MILWAUKEE’S GENTLEMEN PALEONTOLOGISTS
DONALD G. MIKULIC
Illinois State Geological Survey, Champaign, IL 61820
During the last half of the nineteenth century several large fossil collections were assembled from Silurian and Devonian rocks quarried in the vicinity of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Conditions for collecting were favorable at that time because the quarries were small, low volume, hand-operated and more numerous compared to present-day operations. Low paid quarry worker s were able to significantly supplement their incomes by selling fossils which insured a continual supply of specimens.
These collections were assembled by a few moderately wealthy, self-educated naturalists, who had the time, money and interest to secure large numbers of specimens. The most prominent of these gentlemen paleontologists were Increase A. Lapham (collection destroyed by fire in 1884), Fisk Holbrook Day (collection now at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology), Thomas A. Greene (collection at The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee,) and Edgar E. Teller (collection at the National Museum of Natural History).
By assembling collections and publishing a few papers, these individuals stimulated paleontologic and stratigraphic research in the area by such notable geologists as James Hall, Robert Whitfield, Stuart Weller, and many others. Since most quarries in the area are abandoned, and because of the mechanized nature of large scale quarrying at those remaining, it is im possible to assemble comparable collections of new material. These old collections, therefore, are of critical importance to future geologic work in the area, particularly in the fields of taxonomy, biogeography, biostratigraphy, taphonomy, paleoecology, and stratigraphy.
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(1991) Milwaukee’s Gentlemen Paleontologists, Rocks & Minerals, 66:2, 136-146,