Finding Aids to Personal Papers and Special Collections in the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 7332
Ulrich, E. O. (Edward Oscar), 1857-1944
Edward Oscar Ulrich Papers, circa 1880-1938 and undated
Edward Oscar Ulrich (1857-1944) was an invertebrate paleontologist specializing in the study of Paleozoic fauna and formations. He developed an interest in fossils as a youth, collecting in the rich formations around his home in Covington, Kentucky. Ulrich attended German Wallace and Baldwin College at Berea, Ohio and the Ohio Medical College at Cincinnati, but did not receive a degree from either. In 1877, he was appointed Curator of the Cincinnati Society of Natural History. He resigned the position in 1880 to become superintendent of the Little Caribou silver mines near Boulder, Colorado. Ulrich returned to Cincinnati in 1883 and for the next fourteen years worked as a free lance geologist and paleontologist, as well as an illustrator of geological monographs. During this period he was employed on the state geological surveys of Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, and Kentucky. In 1897, Ulrich was appointed Geologist with the United States Geological Survey (USGS). He remained with the USGS until his retirement in 1932. He continued his paleontological studies as a Research Associate at the United States National Museum until his death.
Ulrich has been called "... the greatest descriptive paleontologist that America has ever produced." He was an authority on Paleozoic invertebrates, particularly the Bryozoa, Ostracoda, and conodonts. His bibliography included over 120 titles, with "Revision of the Paleozoic System," (1911) generally considered his classic work. In this work, Ulrich introduced radical changes in the classification of early Paleozoic formations and proposed two new systems -- the Ozarkian and Canadian. Ulrich did extensive field work in most of the Paleozoic formations east of the Rocky Mountains. He also conducted six field investigations in Europe between 1922 and 1931.
Ulrich was active within the scientific community, and served several organizations in elected or appointed capacities. He was an original Fellow of the Geological Society of America, President of the Paleontological Society, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He was the recipient of the Mary Clark Thompson medal of the National Academy of Sciences in 1930, and the Penrose medal of the Geological Society of America in 1932. Ulrich was awarded an honorary M.A. (1886) and D.Sc. (1892) from German Wallace and Baldwin College.
For additional biographical information on Ulrich see "Memorial to Edward Oscar Ulrich," by Ray S. Bassler. Proceedings Volume of the Geological Society of America Annual Report for 1944, pp. 331-352, May 1945, and, "Biographical Memoir of Edward Oscar Ulrich, 1857-1944," by Rudolf Ruedemann. National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoirs, volume XXIV, 1947.
The 1879 act establishing the United States Geological Survey (USGS) declares, "And all collections of rocks, minerals, soils, and fossils, and objects of natural history, archaeology, and ethnology, made by the Coast and Interior Survey, the Geological Survey, or by any other parties for the Government of the United States, when no longer needed for investigations in progress, shall be deposited in the National Museum." Many of the paleontologists affiliated with the USGS Paleontology and Stratigraphy Branch have been stationed at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) to study and care for the national collections. This close working relationship between the USGS and the NMNH has resulted in the Smithsonian Archives acquiring records and special collections documenting paleontological work of the Survey and its scientists.
The papers of Edward Oscar Ulrich provide partial documentation of his professional career and personal life. The collection includes incoming and outgoing correspondence documenting Ulrich's paleontological research, professional activities, family matters, and personal affairs. Of special interest are letters documenting his unsuccessful bid to become Kentucky Inspector of Mines, 1895-1897; letters of Henry Burger and Henry Dickhaut describing activities of the Caribou Mining Company, Boulder, Colorado, during the early 1880s; and letters documenting an attempt by Ulrich and others to change the method for nominating and electing officers of the Geological Society of America, 1921. The collection also contains photographs, including shots taken at the XII International Geological Congress held at Toronto in 1913, and images taken during Ulrich's field work in England and Europe in 1925. Ulrich's paleontological research is documented by manuscripts, notes, specimen lists, plates, charts, and maps. Finally, the collection contains personal materials of Ulrich including bank books, greeting cards, certificates and awards, notebooks, newspaper clippings, and memorabilia.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- Ulrich, E. O. (Edward Oscar), 1857-1944
- Geological Survey (U.S.)
- Baldwin-Wallace College
- Ohio Medical College
- Cincinnati Society of Natural History
- Geological Society of America
- Paleontological Society
- National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)
- United States National Museum
- International Geological Congress (1913)
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7332, Edward Oscar Ulrich Papers