The following was recently found in the history records of the Society by Al Boice and Chris Bidwell. I think it will definitely will be an interesting read to some of you.


By P. A. Davies

While studying the C. W. Short correspondence in the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina November 26, 1947, I discovered three letters which I believe are or interest to The Kentucky Society of Natural History.

These letters tell that on December 6, 1851, a small group of local naturalists met in the Medical School building of the University of Louisville and organized a Louisville Natural History Society.

Another small group of naturalists, without knowledge of what had taken place 88 years earlier, met in 1939. And organized the Louisville Natural History Society, later incorporated The Kentucky Society of Natural History. The present Society should seriously consider December 6, 1851, as the founding date and look forward to celebrating its centennial in 1951.

The charter and minute book of this early Society has been sought. without success in the Library of the Medical School of the University of Louisville, the Louisville Free Public Library, and The Filson Club. It would be interesting to know how long the organization, remained active; how many meetings were» held and the nature of these meetings, and what has become of ‘its books and specimens.

I am. Submitting these letters for publication so that The Kentucky Society of Natural History may have a permanent record of the foundation of the early Society.

Louisville University Dec. 5, 1851

My dear Sir,

It is the desire of those gentlemen who are interested in the formation of “Louisville Natural History Society" to obtain your consent to name you as our first President. l have been requested to ask permission you to employ your name in this connection, and I sincerely trust that you will gratify the wishes of' your friends who are interested in this enterprise by accepting the nomination which will involve no duty or responsibility which will not be entirely within your own control. The choice of its officers’ tomorrow night will organize the Society.

We hope by this movement to form a collection of our own Fauna and Flora and of the fossils and minerals of Ky, to procure a few good books, and to secure the delivery of a series of lectures on kindred topics, open to the public. The Faculty here have agreed to the use of the University building to the Society thus providing them with apartments, lights, and a librarian. Relieved from these expenses it is believed that a small annual subscription will accomplish. a good deal where judiciously applied. Dr. [Jedidiah] Cobb and myself had purposed to pay our» respects to you today, but we are detained from doing -so until next week. Hoping for your favorable answer, I remain Dear Sir Yours very respectfully,

B. Silliman, Jr.

The following was written by Dr. C. W. Short on the back of the letter he received from Dr. B. Silliman, Jr. Without doubt. 1t was a copy of the reply to Dr. Silliman’s letter.

Your favor of the 5th inst. reached me last night and I embrace the first moment to reply to it. Dr. Drake had some days ago, informed me of the movement making in Louisville to form a Nat. Hist. Association, and then expressed to him very freely my fears as to the result of the movement growing mainly out of the very small number of persons in this quarter who pay any attention whatever to any of the departments of Nat. Science. I now report the same apprehensions of failure, as the result of my experience and observation of all such efforts in different portions of the Western Country.


I am entirely willing to aid in another attempt of the same kind, so far as membership and contributions may go, but I must by permission decline the honor which you p have kindly intimated of nominating me as President of the proposed operation. The President of such a Society, I should suppose ought to have some general acquaintance with all the different branches of Natural Science, where as I make no pretension to any other than Botany.

Dr. Silliman’s second letter to Dr. Short: Louisville Dec. 8, 1851

My dear Sir,

Your favor of the 6th reached me this A. M. and you will receive my thanks for the kindly sentiments it expresses regarding our little Society.

On Saturday evening [December 6th] the Society was organized by the adoption of a charter, and the appointment of its first officers in the absence of any advice to the contrary it was thought proper by those present to elect yourself as President. Dr. Cobb was elected vice Pres, Dr. Gaudell Secretary and Mr. L. Capaduy Treas.

The Society agreed to accept the invitation of the Louisville University to employ for the present, and until more suitable accommodations can be procured, the College building for the deposit of their collections and books and the delivery of their lectures- This arrangement will relieve the Society of all expenses of rent and will also secure the safe keeping of the collections and books if the Society itself should pass into a state of suspended animation. Dr. Cobb and myself purpose should t e day be fair to drive out tomorrow afternoon and pay our respects to you, when I can still further explain to you the place and proposed management of this small but I hope useful and honorable affair.

I remain Dear Sir very respectfully

Truly yours .

[Signature removed but the writing is that of B. Silliman, Jr.]

Dr. Charles Short Department of Biology University of Louisville Louisville. Kentucky