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134 Journal New York Entomological Society. [Vol. xxvi. 



REMINISCENCES OF THE EARLY DAYS OF THE 
NEW YORK ENTOMOLOGICAL SOCIETY. 1 

By A. T. Slosson, 
New York, N. Y. 

I am very sorry and really mortified to find that I can give you so 
few details of the early days of our New York Society. For I am 
one of the small remnants left of the members who entered it at the 
beginning, twenty-five years ago. But I had probably already gone 
from the city to my summer home in Franconia before our first meet- 
ing and did not return until October. I think only a few meetings, at 
irregular intervals, had been held during the summer. Soon after 
my return from the mountains I attended a meeting at the residence 
of Mr. Palm. My brother-in-law's old Arab butler escorted me that 
evening, calling for me later to see me home. I shall never forget 
the sensation produced by my unexpected entrance into that scientific 
meeting ! Through the smoke of pipes and over mugs of some bev- 
erage which foamed in the gaslight in a sudsy sort of way I saw 
startled, embarrassed faces. " A woman ! — and finding us like this ! " 
So their expressions seemed to say. The host himself, good Mr. 
Palm, seemed somewhat embarrassed. After seating me in the most 
comfortable chair unoccupied he hastened away to order coffee for 
me as more appropriate and fitting drink for a feminine throat. We 
were the weaker sex then, you see — for those were our voteless days 
— and we must be kept carefully apart from the ways and habits of 
men in their idle moments. I was not at all shocked at this orgie, 
for I had five brothers and spent much of my time in a tobacco- 
smoky atmosphere, seen many a foaming beverage poured and 
quaffed, and so we were all at our ease in a few minutes and chatting 
over our summer's adventures and" their net profits. I recall a few 
of those present at that time — Dr. Ottolengui, Messrs. Angell, Siebalt 
and Julich. After that I attended the meetings quite regularly and 
came to know very pleasantly most of our members. We met at 
different houses, Mr. Palm's, Mr. Neumoegen's and at my brother-in- 

i Read at a special meeting held June 7, 1918, to commemorate the twenty- 
fifth anniversary of the incorporation of the Society. 



Sept-Dec, 1918.] SLOSSON : REMINISCENCES OF THE SOCIETY. 135 

law's residence on 23d street, where I then lived. Dr. Zabriskie 
became a member that same year, '92, 1 think, a charming, genial man, 
with a young heart even as he waxed old. I remember well my first 
encounter with him at one of our meetings. I had, some months 
before, printed in Harper's Magazine, a story entitled " Aunt Randy." 
The heroine was an elderly White Mountain woman with a love for 
insects. She watched them, studied their habits and, though all un- 
conscious of it, was a sort of natural entomologist. She had her own 
names for the insects who frequented her small garden and knew them 
individually as she would know her human neighbors. The mourning 
cloak butterfly, Vanessa antiopa, she spoke of as belonging to the 
Tough family, giving it the name to express its hardiness and ability 
to endure the winter's cold, it being one of our few hibernating butter- 
flies. To one of this species who had slept through a Franconia 
winter near her home and which she knew by a torn wing she gave 
the Christian name of Mary Ann. So when Dr. Zabriskie and I were 
introduced one evening his first remark was " How is Mary Ann 
Tough?", with that twinkle in his eyes we who knew and loved him 
all remember. I had come to know Mr. Beutenmiiller before this 
through my friendship with Harry Edwards, he having assisted him 
in the care of his valuable collection and other entomological work 
and we had talked together in the insect rooms at the Museum of 
Natural History of the Society's starting some sort of magazine. 
This was effected, a subscription list started and the first number of 
our Journal published in March, 1893. The opening article in the 
first number happens to bear my name as author. It was a paper I 
had read at one of our meetings held at the German American School 
on East 52d Street. Because of certain reasons I can give you with 
confidence the name of one member present. As I finished reading 
the paper — it was entitled " Common versus proper " and discussed 
the use of scientific nomenclature as opposed to popular — and modestly 
left the stage (as a fact we had no stage, then or ever afterward, but 
that seems a more classical way of putting it) Dr. Roderigues Otto- 
lengui sprang to his feet and burst into words. Such a tribute ! I 
cannot recall details but my poor, simple little paper was extolled to 
the highest heavens. Not only was it far, far superior to any article 
read hitherto at any of the meetings of our society, but — well, Cicero, 
Demosthenes, Patrick Henry and other oratorical stars rated some- 



136 Journal New York Entomological Society. t Vo1 - xxvi. 

what highly in the opinion of the world before this would have 
blushed with shame at their inferiority had they been with us that 
evening and heard the gallant Doctor's comparisons. I was naturally 
pleased — what woman does not dote on flattery, however gross ? — and, 
you see, I did not at that time know that the doctor was a maker of 
fiction! "About these days," as the Farmers' Almanac. used to say, 
we began holding auctions for the sale of rare and desirable insects, 
the proceeds to be applied to the expenses of the new Journal. As 
I had been so fortunate as to travel each winter to the extreme south- 
ern part of our country and to spend summers in our high northern 
altitudes, in Franconia and on the summit of Mt. Washington I had 
duplicates of many rare species and gladly contributed them for the 
good cause. Those auction sales were most amusing things. I should 
like to attend one now; the "movies" are nothing compared with 
them. One evening, at a sale at the residence of Mr. Neumoegen, a 
reporter from one of the city dailies was present. He was a most 
puzzled and astonished man. Wandering about the room he asked one 
after another the meaning of the affair but evidently could not at all 
understand the attempted explanation given him. Now I belonged 
to a family of journalists and had been accustomed to reporters and 
interviewers from childhood. So I beckoned the poor news seeker 
to my side, telling him I would explain the whole thing to him as it 
went on. And, knowing the particular jargon of the cult I kept my 
word and made clear to him — that is as clear as it could be made to 
a non-entomological person — the meaning of what went on. Only a 
few weeks ago I came across that article of his, clipped from the 
newspaper he sent me. I laid it aside and have now looked for it in 
vain. It was fairly correct, owing to my lucid explanations, but typo- 
graphical errors were innumerable, as was natural, and the whole 
article was mildly sarcastic. I find among my papers a letter from 
Mr. Beutenmuller giving results of one of these auctions held in '98. 
I see by that specimens of lepidoptera donated by me brought in $76. 
Sphinx canadensis brought $5.00, the purchaser having authorized 
bidding as high as $12.00 if necessary to secure the desired specimen. 
Other prices obtained were $2.45 for Anchocelis digitalis, $1.50 for 
Enhalisidota longa, $1.15 Thecla martialis, 50 cents Plusia vaccinii, 
55 cents Plusia mappa, P. viridisigma, 60 cents. There was much 



Sept.-Dec, 1918.] SLOSSON : REMINISCENCES OF THE SOCIETY. 137 

rivalry, and to an outsider like my reportorial friend the sight of 
mature, often elderly men, shouting bids excitedly like brokers on the 
stock exchange, for the purchase of mere bugs instead of bonds 
seemed very funny, not to say absurd. One evening, after, through 
the late Mr. Jessup's kindness, we were allowed to hold our meetings 
in the Museum of Natural History, my next neighbor at one of the 
meetings was a youth with whom I fell into conversation. He owned 
that he was not a real entomologist but liked all sorts of creatures 
and was devoted to natural history. In the course of our talk he 
finally confessed that he liked snakes better than any other creatures 
and told me sadly that he had his trials in the pursuit of ophidian 
study for, oddly enough, his mother and other female relatives ob- 
jected strongly to the presence of rattlesnakes in the house ! Though 
I could see their side of the story I expressed warm sympathy with 
the lad and we became very good friends. That, in spite of feminine 
and family opposition, he mastered the reptilian subject and became 
an expert in his line of research you will not doubt when I tell you 
that the boy's name was Raymond Ditmars, our famous snake charmer 
and student. He began young, you see, as do all real naturalists and 
was as a baby, I am sure, " Pleased with a rattler, tickled with its 
fang." Well, you have had enough of these wandering reminiscences, 
I am sure. If you have looked for something historical on this won- 
derful anniversary and found only something hysterical and frivolous, 
please make allowances. I am a woman and an aged one, and such 
are apt to be garrulous. 

But let me just add my warm appreciation of the courtesy and 
kindness uniformly shown me by the mascujine element, so largely in 
the majority, in this society. I never forget it, can never fail to re- 
member it, and I herewith thank from my heart all you " boys," as I 
love to style you, who have been such friends and comrades to me 
these many years.