The 1879 act establishing the United States Geological Survey (USGS) declares "And all collections of rocks, minerals, soils, and fossils, and objects of natural history, archaeology, and ethnology, made by the Coast and Interior Survey, the Geological Survey, or by any other parties for the Government of the United States, when no longer needed for investigations in progress, shall be deposited in the National Museum." Many of the paleontologists affiliated with the USGS Paleontology and Stratigraphy Branch have been stationed at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) to study and care for the national collections. This close working relationship between the USGS and the NMNH has resulted in the Smithsonian Archives acquiring records and special collections documenting paleontological work of the Survey and its scientists.
This collection contains records concerning the official work of the Section of Coastal Plain Investigations, United States Geological Survey (USGS), as well as papers documenting the paleontological research and professional activities of Lloyd William Stephenson and Thomas Wayland Vaughan. Apparently, when the Section of Coastal Plain Investigations was abolished in 1936, Stephenson took many of the old files with him to his new position as a Geologist with the Section of Paleontology and Stratigraphy. Therefore, materials prior to 1936 consist primarily of records documenting the geological work of the Section of Coastal Plain Investigations, USGS. Most of these records were created by Vaughan and Stephenson in their capacity as Section Chiefs. Smaller amounts of records were created by Section geologists including C. Wythe Cook, Julia Anna Gardner, Watson Hiner Monroe, and W. P. Woodring. Material created after 1936 documents Stephenson's research on Cretaceous paleontology.
The majority of the collection consists of correspondence arranged in four separate series. Included is general correspondence which primarily documents Stephenson's official and professional activities, 1913-1956; correspondence (arranged by state) with paleontologists, state geologists, and economic geologists which mostly documents surveys and other work of the Section of Coastal Plain Investigations, 1907-1945; letters concerning Vaughan's research on fossil corals of Mexico, the West Indies, and South America, 1912-1933; and correspondence with paleontologists, museums, and universities concerning the identification, loan, and acquisition of invertebrate fossil specimens, 1913-1946.
The collection also contains material concerning the geology of Texas. Stephenson's work preparing part of the geological map of Texas is documented by correspondence, maps, and charts. Also included are various records concerning the examination of stratigraphic samples submitted by oil companies drilling prospecting wells in Texas.
Lastly the collection contains administrative records of the Section of Coastal Plain Investigations including personnel files and monthly reports; manuscripts written and reviewed by Stephenson; and collected geological charts.