by Lesley Parilla, Field Book Project
USNM 44488, Acropora cytherea (Dana, 1846). Collected by H. S. Ladd in the Marshall Islands. Image courtesy of National Museum of Natural History.
Several of Field Book Project’s collections include materials from early in the collectors’ careers. These volumes can offer wonderful insights into how they first approached their work, the type of data they recorded early in their training, hints as to a scientific specialty they might later pursue, as well as personal details that provide intriguing views of their personalities. I recently found one of these details in the collection of Harry S. Ladd, SIA Acc. 16-046, Harry S. Ladd papers, 1912 - 1973.
If you took part in Transcription Center’s Fossil Week challenge, you might recognize the name. Volunteers transcribed his two volume diary written during geological field work with John Edward Hoffmeister (1889 - 1991). He was a Geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey for many years who studied the formation of islands in the Pacific. His specimens are in the National Museum of Natural History (to learn more, check out BHL’s post).
I was excited to come across his early journals because his later volumes (transcribed through Smithsonian’s Transcription Center) demonstrate a vibrant personality. In the volume "Field book IV, daily log, July 21, 1921 - February 24, 1922," one can hear his youthful voice.
In one entry about field work, he states, "picked up by officer at Silver Lake but lied out of getting arrested for trespassing. Examined dam and old mines at Albion -- an untidy picture of carelessness and waste." He describes football games, outings with his parents, a health scare relating to his mother. But the most memorable is the decision to break with his fiancée.
Work -- decided to break everything off tonight, and did! Why wait longer? Flapper Lora Dal was visiting a Christian Scientist friend and I saw my chance. Mildred made it very hard for me. Every time I brought the conversation to the point where she should have handed me my pin, she would let me attempt the final word. After several attempts I succeeded. I am thankful it is over but feel sorry (& only sorry) for Mil - it is hard on a girl I imagine to have a fellow break the engagement!
In the back of the volume, Harry cut a portion of a note that states, "but I'm still believing in you Harry, and always will."
Curious to read more of Harry Ladd and his work? We encourage you to check out the links below:
- Articles on Biodiversity Heritage Library
- Field books on Smithsonian Collections Search Center
- Specimens on Smithsonian Collections Search Center