Detail of Plate 34, Devonian Crinoids of New York
Research & Collections :: Collections at the State Museum :: Biology
Devonian Crinoids of New York Historical Preface

This monograph of the Devonian Crinoidea of New York is the result of long, years of collecting and study. To students of paleontology the history of its development will not be without interest. In the original program for the "Palaeontology of New York," the study of the Devonian crinoids was not provided for; they were not a part of the series of volumes as planned by the founder of the work, James Hall, and executed by him and his assistants. Organic remains of this kind proved of infrequent occurrence in the Devonian collections that were being made for other divisions of paleontological study, and all the crinoids which had been brought together during the early years of these investigations were haphazard occurrences.

During Professor Hall's period of activity as State Geologist of Iowa, 1855-1858, he had opportunity to study, describe and illustrate in his reports of that survey the beautiful Crinoidea of the Carboniferous Mississippian beds, his descriptions being based largely on the specimens which had been brought together by a number of active collectors who had preceded him in that field. Among these collectors was Charles Abiathar White, a young and impecunious doctor of medicine living at Burlington, who was for a while connected with that survey. At the suspension of the survey Doctor White was left without a position. Soon after returning to Albany, Professor Hall brought Doctor White to New York and sent him out among the Devonian rocks of the State specially to collect these crinoids with whose mode of occurrence he was already so well acquainted.

When a scientific collector goes out to get a certain class of objects he is or should be blind to all else. Doctor White could see naught but crinoids and his explorations had not continued long before he uncovered, on the land of a Mr Sisson in the northern part of the town of Bristol, Ontario county, on a ravine slope at the village of Muttonville (now more euphoniously denominated Vincent), a colony of crinoids in the Hamilton (Middle Devonian) shales which proved to be the most extraordinary assemblage of these ancient stone lilies which the rocks of New York or of the Devonian system have ever afforded. Doctor White had for his assistant, in the actual work of uncovering this extraordinary bed, the late Christian Van Deloo, a very successful collector of invertebrate fossils. Together the two removed the hillside and left barely a trace behind. They had, however, located a distinct crinoidal horizon now well known. throughout the Finger Lakes region of western New York as the "Crinoid Layer lying directly above the Tichenor limestone at about the middle of the Hamilton beds and recognized as the base of the Moscow shales. Doctor White continued his investigations and collections in this region during the season of 1860, and with that very successful campaign among the crinoids the special collecting of them was for many years abandoned. A few years later Doctor White became the State Geologist of Iowa and eventually United States' Paleontologist.

Upon the results of the work of 1860, Professor Hall based his single descriptive publication of these fossils which appeared in the Sixteenth Annual Report of the State Museum (1863). During the years which followed in the preparation of the monographs of the Devonian fauna, crinoid material was accumulated by way of desultory collecting, but not till the fauna of the Portage Group and its members and the early faunas of the Chemung Group were opened up to closer study were notable additions made in this field. With these investigations inaugurated by the writer and his colleague, D. Dana Luther, about the year 1879, novel acquisitions were constantly made and the later years of these field explorations, carried on by Mr. Luther alone, brought many very interesting and unexpected forms of crinoids to light.

With the formal close of the series of volumes known as the " Palaeontology of New York" and published under the well-known quarto form with its black covers embellished by gilded insignia, it was the writer's desire and purpose to take up the descriptive account of these Devonian Crinoidea, a neglected division in New York paleontology. The material was assembled for this purpose; much of it was carefully prepared personally by the writer and drawings were made in preparation of the, monograph. Duties of another kind, however, came in to embarrass the progress of the work and it seemed impracticable, among these counterclaims, to handle so large and intricate a problem alone. In search for assistance an arrangement was made with Edwin Kirk, a graduate student of Columbia University, who had been closely associated with the leading American authority on the Crinoldea, Mr. Frank Springer, in accordance with which Mr. Kirk was to spend a portion of his time on this study. For a number of summers Mr. Kirk labored in this field diligently, intelligently and helpfully. It came about, however, that Mr. Kirk became associated with the United States Geological Survey where he, too, found new duties growing urgently upon him. Much material had been assembled, much manuscript had been prepared and many drawings had been made, but again the book was unfinished and, in the state in which it was left, the work was, so far as availability was concerned, as though it had not been started.

In the year 1916, I asked my associate, Winifred Goldring, to undertake the revision and completion of the entire theme. It was not a tempting repast to offer to a paleontologist seeking opportunities for original investigation, and I feel that the work was taken over by Miss Goldring largely because of her recognition, with mine, that it was an important field to cover, which, if left unstudied, would leave a lamentable hiatus in our knowledge of the extinct life of New York. The present book is Winifred Goldring's work. She has revised and rewritten all previous manuscripts; she has compiled and checked up outstanding references; she has corrected the old drawings and supervised the making of many others; she has had the advantage of certain new materials which others who have touched the work did not have, and I am very glad to be able to say that her work has been done not, only conscientiously and with assiduity but with reasonable completeness; and with credit to the Paleontology of New York.


 
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