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Department ofVertebrate Zoology

Division of Fishes

Spencer F. Baird
Spencer F. Baird circa 1875
© Smithsonian Institution

David S. Jordan

Record of Collections of Fishes made under the Auspices of the U.S. Fish Commision and the U.S. National Museum, from 1875 to 1885.

The following account of explorations undertaken by David S. Jordan and his colleagues during 1875-1885 was printed in the Annual Reports of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for the Year 1884 (Washington, 1885). It is a part of Tarleton Bean's "Report upon the Department of Fishes in the U.S. National Museum for 1884," pages 169-174.

For the past ten years the writer has been engaged in a special study of the distribution of fishes in the waters of North America. In this study he has had occasion to do a good deal of field work in the collection of and preservation of fishes. In this he has been aided by several students and associates, especially by Mr. Charles H. Gilbert, now professor of biology in the University of Cincinnati.

All this work has been carried on under the auspices of the U.S. National Museum and the U.S. Fish Commission. It has been performed, in a greater or less degree, under the direction of Professor Baird, and in all cases most of the material obtained, including the types of all new species, has been sent to the U.S. National Museum.

The amount of financial assistance received from Government sources has varied very much. At times (1880-'84) it has amounted to considerably more than the actual expenses of exploration and collection. At other times it has simply met the cost of the alcohol used. Aid of varying amount has also been given by Butler University and, since 1879, by the University of Indiana. These details are, however, foreign to the present purpose. I here give a brief account of the different excursions for field work in ichthyology, made by my associates and myself, with a list of the localities explored.


In the spring and fall of 1875, extensive collections were made in White River and its tributaries about Indianapolis, by the late Prof. Herbert E. Copeland and myself. A list of the species obtained is published in the Annals of the Lyceum of Natural History of New York, 1877, pp. 375-377. Some collections were also made by Professor Copeland in Wisconsin and by myself at the Falls of the Ohio and about Cumberland Gap.


In the summer of 1876 I made an extended collecting tour in the Southern States, accompanied by Mr. Charles H. Gilbert, who was then a botanical student under Professor Copeland. A small collection was obtained in the Rock Castle River, at Livingston, Ky. About three weeks were spent by us at Rome, Ga. Here the streams tributary to the Etowah, Oostanaula, and Coosa Rivers were very thoroughly explored. A few days were also spent at Flat Shoals, on South River, a tributary of the Ocmulgee, southeast of Atlanta. Small collections were also made in Peach Tree Creek and in Nancy's Creek, tributaries of the Chattahoochee, near Atlanta.

This expedition represents the first attempt to study the fresh-water fishes of Georgia, and the collection then made is much larger than any since obtained in that State. The results of this summer's work have been published by me, under the title of "A Partial Synopsis of the Fishes of Upper Georgia," in the Annals of the Lyceum of Natural History of New York, XI, 1877, p. 307 et seq.


In 1877 a more extended tour in the Allegheny region of the Southern States was undertaken by the writer, with the assistance of Dr. Alembert W. Brayton and Mr. Gilbert. Numerous streams were examined, representing the following hydrographic basins: Santee, Savannah, Altamaha, Chattahoochee, Alabama, Tennessee, Cumberland. A detailed report of these explorations was published by Jordan and Brayton in Bulletin XII of the U.S. National Museum, 1878, under the title "On the Distribution of the Fishes of the Allegheny Region of South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee, with Descriptions of New or Little Known Species." An extended discussion of the distribution of fresh- water fishes is given in this paper, pp. 91-95.


In 1878 I spent some time at Beaufort, N. C., in the study of the marine fishes of that port. In my work here I was assisted by Dr. Brayton, Mr. Gilbert, and Mr. B. W. Evermann. A catalogue of the species obtained was published in the Proceedings of the U.S. National Museum, 1878, pp. 365-388, by Jordan and Gilbert, under the title of "Notes on the Fishes of Beaufort Harbor, North Carolina."


The summer of 1879 was spent in Europe. Considerable collections were made by Mr. Gilbert and myself at Venice.


In November, 1879, I was appointed special agent of the U.S. Census Bureau, in charge of the enumeration of the fisheries and other marine interests of the Pacific coast of the United States. I was also instructed by the U.S. Commissioner of Fisheries to undertake a thorough study of the fish-fauna of that region, and to make extensive collections of the fishes for distribution by the U.S. National Museum to the chief museums of the world.

Mr. Charles H. Gilbert was appointed assistant in this work. Special assistance in Puget Sound was rendered by Mr. James G. Swan, of Neah Bay, and about San Francisco by Mr. William N. Lockington, then of San Francisco. Important volunteer aid was also given by Miss Rosa Smith, of San Diego, by Mr. Charles J. Smith, then of Astoria, and by Capt. Andrea Larco, of Santa Barbara.

Mr. Gilbert and the writer reached San Diego about January 1,1880. The time between that date and November 1 was devoted to an exploration of the coast from the Mexican boundary as far north as Saanich on Vancouver's Island, most of the important points being visited at least twice, at different seasons.

The chief points at which collections were made are San Diego, San Pedro (Wilmington), Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo (Port Harford), Monterey, Soquel, San Francisco, Humboldt Bay, Astoria, Neah Bay, Seattle, Tacoma, Victoria, Saanich Arm, and New Westminster.

Few coasts have yet been so thoroughly explored, so far as the shore fishes are concerned. We had, however, no means of collecting fishes from any great depth. The results of these explorations have been given in numerous short papers in the Proceedings of the U.S. National Museum for 1880 and 1881, in the Synopsis of the Fishes of North America, and other papers. Our reports to the U.S. Census Bureau still remain unpublished. Some 55 species new to science were obtained by this expedition, and the number of species of shore fishes known from the Pacific coast of California, Oregon, and Washington was raised from about 200 to nearly 275. Series of specimens containing each from 50 to 250 of these species have been distributed to some 75 different museums, in various parts of the world.

The most important result of our work on the Pacific coast is probably the solution of the problem as to the number of species of salmon (Oncorhynchus) inhabiting the North Pacific. Similar results were reached at the same time by Dr. T.H. Bean, who was then carrying explorations in Alaska.

On my return to the East I visited Utah Lake. Here, with the assistance of Peter Madsen, a fisherman at Provo, I made a considerable collection of fishes, some of them new to science. These have been described by Jordan and Gilbert in the Proceedings of the U.S. National Museum, 1880, p. 459.

After finishing his work in California in November, 1880, Mr. Gilbert continued his explorations southward, spending the winter at Mazatlan and Panama, returning from Colon to Washington in the spring of 1881. A remarkably rich and carefully preserved collection was obtained from the Pacific coast of Mexico and Central America. This included some 60 species new to science. These have been described in several papers by Jordan and Gilbert in the Proceedings of the U.S. National Museum and Bulletin of the U. S. Fish Commission in 1881 and 1882. An elaborate paper containing synonymy and detailed descriptions of all the species of fishes known from the Pacific coast of tropical America was prepared by us for publication. This was destroyed by fire in 1883 when nearly ready for the press.


The summer of 1881 was spent in Europe. Collections were made in Genoa and Venice.


In the spring of 1882 I visited Galveston, New Orleans, and Pensacola, making a considerable collection at each point. The most important part of this collection was that obtained at Pensacola, with the assistance of Mr. Silas Stearns. The collections of fishes made by Mr. Stearns at Pensacola are among the most important which the National Museum has received from any source. The results of this expedition were published by Jordan and Gilbert in the Proceedings of the U.S. National Museum for 1882, pp. 241-307.

Part of the summer of the same year was spent by Professor Gilbert at Charleston, S.C. In his work here Professor Gilbert received important aid from Mr. Charles C. Leslie. The results of his explorations were published by Jordan and Gilbert in Proceedings of the U.S. National Museum, 1882, pp. 580-620.


The winter of 1882-'83 was spent by Professor Gilbert in making collections of fishes at Panama and at neighboring points on both sides of the Isthmus as well as in the fresh waters of the Isthmus and of Costa Rica. A large collection obtained was extremely rich in fresh-water forms and contained some 40 species new to science. It was unfortunately totally destroyed by the burning of the museum building of the Indiana University, July 12, 1883.

At this time about one-third of the collection previously made by Professor Gilbert at Mazatlan and Panama was destroyed, as well as the private collections of Professor Gilbert and myself which were very rich in the department of fishes. Nothing was published concerning these collections of 1883.

In the spring of 1883 a small collection of fishes was made in the Fork of the Cumberland River by Mr. Joseph Swain and the writer. After the fire a third collection was made at Venice by Mr. Swain and myself. Small collections were also obtained at Wood's Holl [sic], Mass., and in different streams of Indiana.

In November and December, 1883, 1 undertook a reconnaissance of the fish-fauna of the Florida Keys. A day was spent at Jacksonville, a few days at Cedar Keys, Fla., about three weeks at Key West, and nearly two weeks in Havana. In this work I was assisted by William H. Dye, a student of Indiana University. Large collections were obtained, especially at Key West and at Havana--upwards of 25 species being new to science. The collections made in Florida have been described in different papers in the Proceedings of the U.S. National Museum for 1884. Those from Havana have not yet been placed on record.


In July 1884 I was asked by Prof. G. Brown Goode, curator of the U.S. National Museum, to take charge of a series of explorations of the streams of the Southern States, to be undertaken in connection with the New Orleans Exposition. In this work I was assisted by Professor Gilbert, Prof. Joseph Swain, and Mr. Seth E. Meek.

Field work was begun early in July by Professors Gilbert and Swain in different streams in Indiana. Later they extended their explorations southward, making collections in the Rolling Fork, the Rock Castle, Cumberland, Clinch, French Broad, and Stone's Rivers; later in the tributaries of the Tennessee, about Florence, Tuscumbia, and Huntsville, in Alabama, and in those of the Black Warrior, about Cullman, Blount Springs, Warrior, and Tuscaloosa. This exploration of the Tennessee basin brought to light a number of new forms, especially in the group of Etheostominae.

Meanwhile the writer, assisted by Mr. Seth E. Meek, began field work in the Des Moines River, in Southern Iowa. The Des Moines, Chariton, and Hundred and Two Rivers, in Iowa, were investigated, and the Missouri, La Mine, and Osage, in Missouri. After a time I was obliged to return to Indiana for a few days, and Professor Gilbert, with Mr. Meek's assistance, continued the work in tributaries of the Neosho, Osage, White, Niangua and Gasconade, in Southern Missouri. I rejoined them at Eureka Springs, in Arkansas, where we made large collections in the White River. Here Mr. Meek left us, and Mr. Gilbert and I proceeded to Fort Smith, where we made collections in Lee's Creek, the Poteau River, and the Arkansas. Proceeding southwestward from Little Rock, we explored in succession the Saline River at Benton, the Washita River at Arkadelphia, the Red River at Fulton, the Sabine River at Longview, the Trinity River at Dallas, the Lampasas and Leon Rivers at Belton, the Colorado River at Austin, the Rio Blanco and San Marcos Rivers at San Marcos, and the Rio Comal at New Braunfels. From New Braunfels we returned to Washington.

The explorations in 1884 are in several respects the most extensive yet undertaken in the fresh waters of the United States. As results of the summer's work a considerable number of new species have been added to our lists. The range of many species hitherto supposed to be rare and local has been greatly extended, and numerous species supposed to be well distinguished have been shown to be geographical varieties of others. We have been enabled in many cases to recognize subspecies among our fresh-water fishes and to properly distinguish these from individual and accidental variations. This work cannot be fully done until all our interior waters have been explored. There still remain many hydrographic basins in which no collections have yet been made.

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