Waldo L. Schmitt Papers,
1907-1978
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
Record Unit 7231
Creators:
Schmitt, Waldo L. (Waldo Lasalle), 1887-1977.
Dates:
1907-1978
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
79.56 cu. ft. (6 record storage boxes) (121 document boxes) (2 half document boxes) (4 12x17 boxes) (60 3x5 boxes) (3 5x8 boxes) (2 film boxes) (oversize material)
Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives

Descriptive Entry
Descriptive Entry
The papers of Waldo LaSalle Schmitt provide comprehensive documentation of his professional career, 1907-1977. They also illustrate, to a lesser degree, his personal life. Particularly well represented in the papers is material concerning Schmitt's carcinological research, his curatorial and administrative careers at the United States National Museum (USNM), his career as a field worker and scientific expedition member, and his activities in scientific societies and professional organizations.
Schmitt was a prolific letter writer and a large part of his papers consists of correspondence written and received between 1907 and 1977. The correspondence reflects all aspects of Schmitt's career, particularly expeditions and field work, the evolution of his duties at the USNM, carcinological research, and relations with the scientific community. Also included are many letters with friends and family members concerning personal matters.
Records relating to Schmitt's activities in scientific societies, professional organizations, and social groups are found in his organizational files. They also include files kept by Schmitt on government agencies, museums, colleges and universities, and research foundations. Included are records documenting Schmitt's tenure as President of the Washington Academy of Sciences, his duties as a trustee of the Bear's Bluff Laboratories and the International Oceanographic Foundation, his application for the position of Director of the California Academy of Sciences, his academic careers at George Washington University and the University of California, and his career as an instructor at George Washington University.
Other records relating to Schmitt's service in professional organizations exist in separate series. These include files concerning his work on the editorial board for biological manuscripts for the American Geophysical Union's Antarctic Research Series, records regarding his service on the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Polar Research, and files reflecting his activities as a member of the Explorers Club and the Society of Systematic Zoology (SSZ). The SSZ files are of particular interest since they provide information concerning the founding and early history of the Society and include records maintained by Schmitt during his tenure as the organization's first President.
Schmitt's fifty-two-year career as a field worker and scientific expedition member is extensively illustrated in the expedition files. The records include diaries, field notes, station data, correspondence, manuscripts, reprints, publications, reports, newspaper clippings, financial records, photographs, notes, maps, and memorabilia collected by Schmitt. Records concerning his underwater photography field work with Harry Pederson are contained in a separate series.
Aside from his correspondence, Schmitt's personal activities and outside interests are best illustrated by records concerning his ideas and plans for easing traffic problems in Washington, D.C. Included is correspondence, newspaper articles by Schmitt, and hearing statements that outline his plans for a commuter railroad.
The papers include a large group of photographs, slides, movies, lantern slides, and tape recordings made and collected by Schmitt. Included are photographs of Schmitt, scientific colleagues, and Smithsonian and USNM associates; early underwater photographs taken by William Harding Longley at Tortugas, Florida; slides, movies, lantern slides, and tape recordings made on expeditions; and a tape recording of the "Remembrance to Waldo LaSalle Schmitt" held at the National Museum of Natural History in 1978.
The papers also include diaries and notebooks mostly concerning USNM business, but also containing entries made on expeditions; records dealing with the republication of Schmitt's book Crustaceans; files on his research project "The American Commensal Crabs of the Family Pinnotheridae"; manuscripts, speeches, and publications of Schmitt; biographical materials, compiled by Schmitt on his mentor, Mary Jane Rathbun; records, collected by Schmitt, on Robert A. Bartlett and the Bartlett Arctic Expeditions; a transcript of an oral history interview of Schmitt; and awards, diplomas, and citations received by Schmitt.
Additional material in the Smithsonian Archives that relates to Schmitt can be found in the records of the Division of Marine Invertebrates, United States National Museum (Record Units 233 and 235) and its successor, the Division of Crustacea, National Museum of Natural History (Record Unit 307), and the records of the Departments of Biology and Zoology, United States National Museum (Record Units 143, 242, and 243).

Historical Note
Historical Note
Waldo LaSalle Schmitt (1887-1977) was born in Washington, D.C. He developed an early interest in natural history, studying the flora and fauna of the District of Columbia and nearby Maryland. He received the B.S. degree from George Washington University in 1913; the M.A. degree from the University of California in 1916; and his Ph.D. from George Washington University in 1922. In 1948, he received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Southern California.
Schmitt began his career in government service in 1907 as an Aide in Economic Botany for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He served in that position until 1910 when he was appointed Scientific Aide in the Division of Marine Invertebrates of the United States National Museum (USNM). At USNM, he became acquainted with Mary Jane Rathbun and began to develop his interest in the study of crustacea. From 1911 to 1914, Schmitt served on the staff of the United States Bureau of Fisheries as Scientific Assistant and Naturalist aboard the Albatross during its cruises along the west coast of America and Alaska. Crustacean collections surveys made on the Albatross provided the material for Schmitt's M.A. thesis, "The Marine Decapod Crustacea of California." In 1915, Schmitt returned to the United States National Museum as Assistant Curator in the Division of Marine Invertebrates. From 1915 to 1920, he also served as part-time instructor of Zoology at George Washington University. In 1920, Schmitt was named Curator of the Division of Marine Invertebrates and remained in that capacity until 1943 when he was appointed Head Curator of the Department of Biology. The Department of Biology was split into the Departments of Zoology and Botany in 1947, with Schmitt as Head Curator of Zoology. Upon his retirement in 1957, Schmitt was named Honorary Research Associate and continued his association with the Smithsonian Institution until his death on 5 August 1977.
Schmitt participated in numerous biological expeditions and field trips during his career. Under the auspices of the United States Bureau of Fisheries, he spent the summer of 1918 studying the life history of the spiny lobster at the Scripps Institution, La Jolla, California. During the summers of 1924 and 1925, Schmitt was at the Carnegie Institution's Marine Laboratory at Tortugas, Florida, surveying the crustacean fauna of the area, identifying crustaceans found in the stomachs of fishes, and taking underwater photographs. He also participated in field work at Tortugas during the summers of 1930, 1931, and 1932. In 1925, Schmitt was awarded the Smithsonian's Walter Rathbone Bacon Traveling Scholarship "for the study of the fauna of countries other than the United States." The scholarship enabled him to collect marine invertebrates along the east coast of South America from August to December, 1925, and on the west coast from August 1926 to May 1927.
During the years 1933 to 1935, Schmitt was a member of three expeditions to the Galapagos Islands sponsored by G. Allan Hancock of Los Angeles, California. While on these trips, Schmitt became acquainted with a group of utopian colonists on Florena Island in the Galapagos, who attracted considerable attention in the world press by their intrigues and mysterious behavior. As a guest of G. Huntington Hartford, he explored and collected in the West Indies on the Smithsonian-Hartford West Indies Expedition of 1937. In 1938, Schmitt was chosen by the White House to accompany President Franklin D. Roosevelt as Naturalist on the Presidential Cruise to Clipperton, Cocos, and the Galapagos Islands. In 1939, Schmitt was a member of the Hancock South America Expedition and he served as the Biologist in charge of field operations on the first United States Fish and Wildlife Service Alaska King Crab Investigation in 1940. During 1941 and 1942, Schmitt spent time on special detail with the United States Navy investigating the possibility of establishing a biological station in the Galapagos Islands. In 1943, he visited South America, under the auspices of the State Department, for the purpose of strengthening relations between United States and Latin American scientists.
In 1955, the Smithsonian Institution began an association with J. Bruce Bredin of Wilmington, Delaware, that produced several scientific expeditions. In that year, Schmitt headed the Smithsonian-Bredin Belgian Congo Expedition. From 1956 to 1960, Schmitt led Bredin sponsored expeditions to the Caribbean (1956, 1958, 1959), the Society Islands (1957), and the Yucatan (1960). Sponsored by a grant from the Office of Naval Research, Schmitt spent the summers of 1961 and 1962 with Harry Pederson photographing the coral reef fauna of the Bahama Islands. Schmitt's last expedition was in 1962-1963, when he served as a member of the Palmer Peninsula (Antarctica) Survey of the United States Antarctic Research Program. During the survey, Schmitt collected over 29,000 specimens, which were added to the collections of the National Museum of Natural History. In recognition of his contributions to the United States Antarctic Research Program, the Board of Geographic Names designated a 30 mile ice-covered series of outcrops at the base of the Antarctic Peninsula, Schmitt Mesa.
Schmitt's primary field of zoological investigation was carcinology, with special emphasis on the decapod crustaceans (the order that includes crabs, lobsters, and shrimp). His bibliography consists of more than seventy titles. A member of numerous professional organizations, Schmitt was active in the founding of the Society of Systematic Zoology and served as president in 1948. He was also president of the Washington Academy of Sciences in 1947. Schmitt was a trustee of the Bear's Bluff Laboratories, the International Oceanographic Foundation, and the Serological Museum of Rutgers University.
For additional biographical information on Waldo LaSalle Schmitt, see Richard E. Blackwelder, The Zest for Life, or Waldo Had a Pretty Good Run: The Life of Waldo LaSalle Schmitt (Lawrence, Kansas: The Allen Press, Inc., 1979); Fenner A. Chace, Jr., "Waldo LaSalle Schmitt, 25 June 1887 - 5 August 1977," Crustaceana, 1978, vol. 34, pt. 1, pp. 83-90; and John Sherwood, "Uncle Waldo Still Hears the Call of Crustaceans," The Washington Star, January 11, 1977.

Chronology
Chronology
June 25, 1887
Born in Washington, D.C.
1907-1910
Aide in Economic Botany, United States Department of Agriculture
1910
Scientific Aide, Division of Marine Invertebrates, United States National Museum (February-September)
1911
Scientific Assistant, Bureau of Fisheries Expedition to Lower California aboard the Albatross (February-May)
1911
Scientific Assistant, Bureau of Fisheries Chignik (Alaska) Biological Survey aboard the Albatross and the Star of Alaska (May-September)
1912-1914
Scientific Assistant, Bureau of Fisheries Survey of San Francisco Bay aboard the Albatross (various trips)
1913
Bachelor of Science, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
1914
Naturalist in charge of biological activities, Bureau of Fisheries Halibut Survey of Washington and Oregon aboard the Albatross (April-May, August-September)
1914
Assistant, Bureau of Fisheries Olympia Oyster Beds Survey (June-August)
1914
Married Alvina Stumm (November 19)
1915-1920
Assistant Curator, Division of Marine Invertebrates, USNM
1915-1920
Instructor in Zoology, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
1916
Master of Arts, University of California, Berkeley
1918
Bureau of Fisheries Spiny Lobster Investigations aboard the Albacore out of La Jolla, California (June-August)
1920-1943
Curator, Division of Marine Invertebrates, USNM
1921
The Marine Decapod Crustacea of California..., University of California Publications in Zoology, volume 23
1922
Ph.D., George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
1924
Field work at Carnegie Marine Laboratory, Dry Tortugas, Florida (summer)
1925
Field work at Carnegie Marine Laboratory, Dry Tortugas, Florida (summer)
1925
Walter Rathbone Bacon Traveling Scholarship Expedition to the East Coast of South America (August-December)
1926-1927
Walter Rathbone Bacon Traveling Scholarship Expedition to the West Coast of South America, including the Falkland Islands, Deception Island, and Juan Fernandez Islands (August 1926-May 1927)
1930
Field work at Carnegie Marine Laboratory, Dry Tortugas, Florida (summer)
1931
Crustaceans. Smithsonian Scientific Series, volume 10
1931
Field work at Carnegie Marine Laboratory, Dry Tortugas, Florida (summer)
1932
Field work at Carnegie Marine Laboratory, Dry Tortugas, Florida (summer)
1933
Hancock Pacific-Galapagos Expedition I aboard the Velero III (January-March)
1933-1934
Hancock Pacific-Galapagos Expedition II aboard the Velero III (December 1933-March 1934)
1934-1935
Hancock Pacific-Galapagos Expedition III aboard the Velero III (November 1934-February 1935)
1937
Smithsonian-Hartford West Indies Expedition aboard the Joseph Conrad (March-May)
1938
Presidential Cruise to the Galapagos aboard the U.S.S. Houston (July-August)
1939
Hancock South America Expedition aboard the Velero III (March-May)
1940
Biologist in charge of field operations, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Alaska King Crab Investigation (August-December)
1941
United States Navy Trip to the Galapagos (April)
1942
United States Navy Trip to the Galapagos (June-July)
1943
United States Department of State Trip to South America (April-June)
1943-1947
Head Curator, Department of Biology, USNM
1947
President, Washington Academy of Sciences
1947-1957
Head Curator, Department of Zoology, USNM
1948
Honorary Doctor of Science, University of Southern California
1948
Society of Systematic Zoology formed with Schmitt as first President
1954
Applied Systematics. Smithsonian Report for 1953
1955
Smithsonian-Bredin Belgian Congo Expedition (March-June)
1956
Smithsonian-Bredin Caribbean Expedition I (March-April)
1957
Smithsonian-Bredin Society Islands Expedition (April-May)
1957
Retirement from USNM
1957-1977
Research Associate, Department of Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History
1958
Smithsonian-Bredin Caribbean Expedition II (March-May)
1959
Smithsonian-Bredin Caribbean Expedition III (March-May)
1960
Smithsonian-Bredin Yucatan Expedition (March-May)
1961-1962
Underwater photography field work with Harry Pederson in the Bahamas
1962-1963
Palmer Peninsula Survey, U.S. Antarctic Research Program (November 1962-March 1963)
1965
Crustaceans. Republished by University of Michigan Press
1968
"Schmitt Mesa" designated in Antarctica by Board of Geographic Names
1976
Death of Alvina Schmitt
August 5, 1977
Death
1978
"Remembrance to Waldo LaSalle Schmitt," memorial meeting at the National Museum of Natural History

Administration
Oversize
This collection contains oversize material.
Author
Finding aid prepared by Smithsonian Institution Archives

Notes
Personal Papers

Using the Collection
Prefered Citation
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7231, Waldo L. Schmitt Papers

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Schmitt, Waldo L. (Waldo Lasalle), 1887-1977 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rathbun, Mary Jane, 1860-1943 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bartlett, Bob, 1875-1946 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Pederson, Harry Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hancock, Allan, 1875- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hartford, Huntington, 1911-2008 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bredin, J. Bruce Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Explorers Club Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Society of Systematic Zoology (U.S.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
George Washington University Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
University of California (1868-1952) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
University of Southern California Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Department of Agriculture Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States National Museum. Division of Marine Invertebrates Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Bureau of Fisheries Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Albatross (Steamer) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States National Museum. Department of Biology Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Museum of Natural History (U.S.). Department of Zoology Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scripps Institution for Biological Research Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Carnegie Institution of Washington Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Walter Rathbone Bacon Traveling Scholarship Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Navy Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Department of State Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Office of Naval Research Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Palmer Peninsula (Antarctica) Survey, 1962-1963 Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States Antarctic Research Program Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Museum of Natural History (U.S.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Washington Academy of Sciences (Washington, D.C.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bears Bluff Laboratories, Wadmalaw Island, S.C. Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
International Oceanographic Foundation Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rutgers University. Serological Museum Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States Navy Galapagos Expedition (1941-1942) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bartlett Arctic Expeditions (1928-1947) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smithsonian-Hartford Expedition to the West Indies, 1937 Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hancock South American Expedition (1939) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Alaska King Crab Investigation (1940) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smithsonian-Bredin Belgian Congo Expedition (1955) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smithsonian-Bredin Caribbean Expeditions, 1956-1959 Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smithsonian-Bredin Expedition to Yucatan (1960) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smithsonian-Bredin Society Islands Expedition (1957) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hancock Pacific-Galapagos Expeditions (1933-1935) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Biography Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Invertebrate zoology Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Zoology Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Zoologists Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Invertebrates Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Crustacea Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Collectors and collecting Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scientific expeditions Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Marine invertebrates Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Motion pictures (visual works) Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Audiotapes Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Black-and-white photographs Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Manuscripts Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Lantern slides Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Color transparencies Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Smithsonian Institution Archives
Washington, D.C.
Contact us at osiaref@si.edu