Scope and Content

The Harry Church Oberholser Papers, 1864-1963 and undated, consist of correspondence, financial statements, research notes, biographical sketches, photographs, copies of published articles, and other papers relating to Dr. Oberholser and ornithology. There are also legal papers regarding his mother's estate, and clippings on varied topics from politics and religion to the waterfowl census. There are bibliographical notes on various collections of ornithological books, notes for lectures, examinations and other records from the classes he taught, raw data concerning meteorology and bird counts, and numerous manuscripts and proofs of his publications and those of his colleagues.

The information pertaining to Dr. Oberholser's scientific endeavors is valuable to ornithologists and zoologists; but these papers may be especially useful to researchers interested in the development of ornithology in the Untied States from the 1890s through the 1940s. Oberholser was a prolific writer on the subject in these years, and as Senior Biologist of the Biological Survey, he was in a position to influence others. The papers illustrate the practice of descriptive ornithology at its height, before new trends led to work which emphasized ecology, physiology, and specialized areas of study rather than meticulous taxonomy.

For those interested in Oberholser as a person, the biographical notices in the collection, as well as the family letters and other items, would be illuminating, although they are less voluminous than the material relating to his ornithological work.

The letters include those from family members, friends, fellow naturalists such as C. A. Schenck and Robert Ridgway, and letters concerning political and religious topics. A somewhat unusual correspondence is comprised of protests to several government figures against President Truman's appointment of an ambassador to the Vatican. Oberholser's letters were answered by, among others, senators Hubert Humphrey and Lyndon Johnson.

Many of Oberholser's scientific writings in the collection appear in journals such as the Proceedings of the United States National Museum, The Wilson Bulletin, The Auk, and the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. Some were published as monographs in the series "Scientific Publications of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History," or alone. Two fragmentary drafts appear to be early versions of the book published as Bird Life of Texas eleven years after Oberholser's death. One of these may be his earliest draft, begun in 1903.

A sizable amount of material in the collection relates to courses he taught at the Biltmore School (zoology) and at McGregor, Iowa (conservation and ecology).

Letters and papers concerning Oberholser's activities at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and his ties with Cleveland organizations and such local naturalists as S. Prentiss Baldwin and Herbert W. Brandt and their private foundations, give some idea of ornithological activity in Cleveland, Ohio, from the 1920s to the 1950s.