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Collection Overview

Beebe, William
William Beebe Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1830-1961 (mostly 1920-1959)
22 boxes and 9.2 linear feet
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Box 1-22


Consists of papers of American naturalist William Beebe, primarily relating to his association with the New York Zoological Society (NYZS).

Collection Description & Creator Information


The collection consists of journals, writings, correspondence, scrapbooks, documents, photographs, and printed matter of William Beebe, primarily relating to his association with the New York Zoological Society (NYZS). There are 75 journal volumes beginning in 1890 and including diary entries, natural history notes, collection lists, essay material, and course notes taken at Columbia University. From 1903 to 1961 the journals focus mainly on Beebe's many expeditions for the NYZS--as its first curator of birds (1902-1916), he went to Mexico, the West Indies, Venezuela, and Guiana, and as founder (1916) and director (1923-1952) of its Department of Tropical Research (DTR), he made terrestrial expeditions to Guiana, Trinidad, the West Indies, Venezuela, and Singapore, and oceanographic expeditions to the Bermuda Islands, the Galapagos Islands, and the Gulf of California. Beebe continued conducting research at the Simla Station, Trinidad, after his retirement until his death in 1962. Beebe and the DTR were responsible for the discovery and description of over 800 new species of fish, insects, mollusks, and animals; cataloging and preserving specimens; publications and exhibits; and the collection of live specimens for the NYZS.

Also included are reports, field notes, articles, and other data relating to Beebe's expedition to Asia (1909-1911) to collect information on pheasants, which resulted in his major work, A Monograph of the Pheasants (1918-1922); correspondence, records, and logs of dives made by Beebe in his bathysphere off the coast of Bermuda (1930-1934), sponsored, in part, by the National Geographic Society, and material related to its exhibition at the New York World's Fair (1939); the manuscript for Zaca Venture (1938), an account of the 24th DTR expedition on the schooner Zaca in the Gulf of California; additional writings on his Singapore and Trinidad expeditions; and miscellaneous articles such as "Abyssal Life" and "The Destiny of Ships." Also present are notes entitled "Mid-Ocean" for a projected book on deep-sea life.

A selected file of correspondence includes letters from NYZS associates Madison Grant, William Hornaday, and Henry Fairfield Osborn, expedition financiers Anthony R. Kuser and Harrison Williams, and such diverse contemporaries as John Burroughs, Frank M. Chapman, Lord Dunsany, Prince George, Rudyard Kipling, A. A. Milne, Theodore Roosevelt, Otis Skinner, and Casey Wood.

In addition, there are certificates and awards; a few photographs of Beebe, his mother, Henrietta Younglove Beebe, and friends and associates; bibliographic material; memorabilia and scrapbooks (1910-1926) of newspaper clippings about Beebe and his works; and tearsheets of a few of Beebe's articles and reviews of his books.

"Additional Papers" contains letters from Beebe to his lecture agent James Pond regarding his extensive lecture schedule and other business matters, related lecture programs and announcements, as well as other miscellaneous correspondence and a bound "Guest Book."


Series: I. Journals (1890-1961); II. Writings--A. Pheasant Expedition, B. Bathysphere Material, C. Mid-Ocean, D. Zaca Venture, E. Singapore Expedition, F. Trinidad Expeditions, G. Miscellaneous, H. Bibliographical Material; III. Correspondence--A. General, B. Bathysphere Related; IV. Documents; V. Photographs; VI. Memorabilia; VII. Scrapbooks; VIII. Printed Matter; IX. Papers of Persons Other Than Beebe; X Additional Papers.

Collection Creator Biography:

Beebe, William

William Beebe (1877-1962) was an American naturalist, marine biologist, explorer, and writer. After attending Columbia, Beebe was appointed to the New York Zoological Society as curator of ornithology and then later as the director of the Department of Tropical Research. Throughout his lifetime Beebe led several successful expeditions to support his research and writing. He is credited alongside engineer Otis Burton as being the designer of the bathysphere, a diving vessel that allowed Beebe to observe marine life in the deep sea.

Collection History


The papers came directly (1989) from Jocelyn Crane Griffin who was William Beebe's research assistant and former assistant director (1952-1962) and director (1963-1966) of the Department of Tropical Research of the New York Zoological Society.

Purchase: Swann, NY, Feb. 7, 1990. AM 1990-81.

Purchase: Beebe estate, in 1962. AM 18021.

Gift of: Charles A. D. Burke, Class of 1909, in Sept. 1937. AM 11471.


No appraisal information is available.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Credit this material:

William Beebe Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Box 1-22

Find More

Other Finding Aids

A chronological listing of the journals, noting the contents of each volume, is available, as well as a computer printout of indexed correspondents.

Subject Terms:
Abyssal zone.
Animals -- Identification -- Guiana -- 20th century.
Animals -- Identification -- United States -- 20th century.
Animals -- Identification -- Venezuela -- 20th century.
Animals -- Ientification -- West Indies -- 20th century.
Birds -- Asia -- Collection and preservation -- 20th century.
Birds -- United States -- Collection and preservation -- 20th century.
Birds -- West Indies -- Collection and preservation -- 20th century.
Fishes -- Classification -- 20th century.
Fishes, Deep-sea -- Atlantic Ocean -- 20th century.
Insects -- Venezuela -- 20th century.
Insects -- West Indies -- 20th century.
Island animals.
Jungle animals.
Natural history -- Asia -- 20th century.
Natural history -- Bermuda Islands -- 20th century.
Natural history -- California, Gulf of (Mexico) -- 20th century.
Natural history -- Galapagos Islands -- 20th century.
Natural history -- Guiana -- 20th century.
Natural history -- United States -- 20th century.
Natural history -- Venezuela -- 20th century.
Natural history -- West Indies -- 20th century.
Oceanography -- Research -- Atlantic Ocean -- 20th century.
Oceanography -- Research -- Pacific Ocean -- 20th century.
Ornithology -- Asia -- 20th century.
Ornithology -- Singapore -- 20th century.
Ornithology -- United States -- 20th century.
Ornithology -- Venezuela -- 20th century.
Ornithology -- West Indies -- 20th century.
Scientific expeditions -- Asia -- 20th century.
Scientific expeditions -- Bermuda Islands -- 20th century.
Scientific expeditions -- California, Gulf of (Mexico) -- 20th century.
Scientific expeditions -- Galapagos Islands -- 20th century.
Scientific expeditions -- Guiana -- 20th century.
Scientific expeditions -- Singapore -- 20th century.
Scientific expeditions -- Venezuela -- 20th century.
Scientific expeditions -- West Indies -- 20th century.
Zoology -- Tropics -- 20th century.
Zoology -- United States -- 20th century.
Genre Terms:
Naturalists -- United States -- 20th century.
Zoologists -- United States -- 20th century.
National Geographic Society (U.S.)
New York zoological society
Beebe, William
Pond, James B. (James Burton), 1838-1903
Asia -- Description and travel -- 20th century.
Bermuda Islands -- Description and travel -- 20th century.
California, Gulf of (Mexico) -- Description and travel -- 20th century.
Galapagos Islands -- Description and travel -- 20th century.
Guiana -- Description and travel -- 20th century.
Mexico -- Description and travel -- 20th century.
Singapore -- Description and travel -- 20th century.
Venezuela -- Description and travel -- 20th century.
West Indies -- Description and travel -- 20th century.