The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Barbour, Thomas, 1884-1946
Thomas Barbour (1884-1946)
0.5 linear feet (1 box)
The Thomas Barbour papers
contain materials relating to the Peabody Museum of Salem and its collections,
operations, and renovations in the 1930s and 1940s.
SERIES I. Correspondence SERIES II. Other Peabody Museum of Salem Papers
Scope and Content Note
The Thomas Barbour papers contain materials relating to the Peabody Museum of Salem
and its collections, operations, and renovations in the 1930s and 1940s. The
majority of the collection consists of Barbour's correspondence with trustees,
directors, and curators of the Peabody Museum of Salem, before and during his tenure
as trustee of the museum. This collection is a good resource for learning about the
revitalization of the Peabody Museum in the 1940s and the holdings/exhibits of the
museum. The collection has been divided into two series.
Series I. Correspondence consists of correspondence
between Peabody Museum of Salem trustees, directors, and curators, both before and
during Barbour's time as a trustee. All of the correspondence relates to the
business of the Peabody Museum of Salem, its collections, operations, publications,
and fellow trustees. There are occasional personal notes in the correspondence, but
these are fleeting. Within the correspondence with Ernest S. Dodge, Curator of
Natural History and Assistant Curator of Ethnology are photographs of East India
Marine Hall after its renovations and a report about children's education at the
Peabody Museum. In the correspondence with Lawrence Jenkins, the Director of the
Peabody Museum, are a number of photographs of tortoise shells from the Museum's
collections. Located within the correspondence with Water M. Whitehill, the
Assistant Director and Assistant Curator of the Marine Rooms, is a copy of the
manuscript "The Peabody Academy of Science: Its Inception, A Bit of Private
Series II. Other Peabody Museum Papers contains
materials relating to the Peabody Museum of Salem and Barbour's role within it.
Trustees' material includes a letter to Barbour informing him that he had been
chosen as a trustee, meeting minutes, and trustees' by-laws. There is material about
the renovations to the museum including a page from an 1886 annual report detailing
the preservation of specimens in alcohol, estimates and plans for work to be done in
1941, and photographs and news clippings about the work that was completed in 1941.
Museum reports include an annual report and a financial audit from 1941. Also
included in this series are photographs of portraits, possibly from the museum's
collection, and photostats of manuscripts of poems by John Keats and Percy Bysshe
Thomas Barbour, zoologist and museum director, was born on
August 19, 1884 to William and Adelaide (Sprague) Barbour, on Martha's Vineyard,
Massachusetts. William Barbour was a director of the linen mill of William Barbour
and Sons in Northern Ireland, and often took his family with him abroad on business
trips. Because of this Thomas had visited most of the large natural history museums
in Europe by the time he was eight years old. Barbour prepared for college at the
Brownings School in New York City, and through private tutors. He graduated from
Harvard University in 1906 with an A.B. and received his doctorate in 1910 (Bigelow
13). That same year he represented the Association of American Universities at the
reopening of the University of Mexico and was appointed Associate Curator of Reptile
and Amphibians in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard.
During World War I, Barbour did intelligence work in Cuba, where his fluency in
Spanish and wide circle of acquaintances suited him well. He returned to the Museum
after the war, where in 1925 he was appointed Curator of the Herpetological
Department. In 1926 he was appointed Professor of Zoology, in 1927 he was chosen as
Director of the Museum, and in 1944 Barbour was appointed the Alexander Agassiz
Professor (Bigelow 15).
He played a very active part in the establishment and maintenance of the Barro
Colorado Laboratory in Panama until it was made part of the Canal Zone Biological
Area (Bigelow 17). He played a key role in the development of the Atkins Institute
of the Arnold Arboretum at Soledad, near Cienfuegos, Cuba, serving as a custodian
for several years, beginning in 1927. Barbour's long list of accolades includes:
serving as President of the Boston Society of Natural History from 1925 to 1927, and
its offspring, the New England Museum of Natural History from 1940 to 1945; serving
as a trustee of the Peabody Museum of Salem and leading the rejuvenation of the
museum in the 1940s; and serving as a trustee of Radcliff College, the Carnegie
Institution of Washington, and of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He was a
member of the Advisory Board of the Guggenheim Foundation and a Director of the
Fairchild Tropical Garden in Florida. Barbour was also largely responsible for
developments that led to the manufacture of antivenin for snake bites in North
America (Bigelow 17). Barbour was a world authority on reptiles and amphibians and
wrote extensively on fish, and the birds of Cuba (Bigelow 18).
He married Rosamond Pierce of Brookline, Massachusetts in 1906 and they had four
daughters and one son together. Barbour died on January 8, 1946.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons,
or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Dodge, Ernest Stanley
Drouet, Francis L.
Emilio, Shepard Gilbert
Gloyd, Howard K. (Howard Kay), 1902-1978
Jenkins, Lawrence Waters, 1872-1961
Loring, Augustus Peabody, 1885-1951
Robinson, John, 1846-1925
Whitehill, Walter Muir, 1905-1978
Peabody Museum of Salem
Restrictions on Access
This collection is open for research use.
Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in
writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex
Collection processed by Hilary Streifer, March 2015.
Barbour, Thomas. Allison Armour and the Utowana: An
Appreciation of Allison Vincent Armour and of the Services Which He Rendered to
the Sciences of Archaeology, Botany, and Zoology. Privately printed,
Barbour, Thomas. A Naturalist in Cuba. Boston:
Little, Brown and Company, 1945.
Barbour, Thomas. A Naturalist's Scrapbook. Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 1946.
Barbour, Thomas. "John Charles Phillips (1876-1938)." American Academy of Arts and Sciences Proceedings. 74, no. 6 (1940):
Barbour, Thomas. The Birds of Cuba. Cambridge, MA:
The Club, 1923.
Barbour, Thomas. John Charles Phillips. Wenham, MA:
Barbour, Thomas. Naturalist at Large. Boston:
Little, Brown and Co., 1943.
Barbour, Thomas. Reptiles and Amphibian: Their Habits
and Adaptations. Illustrated by George Nelson. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Barbour, Thomas. That Vanishing Eden: a Naturalist's
Florida. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1944.
Bigelow, Henry B. Thomas Barbour 1884-1946: A Biographical
Memoir. Washington D.C.: National Academy of Sciences, 1952.
Leonhard and Thomas Barbour. A Check List of North
American Amphibians and Reptiles. 4th ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1939.
Matthew, William Diller. Climate and Evolution. 2nd
ed. NY: New York Academy of Sciences, 1939.
Popenoe, Dorothy H. Santiago de los Caballeros de
Guatemala. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1933.
Winsor, Mary P. Reading the Shape of Nature: Comparative
Zoology at the Agassiz Museum. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
Wheeler, William Morton and Thomas Barbour, eds. The
Lamarck manuscripts at Harvard. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
The Thomas Barbour papers contain materials relating to the Peabody Museum of Salem and its collections, operations, and renovations in the 1930s and 1940s.
Peabody Museum of Salem; Dodge, Ernest Stanley; Drouet, Francis L.; Emilio, Shepard Gilbert; Gloyd, Howard K. (Howard Kay), 1902-1978; Jenkins, Lawrence Waters, 1872-1961; Loring, Augustus Peabody, 1885-1951; Robinson, John, 1846-1925; Whitehill, Walter Muir, 1905-1978; Letters; Museum trustees
Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.