed. Gabrielson's dairies, 1918-1977, range from a few notes on birds seen on given days to generous accounts of each day's activities. The final series of the collection contains his articles and speeches, 1936-1968.
Records documenting the writing of The Birds of Alaska were created by both Gabrielson and Lincoln and consist of correspondence, species notes on bird families, other notes on birds, drafts of chapters, a few subject files, and a few photographs. The correspondence includes letters between Lincoln and Gabrielson and between the co-authors and professional colleagues who provided information on birds observed in Alaska.
Series 2 consists of the "Memoirs," and series 3 contains Gabrielson's diaries, 1918-1977. Some periods are covered extensively, others sparsely. Many of the early entries consist only of lists of birds seen on certain days. There is an interesting mix of material concerning both his professional and private lives. Gabrielson's speeches and articles, though probably not complete, document the range of his work in conservation.
The Archives has additional Gabrielson correspondence scattered throughout several record units, in addition to a good bit of material in Record Unit 7176, United States Fish and Wildlife Service Field Reports. Other repositories also contain Gabrielson materials. Gabrielson’s awards, medals, and plaques form a permanent exhibition at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. The Denver Public Library holds Gabrielson papers in the Western History/Genealogy Department, Conservation Manuscript Collection. A small amount of published and unpublished materials is also housed at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Wildlife Research Center. Researchers should also consult Fish and Wildlife Service records in Record Group 22 at the National Archives and Records Administration.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- Gabrielson, Ira Noel, 1889-1977
- Nesbitt, Robert A.
- Lincoln, Frederick Charles, 1892-1960
- United States. Bureau of Biological Survey
- United States. Bureau of Fisheries
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- National Wildlife Refuge System (U.S.)
- Wildlife Management Institute
- Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7319, Ira Noel Gabrielson Papers