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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The Langford Coal Measures Fossil Collection
George Langford, Sr.
October 28, 1938

My son, George, Jr., and I have made a systematic and intensive geological exploration of the strip coal mines about 22 miles southwest of Joliet, Illinois.  We have collected and now have from 20,000 to 25,000 specimens of coal plants and animals.  Among other things, we have been interested in learning the book value of what we have collected, the time and money spent by us being expressed in terms of cash.

Our time records show that we have to date spent 5,232 hours on the work.  We employed no other help but did all the work ourselves.

The drive from Joliet to the strip mines, about 22 miles each way, generally consumed about one-and-one-quarter hours for the round trip.  Most of the fossils were secured from the clay spoil heaps, a few miles from the pits.  Collecting was done on about 30 restricted sites, only a few of which, however, produced fine results.  We gathered and cracked open from 2,000 to 3,000 nodules each day, securing therefrom from 150 to 250 specimens daily.  Of these, the fine things were relatively few, although of the common forms some of the best were retained, the poorer material being discarded in the field.

Our field work was of a sufficiently arduous nature to necessitate our being in the best of physical condition.  We often walked far to reach inaccessible spots, and this walking was generally over very difficult ground; after which we had to climb up and down the clay heaps and ravines searching for the particular nodules we wanted among many that were unsuitable.  We cracked open the ones selected and carried back the specimens we wanted in five-gallon pails.  The return journey to our auto with heavy loads was the most exhausting part of our day's work.

The most important part of our field work was constant observing.  This applied to the geological deposits; to methods of finding the best specimens; and to distinguishing what was worth while from the much that was not.  Many fine things were broken, but we kept all the pieces and restored them later.  Being both of us experienced scientifically, our work was done in a manner to get the best scientific value from it.  The fossils themselves were sufficient evidence of what scientific study of them might develop later, but anything of interest regarding their deposition was lost unless we noted it in the field.  We therefore worked carefully and observed closely.

When back home again with our day's catch, we first sorted out the best things to be washed and mended.  These were then boxed according to genera, while the least desirable material was stored away by itself.  Some of the best specimens were then selected to accentuate their inherent artistic beauty.  As with human beings, these ordinary dingy fossil plants could be vastly improved in appearance by a particular treatment.

This treatment necessitated slow and careful work, most of which was done by me in the evenings and on Sunday.  I used fine pointed dental tools and various kinds of brushes.  The main task was to remove the disfiguring mineral deposits bit by bit with fine steel points, as it was too tenacious to be rubbed or scraped off.  After cleaning in this manner, the fossil plant pictures were then developed to accentuate their inherent colorations.

In our book appraisal of the collection, we are convinced that it would cost more in time and money than we show for any others to produce what we have produced.  We have more than 20,000 chosen specimens comprising more than 250 varieties of plant and animal forms.  The plants include ferns and many that are not true ferns in that they were propagated by nut-like seeds.  They also include the seeds of various species, leaf foliage and bark impressions having many striking patterns.  The animal forms may be likened to the scorpion, spider, crayfish, horseshoe crab, bristle-worm, and several kinds of winged insects, all beautifully preserved.  There are also various species of small creatures with segmented outer armor; and also scales and teeth of fishes.  Most of the plants and animals are known to science, but some are new.  Our collection contains abundant material for three purposes: For general study; For exhibition; and For scientific research.  It was made and handled in a manner to interest not only scientists but also the public.  Our purpose has been to make our collection the most complete and the finest thing of its kind in all respects.  We believe we have been successful in this purpose.

Our appraisal of this work is shown briefy on the following page [not present - GL,III].
March 15, 1939
Note: Since the above was written, the work of identification now discloses more than 300 species and forms of plants, and 25 of animals.  I have also spent much additional time in sorting, mending, and developing.
[typewritten original with handwritten postscript, signed] Geo. Langford [Sr.]