Rich Fuchs, Vice President
The logo on our newsletter announces: "'Dry Dredgers -- An association of Amateur Geologists and Fossil Collectors."
With more than 70 years of continuous operation, we are going to look at our beginning.
Amateur fossil collecting in Cincinnati has gone on for as long as the city has been in existence. Dr. Kenneth Caster, our first advisor, related a story in which a man, in 1936, then 90 years of age, presented him with a chain from which was suspended an enrolled Flexicalymene trilobite. It had belonged to the man's mother, who had worn it around her neck. However, originally it had been her father's watch fob. Her father was one of the original settlers in the Cincinnati area.
I'm sure that many Cincinnati fossils were collected by Native Americans prior to the founding of "Losantiville" in 1789. Some fossils have been found as part of Native American jewelry in many parts of the country.
In the latter part of the 19th Century, the famous "Cincinnati School of Paleontology" was going strong in this area. This "School" consisted of lawyers, doctors, merchants, etc., from the area, who shared a love of collecting fossils and who extended our knowledge of these local wonders by publishing descriptions and compilations of the local fossil fauna.
Many of their names are familiar to local collectors. S. A. Miller, an attorney, was probably the most prolific publisher of the "School," starting his own journal, which ran for two years, until the Cincinnati Society of Natural History began publishing its own journal. His greatest work -- North American Geology and Paleontology for the use of Amateurs, Students, and Scientists -- was used by nearly every student of fossils in the country, both amateur and professional.
Uriah P. James was a local book-seller. The James Bookstore, downtown, operated until only a few years ago. U. P. James, and his son, Joseph, authored many papers on Cincinnati fossils. Joseph was to become the first "professional" to emerge from the "Cincinnati School."
Albert Gallatin Wetherby --local teacher, one-time professor at the University of Cincinnati, and after 1885, secretary to the American and European Investment Corporation -- published several articles on local fossils, including the first on the genus Enoploura, a rare carpoid from the area. This stirred up quite a bit of controversy.
Several went on to professional careers away from Cincinnati.
Edward Oscar Ulrich was hired as a janitor by the Cincinnati Society of Natural History
In 1873, he became interested in bryozoans and set up a business, in Covington, which, among other things, prepared bryozoan thin sections. He was hired away to the U. S. Geological Survey in 1900.
Ray Bassler worked for Ulrich as a teenager and college student, preparing bryozoan thin sections. An avid collector in his own right, Bassler followed Ulrich to Washington, D. C.. He earned a doctorate at what is now George Washington University, where he became a professor.
Charles Schuchert, the son of a Cincinnati cabinetmaker, was employed by a local railroad. An avid collector, his collection was purchased by Yale University. Although having only sixth grade education, Schuchert was hired as curator of the collection and eventually became a Yale professor of paleontology and stratigraphic geology.
All of this occurred without any formal geology training in the area. In 1907, the geology department was established at the University of Cincinnati. One of the early geology professors at U. C. was Professor Walter H. Bucher. One of the offerings established by Bucher was the U.C. Evening College "Lecture Discussion Series" on geology. Part of this program involved field excursions, weather permitting. A large number of local citizens took part in the series. Trips dealt with local geology, paleontology, anthropology, zoology, and other topics.
Dr. Kenneth Caster inherited this Discussion Series when he came to U.C.in 1936. An objective of the field trips was to compile a collection of Cincinnati fossils. To facilitate the identification, Professors Bucher and Caster, in 1939, prepared an illustrated "Elementary Guide to the Fossils and Strata in the Vicinity of Cincinnati, Ohio." In 1945, this was published by the Museum of Natural History as the Elementary Guide that we still use in revised form.
A problem arose, in that the topics covered in the Discussion Series had about been exhausted. Some had little to do with geology. Longtime attendees at the Series and the trips had stated that the most fun had been the fossil collecting trips.
In April of 1942, Dr. Caster received a letter from Carlos P. Long, an enthusiastic fossil collector and participant in the Series. On behalf of a group of current participants, it was proposed that a permanent society of amateur fossil hunters be established. The letter was seeking Dr. Caster's thoughts on the matter, and to determine if the organization could operate under the auspices of the University, with Dr. Caster as advisor. An organizing committee had already met.
Ed Lohmeyer was nominated as the first President (no, it wasn't Jack). Annual dues were to be $2.00 per year for the first family member and $1.00 for each additional one. If our dues kept up with inflation, imagine what it might be now! Our dues now, for a family, aren't much different from what they were more than 60 years ago.
But, a name for the organization had to be chosen. After a long discussion, Dr. Caster suggested "Dry Dredgers." James Hall, former state paleontologist of New York, had used this term for those who hunted fossils in ancient marine strata. But it was first used in publication by Charles Schuchert in 1895 in an article entitled "Dry Dredging the Mississippian Seas."
The organization meeting was held in Old Tech lecture room in May, 1942. Dr. Caster was the featured speaker.
It must have been something in those early days to have Mrs. Fred Geier (whose husband owned Cincinnati Milling Machine) arrive at an outcrop in her chauffer-driven limousine.
One early Dry Dredger, Charles Cox, found a nearly complete specimen of Megalograptus, an Ordovician eurypterid.
The Dry Dredgers met in the same lecture room in Old Tech until 1988, when our meetings moved to our present location. The reason, Old Tech was torn down.
The only professional paleontologist to assume the duties of president of the Dry Dredgers was John Pope. He had joined the Dredgers in 1949, while a senior in high school. After receiving an A.B. from Harvard and an M.S. from Michigan, he returned to Cincinnati to get his PhD from U.C. In addition to working on the revised edition of the Elementary Guide, he rejoined the Dry Dredgers, being elected president in 1956.
Amateur members of the Dry Dredgers have had some notoriety also.
Bill White, who recently passed away, was honored by receiving the Strimple Award from the Paleontological Society, in 1985. The award was named for Harrell Strimple, whose career in paleontology began as an amateur, but who published more than 100 articles, mostly on Carboniferous crinoids, in his career. The award was given to Bill in recognition of the significant contributions he made to the advancement of paleontology in aiding students in their research.
In more recent years, 1996, Steve Felton was given the Katherine Palmer Award by the Paleontological Research Institution and also the Strimple award by the Paleontological Society . These award are presented in recognition of outstanding contributions to the science of paleontology by a nonprofessional. Steve Felton is the only person to date ( I believe) who has ever won both awards.
The Dry Dredgers now co-sponsors the annual Cincinnati Gem, Mineral, Fossil, and Jewelry Show, along with the Cincinnati Mineral Society .
Our organization has grown. We now can boast over 200 paid memberships, both individual and family. With these, there are two life memberships, 8 honorary and charter memberships, and 12 professional associates. Our members hail from 16 states and as far away as Drumheller, Alberta, Canada. Because of our web site , we are known all over the world. Quite a big deal for a group that started simply for the love of fossil collecting.
Webmaster's Note: The Dry Dredgers presented a poster at the 2014 North American Paleontological Conference (NAPC) on the subject of the Dry Dredgers and the "Cincinnati School of Paleontology." You can read the current content of this poster right here.
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