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Archives & Manuscripts

Florence Bascom papers

 Collection
Identifier: BMC-1980-01
The Florence Bascom papers house the personal papers of Florence Bascom, renowned geologist and former Bryn Mawr professor. The collection, which dates from 1862-1938, offers evidence of Bascom's career as a regarded geologist and petrographer, particularly her tenure with the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The papers allude to many of Bascom's geological interests and projects, but do not seem to offer comprehensive documentation of any.

The collection is divided into five series: "Correspondence, 1897-1937," "Research, 1892-1930" "Travel journal, 1883-1885," "United States Geological Survey, 1898-1938" and "Dorothy Wyckhoff papers, 1934-1936." Researchers should be aware that there is much overlap between the series.

The "Correspondence, 1897-1937" series houses incoming and outgoing letters, dating from 1897 to 1937. Almost if not all of the letters pertain to Bascom's professional activities, particularly her work for the United States Geological Survey, and more generally her work as a petrographer. There are two groups of correspondence presented here. The first set is a small sample of files arranged alphabetically by a geological subject. The second set of correspondence is considerably less orderly. Files of general correspondence, with occasional reference made to a particular person or subject, are arranged chronologically by the earliest date represented in each file. Please note that files overlap significantly in terms of date and subject matter, and interested researchers should peruse the entire set. In the second series, "Research, 1892-1930," researchers will find small and random samples of records evidencing Bascom's personal research, as well as her contributions to other larger projects. For example, researchers will find a notebook entitled "South Mountain, Blue Ridge Summit," which was the subject of Bascom's dissertation at Johns Hopkins University. There are files containing field notes and analysis of collected geological samples, as well as files pertaining to Bascom's work for the Delaware Bridge Commission in 1921 and Ward's Natural Science Establishment circa 1895. The series is broken down into four subseries: "General work files," "Notebooks," "Manuscripts and other notes," and "Specimen Analysis." Researchers are advised to review the folder titles for further information. The third series, "Travel journal, 1883-1885," houses one journal maintained by Bascom during her journey from Madison, Wisconsin to the Dakota Territory around 1883-1885. The journal contains a bibliography; her impressions and experiences with the Native Americans; and general observation and commentary. No mention is made of geological formations. The most robust part of the collection comprises the fourth series, "United States Geological Survey, 1898-1938." A majority of the papers found here pertain specifically to Bascom's field work conducted under the auspices of the USGS. There are field notebooks, which record measurements and general observations made during her various expeditions; petrographic data; photographs of sites visited; and topographical maps - all of which pertain to more-or-less the same geographic regions. A number of the files containing pertrographic data and photographs allude to their inclusion in some unidentified publication. The last series, "Dorothy Wyckoff papers, 1934-1936" dates from 1934 to 1936 is predominantly laboratory analytical notes regarding the USGS survey of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Correspondence is between Wyckoff and Howard Meyerhoff.

Florence Bascom was a pioneer for women in the geological field, as the second American woman to earn her PhD in geology and the first hired by the United States Geological Survey. As a professor at Bryn Mawr College, she was responsible for developing the geology major. This collection would be of use to any researcher interested in Bascom’s career as a geologist, particularly in her years working for the USGS.

Dates

  • 1883 - 1938

Creator

Conditions Governing Access note

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use note

Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Archives with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.

Extent

5.5 Linear Feet

Abstract

Florence Bascom (1862-1945) was a noted American geologist, specializing in petrography. She attended the University of Wisconsin, receiving her BA degree in 1882 and her MA degree in 1884, and was the first woman to be granted a PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1893. From 1895 to 1928, Bascom taught at Bryn Mawr College, where she established the Geology Department. In 1896, she became the first woman appointed to the United States Geological Survey.

The Florence Bascom papers, 1862-1938, offer evidence of Bascom's career as a regarded geologist and petrographer, particularly her tenure with the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The papers allude to many of Bascom's geological interests and projects, but do not seem to offer comprehensive documentation of any. Her work for the USGS is by far the best represented of all her efforts. The collection is divided into five series: Correspondence, 1897-1937," "Research, 1892-1930" "Travel journal, 1883-1885," "United States Geological Survey, 1898-1938" and "Dorothy Wyckhoff papers, 1934-1936." Researchers should be aware that there is much overlap between the series.

Biographical/Historical note

Florence Bascom (1862-1945) was a noted American geologist, specializing in petrography. She attended the University of Wisconsin, receiving her BA degree in 1882 and her MA degree in 1884, and was the first woman to be granted a PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1893. From 1895 to 1928, Bascom taught at Bryn Mawr College, where she established the Geology Department. In 1896, she became the first woman appointed to the United States Geological Survey.

Bascom was born in 1862 in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where her father, John Bascom, was a professor at Williams College. The family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, when John Bascom became the president of the University of Wisconsin. Florence Bascom studied geology at the University of Wisconsin, earning her BA in 1882 and her MA in 1884. She taught briefly at Rockford College in Illinois, before heading to Baltimore to study geology at Johns Hopkins University. In 1893, Bascom became the first women to earn a PhD from that university. Following her studies at Johns Hopkins, from 1893 to 1895, she taught at Ohio State University.

In 1895, Bascom began her tenure as geology professor at Bryn Mawr College. Her initial courses proved so popular that, under Bascom’s direction, the Geology Department and geology major were almost immediately instituted. Both the major and the department were demoted to elective status briefly, when the president of Bryn Mawr, M. Carey Thomas, deemed them unnecessary. As a result Bascom resigned, returning only after the department and major were reinstated. Bascom became a full professor in 1906 and continued to teach and conduct research at Bryn Mawr until 1928.

Bascom was the first woman to be appointed to the United States Geological Survey in 1896. Coming on at first as an assistant, she was later promoted to Geologist and assigned the part of the Piedmont Plateau that fell in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Her research culminated in the United States Geological Survey Folios, Philadelphia (1909), Trenton (1909), Elkton-Wilmington (1920); and in Bulletins for Quakerstown-Doyletown (1931) and Honeybrook-Pheonixville (1938).

Florence Bascom was the first woman fellow of the Geological Society of America. In 1924 she became councilor and in 1930 Vice President of that organization. From 1896 to 1905, she was the editor of The American Geologist. She was also a member of the National Academy of the National Research Council and the Geophysical Union and other scientific societies.

Having returned to Williamstown, Massachusetts to live with her sister, Florence Bascom died on June 18, 1945. She never married and had no children.

Bibliography

Ogilvie, Ida H. “Florence Bascom: 1862-1945.” Science vol. 102 (1945): 320-321.

“Florence Bascom, Geologist, was 82.” New York Times. June 20, 1945.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred from the Geology Department and Science Library, 1995.

Processing Information

The processing of this collection was made possible through a training session "Archives for Non-Archivists" hosted by the Council on Library and Information Resources.

This collection is minimally processed to the folder level.
Title
Florence Bascom papers, 1883-1938
Status
completed
Author
Courtney Smerz, Melissa Torquato
Date
2011 February 5
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
English
Sponsor
The processing of this collection was made possible through a training session "Archives for Non-Archivists" hosted by the Council on Library and Information Resources.

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Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting Bryn Mawr College Library

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