Rocky Mountain - 55th Annual Meeting (May 7-9, 2003)

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 10:20 AM


VEATCH, Steven W., Volunteer In the Parks, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, P.O. Box 185, Florissant, CO 80816,

Early scientific information and specimens from what is now Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument came from a group of college students who, in 1877, traveled to the Florissant area from Princeton (then the College of New Jersey). Original expedition documents and photographs from Princeton’s Mudd Manuscript Library and other sources provide a clear and complete chronology of the first Princeton Scientific Expedition and reveal new details of this early phase in the history of paleontology at Florissant.

While in their junior year (1876), three of Arnold Guyot’s students, Henry F. Osborn, William B. Scott, and Francis Speir Jr., envisioned a scientific expedition to the West. They sought advice from the geological profession, but because of the feud between E.D. Cope and O.C. Marsh, such information was classified. Undaunted, they organized the expedition throughout their senior year. On June 21, 1877, the first Princeton Scientific Expedition left New Jersey for the West. After arriving in Denver four days later, the students spent time buying equipment, wagons, mule teams, and recently captured Indian ponies. The students first explored the Garden of the Gods, in Colorado Springs. Upon arriving in Florissant in mid-July, they camped near what is now the park's visitor center and began their search for fossils.

The insects they collected filled five trays. The collection of plants comprised 25 trays containing more than 900 specimens. At least 180 of the plant and insect specimens became type specimens. Of these, Scudder and Lesquereux each described about 75. Osborn, Scott, and Speir described a number of fish specimens, including the type of the new species Trichophanes copei, collected at Florissant.

The expedition diaries, journals, and photographs document a remarkable expedition and contribute to the history of paleontology in America. The fossils of the Princeton expedition have allowed researchers in the past, and will allow those in the future, to better understand the paleontology, paleoecology, and history of this central Colorado Eocene mountain lake basin.