The transfer of the Rothschild bird collections from Tring to New York as well as Mayr's employment by the AMNH in the early 1930s were due to the efforts of Dr. Leonard C. Sanford (1868-1950), a wealthy physician in New Haven, an influential member of the New York upper class society, and a Trustee of the AMNH (Murphy 1951; LeCroy 2005). He was not only the family doctor of many prominent families, but also a welcome associate as a splendid tennis player, an excellent bridge player, a superb raconteur, and a good friend (Fig. 3.2). Nobody ever wanted to disappoint him.
Through his activities during the 1910s and 1920s the bird collections of the AMNH had become the richest in the world and its Department of Ornithology a global center of research. It was Dr. Sanford who, so to speak, offered to Ernst Mayr the collections which enabled him to carry out a comprehensive research program on geographical variation, zoogeography, and speciation. This fatherly friend for
4 This explains why the year of Mayr's emigration to the United States is sometimes given as 1931 (when he started his temporary assignment in New York) and sometimes as 1932 (when he terminated his employment in Berlin).
20 years (1931-1950) was an important figure in Ernst Mayr's life, "the knight in shining armor of this tale" (Bock 2004a) and a "manager of major ornithological ventures." He initiated (1) the Brewster-Sanford Expedition to the coastal areas of South America 1912-1917, (2) the Whitney South Sea Expedition to the islands in the Pacific Ocean 1920-1940, and (3) several expeditions to New Guinea, Celebes (Sulawesi) and the northern Moluccas in 1928-1932. He raised the necessary funds through his connections with financial circles in New York, laid the basic plans for these long-term expeditions and finally arranged for qualified scientists to be employed to study the collections obtained. As detailed below, his motivation was not entirely science but friendly rivalry with his comrade Thomas Barbour.
Through his acquaintance with the Whitney family Sanford also raised, in 1929, the financial means for the construction of the Whitney Wing of the AMNH to house the large incoming collections as well as newpublic galleries (Murphy 1951; LeCroy 1989,2005; Bock 1994a). Dr. Chapman, head of the Department of Ornithology and mainly interested in birds of the Americas, did not object, of course, to any of Dr. Sanford's unsolicited plans, particularly since his department profited immensely by these global activities. However, Chapman may not have been really happy with the purchase of the Rothschild Collection in 1932 (Mayr, pers. comm.). To make room for this huge collection, the fourth floor of the recently completed Whitney Wing that Chapman had intended as another exhibition floor, was converted into a floor for bird collections. He never complained about this but Mayr felt that all of this happened without him really wanting it. In a sense, Chapman was somewhat afraid of Sanford. There was never any joint planning between the two. This is why Sanford had turned to Ernst Hartert and Erwin Stresemann regarding the ornithological exploration of New Guinea and the Malay Archipelago on which areas they were the experts. Frequently, when Mayr talked with Chapman and mentionedsomeneedsonthe fourth floor, hewould makecommentsasifthisfloor belonged to a different museum. Occasionally, Chapman did object to Sanford's plans (February 18, 1937): "As regards Chapin, I am determined to have him go to the Congo and Chapman is determined he shall not" (Stresemann Papers, Staatsbibliothek Berlin). As usual, Sanford had the last word.
Before the First World War, Dr. Sanford was on the surgical staff of the New Haven Hospital and the physician of the Yale Football team. Because of his hunting and conservation interests he was, at that time, also one of the leading personalities of the Connecticut Fish and Game Commission and came in close contact with Theodore Roosevelt while he was President of the United States. Sanford's activities regarding the AMNH had been triggered by his friend Dr. Thomas Barbour (18841946), curator and later director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ), Harvard University, who had pointed out to him that the MCZ's collections were more complete than those of the AMNH. Thus, as a trustee of the AMNH since 1921, Sanford competed with Barbour and the MCZ (Mayr, pers. comm., and Bock 1994a). He was a born collector and particularly enjoyed possessing things which others did not have and partly because they did not have them. However, he wanted nothing for himself and took delight in building up the scientific treasures of the AMNH, particularly its Department of Birds. He was not personally a man of very large financial resources, but his acquaintance was wide, and his approach well-nigh irresistible. If he could acquire some rarity for the Bird Department, that was splendid; but if he also knew that his friend, Tom Barbour, could not get a specimen of that same species, then Sanford's joy was doubled. In 1928 he traveled by airplane (!) to Europe and, after visiting Hartert in Tring and Stresemann in Berlin, continued to St. Petersburg in an effort to arrange an exchange of specimens of several extinct bird species from certain islands in the Pacific Ocean (Phalacrocorax perspicillatus, Aphanolimnas monasa, "Kittlitzia" (Aplonis) corvina). In this case, he was unsuccessful.
After winning the "competitive race" during the 1920s, Dr. Sanford continued his support of the Bird Department of the AMNH probably because of his collecting compulsion (he himself owned a large collection of North American birds) as well as his satisfaction in carrying through major ornithological projects on an international scale-like a modern manager of large industrial companies. When he was unable to exchange with other museums specimens of some rare birds from a number of islands in the Pacific Ocean, he planned and obtained the financial means for an expedition to these and many other islands conducted by the AMNH, the Whitney South Sea Expedition (1920-1940). He was happy to see Ernst Mayr's stream of publications during the 1930s, when the latter was working on the rich material brought back to New York. Dr. Sanford more or less concealed under the mantle of a mere fondness for sport a sense of high purpose and a deep love of nature. In 1948 Mayr supervised the organization and installation of a large Museum exhibit, the Leonard C. Sanford Hall of the Biology of Birds, in whose dedication Dr. Sanford took part. His bronze bust held a central position in the Hall (which in 2000 has been incorporated into other exhibits). Sanford died on December 7,1950.
Ernst Mayr reported: "Soon after I had arrived in New York in January 1931, Sanford visited me in my office and took great interest in the series of papers I published. He wanted to talk with me all the time about birds the museum still lacked and places that ought to be visited. During the football season he invited me several times annually to New Haven to watch a game and stay overnight at the Tennis Club. I am sure it was Sanford who insisted that my contract be renewed for a second year, and when, during that second year, the Rothschild Collection was purchased by Sanford (with Whitney money) it was he who insisted that I be made the curator.
In 19341 developed a medical problem and on 13th of April my left kidney had to be removed. Sanford could not have been more solicitous if he had been my own father. He continued to inquire about me, and as soon as I was mobile he invited me to his home in New Haven to spend some days there to recover even more, also under the care of Mrs. Sanford, a lovely lady After that he sent me to his trout fishing camp in the Catskills (Beaver Kill Brook) taking care of all my expenses, etc. And in 1944 it was he who went to the director finding out how strange it was that I had never been made a full curator when several younger people with less distinction had been promoted to that rank. Needless to say, I was likewise promoted within half an hour.
At the time Sanford died (1950) I had the full intention to stay at the American Museum for the rest of my life. However, when in 1953 I got the offer to go to Harvard and the MCZ it would have been most awkward and surely would have broken Sanford'sheartifIhadgonetothe rivalinstitution. Fortunately, thisconflict did not arise. I will always have him in grateful memory.
It was quite well known in New York circles that Sanford was soliciting anybody to get money for the bird department of the American Museum. My colleague Murphy once had a cocktail with Sanford in the University Club when one of Sanford's buddies walked by and whispered to Murphy, 'Don't give him a cent more than $10,000.' Actually, Sanford never wanted anything for himself. His great ambition was to build up the collection of the American Museum and he was unbelievably successful in this ambition. Together with its existing treasures and the uniquely valuable Rothschild Collection, the American Museum had finally a bird collection that was not rivaled anywhere else in the world. In fact, other museums today may have more specimens, but as far as balance and richness in types, etc., is concerned, I think the American Museum collection is still unique."
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