Finding Aids to Personal Papers and Special Collections in the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 7417
Bailey, Florence Merriam, 1863-1948
Florence Merriam Bailey Papers, 1865-1942
Born in Locust Grove, New York during the Civil War, Florence Merriam Bailey (1863-1948), devoted her life to the study and protection of birds. From her work in ornithology she authored over ten books, including several field guides to birds, and close to one hundred articles. Though interested in birds as a child, she gained recognition as a naturalist while at Smith College. Disgusted by the use of feathers and whole birds in fashion, she started the Smith College Audubon Society.
Her later accomplishments include establishing the Washington, D.C., Audubon Society and becoming the first female associate member of the Ornithologists Union (1885). Within that organization she was the both the first female fellow (1929) and the first female recipient of the Brewster Medal (1931). In 1908 a kind of California Mountain Chickadee was named Parus gambeli baileyae in her honor.
Bailey's relations with prominent scientists augmented her own distinguished career. C. Hart Merriam, her brother, was the first chief of the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey, as well as a co-founder of the National Geographic Society. His work also led to Florence's introduction, and subsequent marriage, to fellow Bureau naturalist, Vernon Bailey. From their travels to the Western United States the Bailey's produced several works on the distinctive, and largely unexplored, flora and fauna in that region. As an amateur ornithologist Florence Bailey was at the forefront of the movement to use binoculars, rather than shotguns, to observe birds. She died in Washington, D.C., on September 22, 1948.
These papers consist of Florence Merriam Bailey's diaries, 1874, 1887, as well as additional journals kept on trips to the Bermuda Islands, 1890; California, 1907; and Maine; 1911. Other materials include expense account books; articles and news clippings concerning and written by Bailey; a scrapbook; childhood writings; college papers and memorabilia; manuscripts of papers on birds; reading lists; one letter; and photographs of family and various landscapes. Also included are oversized photographs of a relative's golden wedding celebration.
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Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7417, Florence Merriam Bailey Papers