Collecting Fossil Plants and Animals
in the Pennsylvanian Deposits of the Will County, Illinois Coal Measures
The Field Notes of George Langford, Sr. in the Years 1937-1960.
Prepared and organized by George Langford, Jr., 1973.
Copyright George Langford, III, 2010
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Fossil Plants - December 1959
[Part I - GL,III]  "The Wilmington Coal Flora," by George Langford [Sr.] published June 1958 by ESCONI, the Earth Science Club of Northern Illinois.

After twenty years of field work and study, I finally compiled an illustrated manuscript, which recorded my findings in the Wilmington area.  About half of the specimens were in the Chicago Natural History Museum [formerly the Field Museum of Natural History - GL,III] collection, the other half in the Illinois State Museum, Springfield, Illinois.  The last named half had all been photographed by me before leaving my possession, and all specimens in the two museums had been cleaned and prepared by my special treatment to secure good, clear photogarphy.

Visitors at my Room 97 in the Chicago Museum learned of my manuscript and requested permission to examine it. This finally resulted in a request for permission to show the manuscript to a group of amateur scientists in Downers Grove, Illinois.  This was granted, and I thought little more of the matter.  The manuscript was soon returned to me by Mr. Harry Witmer of Downers Grove, a total stranger to me.  He announced that a group of amateur scientists had examined the manuscript and decided to publish it. The Chicago Natural History Museum Director was agreeable, and the manuscript was being prepared by the printer.  It remained for me to waive claims for royalty and other payments, after which the manuscript would be published.

To me, all this was unprecedented and surprising, an undertaking by strangers, unsolicited by me.  I agreed to the terms, and the manuscript was published June 1958, at which time the book was dedicated at a meeting of ESCONI in Downers Grove, Illinois.  My colleague, Dr. R. H. Whitfield made the presentation.  My wife, Sydne [Holmes Langford] and son, George Langford, Jr. were present.  Having no oratorical gift, my response was printed, and copies reproduced for society members. 

It best expressed my sentiments, as follows:

" To the Earth Science Club of Northern Illinois.  When ESCONI and Subscribers decided to publish my manuscript on the Wilmington Pennsylvanian Flora, they were launched upon a major undertaking unprecedented and remarkable, in that it was conceived by collectors, students, and ones interested in the natural sciences like myself.

"As far as I am aware, such a venture has never before been attempted by any group of non-professional scientists.  This evidence of popular approval is by far the finest tribute that could be paid my work.

"A high degree of courage and ability is shown by ESCONI who, lacking substantial support from any outside sources, has assumed the burden of cost and administration.

"The authorship is a minor consideration.  It is the finished book that counts.  But above all, the real credit is due ESCONI and Subscribers who have made my manuscript a reality.

"I earnestly hope that their efforts will be rewarded with success.

"George Langford, June 13, 1958."

The "Subscribers" were the financial backers.  They assumed the cost of two hundred gilt-covered copies signed by the author and eight hundred green-covered books, unsigned; selling prices $20.00 and $9.80, respectively, to cover the costs they assumed.  If the book has been sponsored by a scientific institution,, the prices would have been much less.

[Part II - GL,III] My time has been spent entirely on Pennsylvanian Flora of the Strip Coal Mines, the bulk of which I, among others, collected in Wilmington Township, Will County, Illinois.  After about twenty years of study, compiling and revising, I am completing a Part II of the "Wilmington Coal Flora" as an addition to Part I, which was published June 1958 by popular subscription.  Although this Part II may never be published, it is essential to the record, the manuscript consisting of the necessary descriptions, photographs, and drawings.

This Part II has been more difficult than Part I and has entained procedures of my own devising for acquiring new information, and for undertaking new ventures in problems regarding isolated specimens of species not fully understood, and to some extent, disregarded.

Although the most difficult, this is by far the most interesting work I have yet attempted.

The Wilmington Coal Flora is the largest of the [Field] Museum's fossil plant collections, and by far the most interesting to scientists and laymen.

As I have been largely instrumental in collecting, studying, and recording it, mine is the responsibility for fully presenting all the details necessary to make its scientific value complete.

In this, I am greatly assisted by the descriptions, photographs and drawings I made of a fine and large collection disposed of 1939-1940 to the Illinois State Museum, Springfield, Illinois.  Other fine but smaller collections were donated by me for exhibitions: Colorado Natural History Museum, Denver, Colorado; Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois; Academy of Science, St. Paul, Minnesota; United States Geological Survey, Washington, District of Columbia; Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut; and others.  All of these sent to others were cleaned and treated for display and better preservation, some of the three hundred or more films [negatives - GL,III] now in my possession have been loaned to others for published illustrations, and many are now being used in Part II of the "Wilmington Coal Flora."

[unsigned, but in the steady handwriting of George Langford, Sr.]